Thou­sands of Iraqis an­swer Sadr’s call to protest

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

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