The fu­ture of a united Iraq, if any?

Turkish Review - - THINK TANKS - İSA AFA­CAN

In May, the Is­lamic State cap­tured Ra­madi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, more than 600 kilo­me­ters apart from each other. De­spite ef­forts by the US and oth­ers, the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion has kept a firm foot­ing in both Syria and Iraq, with both coun­tries un­der­go­ing se­ri­ous crises of state­hood. This is­sue, Think Tank Tracker re­views re­ports on Iraq’s cur­rent po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary cir­cum­stances and asks whether a roadmap for its fu­ture ex­ists While Is­lamic State holds more than half of Syria’s ter­ri­tory un­der its grip, it also keeps a siz­able pres­ence in western Iraq, no­tably around An­bar and Nin­eveh prov­inces. The tragic out­come of the re­cent on­slaught of Is­lamic State both in Syria and Iraq is “the eva­po­ra­tion of any Sunni al­ter­na­tive to the ji­hadis,” says Samia Nakhoul of Reuters. Years of state-build­ing ef­forts in Iraq seem taken yet another blow, fur­ther re­duc­ing the coun­try’s vi­a­bil­ity.

In a re­port for the mem­bers and com­mit­tees of the US Congress, Ken­neth Katzman of the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice suc­cinctly chron­i­cled the post-Sad­dam Hus­sein po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion in Iraq and re­counts the cur­rent state of dis­ar­ray in Iraqi pol­i­tics and se­cu­rity. Katzman ar­gues that sec­tar­ian and eth­nic strife in Iraq resur­faced af­ter the US mil­i­tary de­par­ture in 2011, thereby ex­ac­er­bat­ing Iraq’s al­ready shaky sta­bil­ity. Feel­ing marginal­ized and even side­lined by the new ar­chi­tec­ture of the Shi­ite-dom­i­nated Iraqi state, the ma­jor­ity of Sunni Arabs seem sup­port­ive of rad­i­cal ji­hadis like Is­lamic State as a re­ac­tion against the Shia dom­i­nance of power.

Af­ter for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki’s di­vi­sive poli­cies, cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi took some ma­jors ini­tia­tives to al­le­vi­ate Sunni re­sent­ment, such as pass­ing a law to rein­te­grate for­mer Ba’ath Party mem­bers in the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and lift­ing the Bagh­dad cur­few. How­ever, Abadi seems help­lessly caught be­tween ri­val camps and he “re­mains de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cally and mil­i­tar­ily on the Shi­ite mili­tias. […] [Abadi’s] at­tempts to ad­dress Sunni de­mands have also caused ag­i­ta­tion among the gov­ern­ment’s core Shi­ite base.” In ad­di­tion, Iraqi Kurds are striv­ing to con­sol­i­date their state within Iraq while deal­ing with the threat of Is­lamic State, which has hin­dered their road to in­de­pen­dence.

In such a state of dis­ar­ray and chaos, Katzman lays out in his re­port the ex­tent and scope of US in­volve­ment to sta­bi­lize Iraqi unity and de­feat Is­lamic State. The US sold Iraq a large num­ber of “Hell­fire” air-to-sur­face mis­siles for use against Is­lamic State and has supplied at least 5,000 mis­siles to date. The train­ing of Iraqi com­bat pilots is done in Ari­zona and 36 F-16 fighter jets will be de­liv­ered to Bagh­dad by the end of this year. The US Congress has also ap­proved the sale and lease of 30 Apache at­tack he­li­copters, 200 Humvees and other mil­i­tary equip­ment, and Iraq has pur­chased sev­eral un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles to en­hance sur­veil­lance

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