July 21, 2014

Without Another US Intervention In Iraq, The Islamic State Will Permanently Establish Itself In The Heart of The Middle East

 "You break it, you own it." - General Colin Powell. 

The Iraqi army, which since 2011 has largely come under the direct control of Prime Minister Maliki, was defeated again by the few but ferocious fighters of the Islamic State. An excerpt from, "Islamic State overwhelms Iraqi forces at Tikrit in major defeat" by Mitchell Prothero, McClatchy, July 18:
The defeat brought to an end a three-week campaign by the government in Baghdad to recapture Tikrit, which fell to the Islamic State on June 11. Military spokesmen earlier this week had confidently announced a final push to recapture the city.
Mahmoud Salem says that the existence of the Islamic State has been tolerated by regional and world powers, along with various beneficiaries inside Iraq, because it is useful to have it around. An excerpt from, "Why Islamic State's caliphate is trouble for Egypt" by Mahmoud Salem, Al Monitor, July 18:
Given its danger, brutality and challenge to the status quo, one would expect that a number of forces would be aligning to crush IS, but this is not happening. Actually, no one seems even remotely interested in fighting it, which is amazing considering that it sports only a few thousand fighters, is surrounded by the Syrian and Iraqi militaries and threatens US allies, including Jordan. Here's the rub: No one is fighting it because its continued existence is to everybody's benefit, except maybe the people over whom it rules.
The Islamic State's staying power will increase the longer it is allowed to exist. The time to act was yesterday. Shiite militias in Iraq can hold them back, and keep them from turning their attention towards Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, but the only force that can wipe it off the map is US air power combined with local popular support on the ground. And it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon.

There has been a lot of talk about reviving the Awakening Councils in the Sunni provinces that the Pentagon set up during its surge to cripple the Islamic State. But simply calling on them to fight against these fanatics without considerable air support from the US won't accomplish much of anything.

Former Iraqi MP Ayad Jamal Al-Din explained last year in an interview on an Arab television program that the critical factor in the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq was the commitment of the US military, not the contributions of the local tribal leaders and awakening councils. His statements were made within the context of the Islamic State's advances in Syria last year, before their conquest of major Iraqi cities this summer. An excerpt from the interview:
Interviewer: Do you think that the extremist groups may be contained the way they were contained in Iraq through the tribes and the awakening councils? By stripping them of popular support?

Ayad Jamal Al-Din: It's not going to happen. The awakening councils existed alongside the military presence of the Americans and their allies.

Interviewer: So it will be harder.

Al-Din: No, it was all done with American support. What did these councils do? They provided information in return for dollars. The real killing was carried out by the American Apache helicopters. The councils would inform them that Al-Qaeda was in a certain place, and the US helicopters would come and kill them. No more and no less. If awakening councils are established in Syria to fight Al-Qaeda they will be defeated. Al-Qaeda are ideological fighters. What ideology is the Free Syrian Army fighting for? For democracy? Obviously not. The awakening councils enjoyed partial success in Iraq because of the presence of US troops. The moment America withdrew these councils evaporated." [6:11 - 7:18 in the video below].
Former Iraqi MP and Liberal Scholar Ayad Jamal Al-Din Analyzes the Sunni-Shiite Rift in the Region. Source: MEMRI TV. Date Published: August 15, 2013.