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Baghdad’s Political Battle and the War Against ISIS

Posted May 2nd, 2016 at 1:57 pm (UTC-5)
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Turmoil in Baghdad is a phrase too often seen and heard in the media since 2003. This weekend was no different, when anti-government protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament building Saturday, sending lawmakers fleeing for safety. While the protesters have retreated, their demands for good governance has not.

A handout image released by the press office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on May 1, 2016, shows him (L) looking at the damage after protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone area.

A handout image released by the press office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on May 1, 2016, shows him (L) looking at the damage after protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone area.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Baghdad Thursday to demonstrate support for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his attempt to form a new cabinet. It was 10 years ago, almost to the day, when then Senator Joe Biden suggested partitioning Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish autonomous regions, with a central government in charge of common interests. The partition did not happen, but the political turmoil has continued.

Ripples from the current political crisis in Baghdad are felt hundreds of miles north in Mosul, where the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga and U.S. military forces among others are planning an offensive to free the city from Islamic State rule. But without a political solution in Baghdad, military success in Mosul seems less and less likely.

How the ‘Green Zone’ Helped Destroy Iraq

Emma Sky – Politico

The greatest threat to Iraq thus comes not from the Islamic State but from broken politics, catastrophic corruption, and mismanagement. Indeed there is a symbiotic relationship between terrorists and corrupt politicians: They feed off each other and justify each other’s existence. The post-2003 system of parceling out ministries to political parties has created a kleptocratic political class that lives in comfort in the Green Zone, detached from the long-suffering population, which still lacks basic services. There is no translation into Arabic of the term kleptocracy. But judging by the protesters chanting “you are all thieves,” they know exactly what it means.

Who Will Rule Mosul?

Dan De Luce & Henry Johnson – Foreign Policy

The battle to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State has begun. But so far all the fighting is taking place in the political arena, with Iraq’s rival ethnic and religious factions mired in a power struggle over how to recapture the country’s second-largest city. Virtually every major armed group in Iraq and their foreign patrons, including local Sunni Arabs backed by Turkey, Shiite militias supported by Iran, and American-equipped Kurdish forces are jockeying for a piece of the action…. “Who takes Mosul matters a lot,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Iraqi soldier holds up his rifle as he walks with other soldiers in a village of Mahana some 60 km south of Mosul, Iraq, April 28, 2016. (Reuters)

Iraqi soldier holds up his rifle as he walks with other soldiers in a village of Mahana some 60 km south of Mosul, Iraq, April 28, 2016. (Reuters)

Obama’s Gradual Iraq War

Editorial Board – The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. has run its anti-ISIS strategy through Mr. Abadi, and last week Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Baghdad to shore him up. The Shiite riots followed. If Mr. Abadi falls, or is too weak to mediate among the country’s Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni factions, the campaign against Islamic State will falter more than it already has…. The U.S. could have helped Mr. Abadi enormously by leading a rapid campaign to oust ISIS from its Iraq territory. But nearly two years after ISIS took Mosul, and 20 months since Mr. Obama announced his strategy to degrade and destroy the Sunni caliphate, the terrorists still control much of Iraq. Iraq’s political disorder deserves some of the blame, but so does Mr. Obama’s policy of gradual escalation

More Biden Failure in Iraq

Max Boot – Commentary Magazine

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, April 28, 2016 (Reuters via video screengrab)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, April 28, 2016 (Reuters via video screengrab)

Last Thursday Biden returned to the scene of the crime in a show of support for the new American-backed leader, Haider al Abadi, who replaced Maliki in September 2014. A senior official traveling with the vice president said the visit was a  “symbol of how much faith we have in Prime Minister Abadi.” Within days, thousands of Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers had overrun the seat of Iraq’s government, revealing Abadi’s impotence–and also the hollowness of a U.S. policy based on supporting him. This should not have come as a revelation: It has long been apparent that Abadi is ruler more in theory than in fact. The joke in Iraq has long been that the government’s authority does not extend beyond the Green Zone in Baghdad. Now, it appears, the writ of the government does not even run in the Green Zone itself.

Partition in Iraq: A Way to Break Up the Fight?

Alex Fukui – Ramen IR

Successfully partitioning war-torn Iraq would be a massive undertaking, since each of the warring factions are advocating for their own autonomous, homogenous states. Any heterogeneity can create issues down the road…In Iraq, this would be virtually impossible given how many communities have intermixed Shi’a and Sunni populations….

Even if such splits were possible for Iraq, creating separate sectarian nations would set off a monstrous chain reaction among surrounding states. A separate Iraqi Shi’istan would align more closely with Iran and grant it a more reliable base of support in the Middle East, forcing Saudi Arabia to escalate. The creation of any potential Sunnistan, as long as ISIS still exists, could potentially legitimize ISIS’s claims to a caliphate. Creating any sort of Kurdistan, either in Iraq or Syria, would inflame tensions with Iran and Turkey, who would respond violently to the creation of any independent Kurdish state.

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