THE NEW IRAQI DEBACLE: A COMMENT
"Battles continue to rage across northern Iraq, pitting jihadist group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant against Iraqi security forces and their allies. The growing reach of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has escalated an already brutal campaign in Iraq. Alarmingly quick advances by the militants across an important region of the Middle East could draw in regional powers as well as the United States. Utilizing hit-and-run tactics, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, has sought to keep Iraqi security forces under pressure and dispersed. ISIL has achieved this by striking at areas where security forces are weak and withdrawing from areas where Baghdad has concentrated its combat power. The jihadists have been working hard at improving their tradecraft by developing skill sets ranging from the staging of complex ambushes to using Iraqi army equipment effectively in surprise raids. ISIL has also sought to better develop its ties with local Sunni communities. As far back as the days of al Qaeda in Iraq and its predecessor, Jamaat Tawheed wa al-Jihad, founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, militancy has had a presence in Anbar province -- and indeed in Mosul. During the Iraq War, the U.S. military considered Mosul one of the key gateways for foreign al Qaeda in Iraq fighters to enter the country. ISIL operations in Mosul and the wider Nineveh Province are unsurprising. What is surprising is the degree of success that ISIL has managed to achieve in its latest offensive in the region".STRATFOR: Global Intelligence, "Worsening Violence in Iraq Threatens Regional Security". 12 June 2014, in www.stratfor.com.
"The US is examining air strikes and other forms of direct military action against the jihadists who have taken control of a large area of northern Iraq but the White House remains deeply reluctant to involve itself again in the country’s conflicts. The Obama administration has received requests from the Iraqi government since the end of last year to use air power against extremist groups in the north. That pressure has become more urgent since the capture on Tuesday of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, say current and former US officials. However, although the administration has indicated it will accelerate the sale of arms to Iraq, it has not yet decided to get directly involved in the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the al-Qaeda splinter group known as Isis" .Geoff Dyer, "Isis drags US back to where Washington fears to tread". The Financial Times. 12 June 2014, in www.ft.com. The downfall of Mosul in a lightning attack by the "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant" otherwise known as 'ISIS' is both surprising and alarming. That an ultra-extreme Sunni group of out and out terrorists have managed to attack and take Iraq's second largest city without almost any opposition by the nominal Iraqi army seems to indicate the pitfalls post-facto to the 'decent interval' American strategy towards Iraq since 2009. Which is not to have any nostalgia for the endemic idiocy which caused the United States to invade Iraq in 2003 in the first place. Merely that having invaded and overthrown the Saddam Hussein regime, the Americans did indeed to a degree 'reap the whirlwind' by not ensuring that either a sufficiently strong regime remained on the ground once they decided to withdraw or conversely ensure that a trip-wire American presence remained 'in country'. Of course, both the former and the latter are in retrospect easier said then done. The egregious Maliki government, which being au fond, a junior ally of the regime of Mullahs in Persia, was hardily enthusiastic about a continuing American presence. Nor did the fact that Maliki has insisted on governing as not a national Iraqi leader but a sectarian and partisan Shiite and pro-Persian one make matters any better. Indeed there would have been and in indeed would be something quite absurd in having American forces prop-up a irresponsible, pro-Persian, sectarian Shiite regime in Baghdad. While the American, neo-conservative commentator, Mr. Max Boot's own prior history on the subject of Iraq is riddled with errata to numerous to speak of, his comments to-day point up to an obvious fact: that the Maliki government must go 1. That aside from perhaps air strikes (which may result in horrific civilian deaths) on ISIS forces, there does not appear to be much that the Americans can do at this stage:
"Maliki has presided over the disintegration of Iraq. He doesn’t deserve a third term. The country desperately needs a new leader. Until a change of leadership happens, there is little point in sending more U.S. aid which, if Mosul is anything to go by, is likely to wind up arming the insurgents 2."Indeed according to perhaps the premier American military strategist and commentator, Anthony Cordesman, the Americans and indeed the West do not have much of a choice, when it comes to either Maliki or ISIS: Whether Iraq can move forward as long as Maliki remains its leader. He may still be able to bribe some key Sunni tribal leaders, and ISIS may soon alienate many Sunnis in the areas it occupies, but Maliki has emerged as something approaching the Shiite equivalent of Saddam Hussein, and is as much a threat to Iraq as ISIS. Iraq desperately needs a truly national leader and one who puts the nation above himself. Without one, ISIS may become a lasting enclave and regional threat -- dividing Iraq into Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish sections -- or drag Iraq back to the worst days of its civil war and create another Syria-type conflict in the region" 3. In short the Americans and damned if they do something, and equally damned if they do nothing. At this point in time, masterly inactivity appears to be the only realistic option. Indeed if one were to look at the matter from a purely regional perspective, ISIS rampage will force the regime of Mullahs to spend a considerable amount of money, arms and perhaps even men to prop-up the Maliki regime if indeed ISIS does endeavor to take Baghdad in a similar lightning strike. Given the expenditures that Tehran is already undertaking propping-up the Assad regime in Syria, one may well wonder if Persia will have the necessary wherewithal to endeavor something similar in Iraq. Of course, if that were to indeed occur and Persia were to intervene militarily and successfully, then it would represent a strategic breakthrough for Tehran in the region. It would at that point, with its forces on the ground in Iraq, truly be the leading regional power or hegemon. Which merely highlights the strategic cul de sac that the Americans are in at the moment as per both Iraq and the larger Near and Middle East. The entire affair is merely one is afraid a harbinger of another failed 'decent interval' scenario in Afghanistan circa 2016-2018. 1. Max Boot, "Maliki Must Go". Commentary. 11 June 2014, in www.commentary.com. 2. Ibid. 3. Anthony Cordesman, "Shaping Iraq’s Security Forces". Center for Strategic and International Studies. 12 June 2014, in www.csis.org