Thursday, July 09, 2015

The continued non-progress in Iraq

At Foreign Policy, Elie Abouaoun offers "Beating the Islamic State Won't Fix Iraq" which includes:

Still, the simple reality is that the situation in Iraq has grown dire for many civilians, and the Islamic State has continually been able to exploit the sectarian cracks that have crept across the country. Sunni Muslims have been dealing with social and political marginalization since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which paved the way for the Shiite majority to acquire political control. In more recent years, indiscriminate violence by Iraqi military forces became a prime reason for local civilians to turn to the Islamic State, according to Iraq-based journalist Mohammed al-Dulaimy.
The military strategy against the terrorist group has included the elevation of anti-Islamic State militant groups in the area — a security-centered approach that has led to unhelpful cycles of regional and local violence. Regional conflicts have divided into local conflicts, and more and more civilian communities are being militarized. The collapse of the Iraqi Army last summer in several key battles has led such militias, many with Iranian, Kurdish, or Turkish backing, to fill the security vacuum, which introduced an extra dimension of sectarian complication.

Kurdish groups and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias who are fighting against the Islamic State are now responsible for a good portion of sectarian violence in both Syria and Iraq. Shiite militias entering traditionally Sunni areas of Iraq, for instance, has resulted in further unrest, despite their supposed anti-Islamic State mandate. Western support for supposedly moderate militias fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces has exacerbated sectarian rifts, as these militias have engaged in reprisal attacks against Sunnis.

The main thrust of the piece shouldn't be in dispute.  Abouaoun argues that you could eliminate the Islamic State tomorrow and Iraq wouldn't turn into a heaven on earth or even purgatory on earth.  The problems that led to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq are not being addressed.

These problems have allowed one group after another to take root in the country.

And when one loses support, another pops up.

This is what, in June 2014, US President Barack Obama was getting at when he declared that the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution.

That's what Abouaoun is arguing.  Until the leaders can work on a unified Iraq -- which does not allow persecution of the minority populations (read all non-Shi'ites) -- the same problems fester and there's no progress towards unity.

We noted  Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Wednesday's snapshot (and we'll note it again in tonight's) but one overall development that's not being noted is Haider al-Abadi.

He was supposed to be the reset button when he replaced Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister of Iraq.

And you get a lot of spin from the State Dept (especially Brett McGurk) and from the White House about what a great job Haider is doing.

The reality is that he's been in power since August and he's not addressing anything.

His 'big' accomplishment thus far is visiting a camp of refugees -- and the US State Dept twister his arm to get that photo op.

He's been unable or unwilling to do what is needed.

And though a few have been noting that (we have), the US government's position has been blind support.

At this week's hearing, you saw Secretary of Defense Ash Carter break away from that, if you paid attention.

His remarks indicated doubt as to whether or not Haider was doing what he has stated he was doing.

That's the first indication from anyone in the administration that there might be any doubts or questions about Haider's actions.

And there's a good reason for that:  Haider's achieved nothng.

And he was a quick reset.

It was not going to be put in a new ruler after Nouri's two terms and everything was fixed.

The whole point was getting a new ruler to show the Iraqi people that a new face on Iraq might mean ending the divisions and certainly the government persecution.

But Haider's not taken steps to do that.

Parliament, for example, is being allowed to debate the funding for the Justice and Accountability Commission.

That destructive body was supposed to have died following the 2005 elections.

Nouri illegally kept it alive and it has been repeatedly used since to try to derail the campaigns of Sunni politicians (and of Shi'ites who were enemies of Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law).

There should be no debate as to how to keep it funded or alive.

It's part of the de-Ba'athification of Iraq imposed on the country by the US government -- and it was supposed to have ended -- remember those forgotten White House benchmarks -- in 2007.

None of this is being addressed and until it is the same problems continue, fester and they foster continued unrest.

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