Thousands of Iraqis answer Sadr’s call to protest
BAGHDAD—Thousands of supporters of powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr answered his call to demonstrate in Baghdad on Tuesday to pressure the Iraqi government to carry out stalled reforms.
Iraq has been hit by weeks of political turmoil surrounding Prime Minister Haider alAbadi’s efforts to replace the cabinet of party-affiliated ministers with a government of technocrats.
The proposed changes have been opposed by powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds, and parliament has repeatedly failed to vote on a new cabinet list.
The demonstrators, many of them carrying Iraqi flags, marched from Tahrir Square in central Baghdad to an entrance to the heavily-fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered, chanting that politicians “are all thieves.”
“Our participation in the demonstration aims to reject this government for being sectarian,” protester Abu Ali al-Zaidi said.—Agencies many of whom are almost as dangerous to U.S. interests as the Islamic State, and many of whom seek the same status of jihadi vanguard against the West that IS now enjoys. IS itself achieved this position at the expense of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, with whom it competes actively for recruits and resources. Even if some U.S.-allied proxy succeeds in conquering the nominal Islamic State capital of Raqqa and pulling down the IS flag from its citadel, this is unlikely to end the war, stabilize Syria, or even remove the threat of jihadi terrorism against the United States from Syrian (or Iraqi) soil—it would just open the war to its next phase, in which Islamic State’s rivals compete for the status that group had enjoyed before them.
In the absence of a mutual willingness to end the war and accept some new model of representative governance, even great progress against IS does not realize U.S. interests in the conflict— which are to end the terrorism threat, the humanitarian crisis, and the danger to regional stability, not merely to occupy the city of Raqqa. A mutual willingness to end the war on the part of most or all of today’s warring factions, however, seems a long way off.
In this context, real U.S. leverage to bring about a real end to the war—and actual realization of American interests in that war—is distinctly limited. None of the proposals popular in today’s Washington debate offer any meaningful prospect of achieving this. According to U.S. military doctrine, to defeat even an insurgency (much less a proto-state like IS) and stabilize a threatened population requires something like 20 counterinsurgents for every thousand civilians.
That means 50,000-100,000 well-trained troops would be needed to hold the area now under Islamic State control (depending on how much of the population has fled), much less the rest of Syria. No one is now proposing a realistic plan to accomplish anything close to this—whether such a force comprises American troops, Iraqis, Kurds, Saudis, Turks, or anyone else. —Courtesy: TA