While the United States is committed to helping Iraq rid itself of Daesh it is up to Iraq first and foremost to deal with this threat to its survival.
That was essentially what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in recent comments concerning the crisis in Iraq and the threat posed by Daesh and its continued successes in Iraq’s western Anbar province. His comments and reassurances of continued U.S. support of Iraq in this fight were made days after U.S. Apache helicopter gunships targeted Daesh fighters just a few miles outside of Baghdad. He has stressed that the support does not in turn mean that the United States will be bearing the brunt of the fighting. It is of course the duty of Iraq first and foremost to pull itself out of this morass and overcome the severe threat to its territorial integrity and secular society this group poses.
Since its withdrawal from Iraq in the end of 2011 the U.S. didn’t even leave a residual force there. Decades after World War II it still has military bases and troops stationed in Germany and Japan but none in Iraq. This may of course change in the not so distant future. The United States and the Iraqi government retain a Strategic Framework Agreement which can permit U.S. forces to operate in Iraq on an ad-hoc basis with Iraqi approval if they deem it to be necessary. Given the Iraqi military’s poor performance over the summer, upon the onset of the present crisis, and its lack of sophisticated air power the U.S. finds itself once again deploying forces in Iraq to support the government.
The Iraqis have shown an interest in procuring drones from the U.S. for counter-terrorism operations in the Anbar province, where the government has been engaged militarily against Daesh and others who have capitalized on the deteriorating situation there, before the present crisis began last June. Also coordinating with the U.S. in counter-terrorist operations would see American technology and ability give the Iraqi military a tactical advantage when it comes to combating such resourceful and innovative irregular forces.
But the problem Iraq presently faces and its main handicap isn’t one that is going to be solved by military means alone. Daesh we shouldn’t forget exploited fissures that were already severely straining Iraqi society and are now threatening to dismember it altogether. The solution needed to rectify this situation needs to be a political one in addition to being a military one.
Iraq after all has a military with very sophisticated weapons, not to mention a large number of armed men. But the minute it faced a threat it embarrassingly fled last June. This is partially due to the corruption in the government which is partially the legacy of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s policies. Yes he did come in back in 2006 during a very dark time in Iraq’s history. But Iraq hasn’t really gotten any better since that time. In essence Maliki merely established what amounted to little more than a pseudo-democratic government and brought about a semblance of stability through his million-man security forces. But no concrete steps towards reconciliation between Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities was reached. On the contrary heavy-handed policies were implemented by a man who comes from a sector of Iraq’s population who know very well what it is like to be sidelined, marginalized and dismissed by an unrepresentative central authority.
Which is why the stability Maliki brought post-2007 was in my opinion was not only short-lived but was indeed doomed from the start to be relatively short-lived. The instability which Anbar province for example is once again plagued with stems partially from the fomenting of violence by the likes of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and other former Baathists and Sunni Islamist fanatics who see the Shiites as little more than a Persian Safavid (their words not mine) encroachment upon their society who need to be destroyed. But that in and of itself wouldn’t be enough to make it so prevalent and so widespread. There seems to be a genuine feeling of disfranchisement in these areas which is why the protest movement that began in Fallujah in 2012 spread so quickly and why the Kurds, after seeing the state which was supposed to represent them instead sideline them and dictate to them how they should run their region, realized very quickly over the summer what they always knew deep down, that at the end of the day they could only really count on themselves and their own men under arms. This consequently saw them beginning to once again contemplate the idea of ending Iraq altogether by breaking away and declaring complete independence and separation in their autonomous northern region.
Daesh are taking over an Anbar already weakened by political violence brought about by discontentment and the divisions in Iraq exacerbated by this kind of divisive governance. That is why the country is paralyzed and unable to fight off the psychos which are taking this opportunity to try and transform Iraq into a Somalia-like state where well organized gangs of warlords like Daesh exploit and beggar the weakened populaces over which they rule.
What we’re ultimately witnessing is an Iraq struggling for its life. While the U.S. will devote substantial resources towards helping Iraq survive any military or terrorist threat through the use of force and other means the solution to this is political. Iraq is paralyzed as a state and a society due to the divisive governance of recent years. Steps are being taken to rectify the damage that has been done. But the fundamental crux of the situation is political as well as societal. The society is split and weakened and is consequently being exploited by the shark-like predators who having smelled blood are going in for what they anticipate to be a feeding frenzy. The solution to this certainly does have a large military component to it, but the only way Iraq can completely rid itself of the likes of Daesh and other such groups is through more inclusive and less centralized governance where a common sense of nationalism is felt regardless of a citizens sect or ethnicity.
Of course saying what is required is much easier than explaining how it can be attained. However on a more positive note what is interesting about Daesh’s assault on Iraq is that it is a fundamental assault on essentially all Iraqis regardless of whatever background from which they emanate. This may actually serve to, in the long-run, help the country to get together and face-down this head-on threat to its existence.
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