The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Why the world shouldn’t write off the Iraqi Army just yet

Shi'ite volunteers, from Abbas Unit who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, parade down a street in Kerbala

On Sept. 10, President Barack Obama outlined an overall strategy for countering the al Qaeda’ist movement that grandiosely calls itself the Islamic State. The president vowed to defeat and ultimately destroy it.

How is that campaign going? What are its prospects for success over the next few months to several years? Is it promising in both Iraq and Syria? My answer is a guarded yes, especially for Iraq (the Syria strategy is incomplete and will take longer to develop).

Why?

The Iraqi Army chose not to fight this spring more than it was defeated by ISIL. With proper reconstitution, which will require assistance from the United States, it can get its verve and capability back and go on the offensive.

Before explaining how, it’s important to recognize two pieces of good news. First, U.S. airpower successfully helped defend Iraqi Kurdistan against ISIL’S attacks this summer. Second, the Obama administration strongly encouraged formation of a new government in Baghdad under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The divisive Shi’ite chauvinist, Nouri al-Maliki, was pushed out.

from The Great Debate:

Under assault by U.S.-led coalition, Islamic State may shift tactics

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province

This summer, Islamic State fighters swept into the expanse of desert straddling the Iraq-Syria border. Riding in pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, supported by skilled snipers and at least one tank, the Islamists captured the town of Rabia on the Syrian side of the border.

Kurdish militia fighters from the People's Protection Units -- known by its Kurdish acronym YGP -- rushed to the neighboring town of Al Yarubiyah, on the Iraqi side, in a desperate effort to contain the militants' advance. What followed was a two-month stalemate, as both sides harassed each other with machine guns, mortars and snipers.

from Hugo Dixon:

Whatever help the West offers to fight Islamic State, it should have conditions.

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq

What should the West’s military policy be toward Islamic State?

Most observers fall into two camps. Some point to the sorry history of Western intervention in the Middle East and argue the job of combating the Islamic State should be left to local powers.

Others say the West, led by the United States, should be more active in fighting the insurgents. Only the West has the firepower to defeat the group, the argument goes, and it has a responsibility to fix what it has broken as well as a strategic interest in stopping the Islamic State militants from becoming more powerful and dangerous.

from The Great Debate:

We all know about jihadists, but what about those waging an ‘anti-jihad’?

Human rights activist holds a placard during an anti-Talibanisation protest in LahoreAs the UN Security Council tackles the entity claiming to be “Islamic State,” and President Barack Obama invokes global Muslim responsibility, many ask whether people of Muslim heritage do enough to counter extremism.

The fact is, away from the media spotlight, thousands wage daily battles in their own countries against what President Obama called a “network of death.”

from The Great Debate:

To beat Islamic State, Obama needs Iran

Masked Sunni gunmen pray during a patrol outside the city of Falluja

President Barack Obama delivered a speech Wednesday night designed for an American public that has been losing confidence in its commander in chief.  Much of his address was about attitude -- we are tough, we will act, we will prevail, but we will do all this with airpower, not boots on the ground (or not many) and in cooperation with friends and allies. This mission will not be a repeat of Afghanistan or Iraq (President George W. Bush’s wars), Obama promised, but will be more like Obama’s campaigns against al Qaeda -- don’t forget he killed Osama bin Laden! -- and the continuing strikes against radical Islamists in Somalia and Yemen.

But the president must know that the Islamic State cannot be treated like the insurgents in Somalia and Yemen. The reason this group has caused such concern is that it is not just one more localized group of violent guerrillas. It is an embryonic state that is beginning to govern large areas of the Sunni heartlands of Iraq and Syria. So it will not easily be bombed into oblivion, nor will it suffice to take out its top leader with a skillfully executed commando raid, as in Pakistan.

from The Great Debate:

The best weapon to fight the Islamic State is already in Iraq

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter stands guard at the Bakirta frontline near the town of Makhmur

In 21st century Iraq, the enemy is not a state, though it calls itself one. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a group of Islamist insurgents whose presence stretches across the border between Syria and Iraq.

The only way to defeat the Islamic State is through military force, but Americans will not be doing the fighting on the ground. General John Allen, who commanded NATO forces in Afghanistan, has observed that, “the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Free Syrian resistance elements of the region are the ‘boots on the ground’ necessary to the success of this campaign.”

from The Great Debate:

For once, the situation in Iraq wasn’t caused by an intelligence failure

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate

President Barack Obama, in an interview earlier this year with New Yorker editor David Remnick, offered an unfortunate comparison. “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate,” the president said, “is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”

The president’s jayvee jihadists were the Islamic State militants.

Remnick called the analogy “uncharacteristically flip.” After all, the group’s flag then flew over Fallujah.

from The Great Debate:

With or without Maliki, Iraq will tear itself apart

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The word out of Washington is Nouri al-Maliki must go. A new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, will unify Iraq with American help.

We've seen this movie before -- an attempt at a quick fix of Iraq’s problems. Like every other quick fix tried, this one will fail, too. The United States is ignoring the inevitable: Iraq will eventually dissolve into separate nation-states. Efforts are needed to manage that process, not to hope it will go away.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s impossible choices on Iraq

Volunteers who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants, chant slogans in Baghdad

Iraq was a bold U.S. experiment in nation-building. It turned out to be a flop.

That's what we're learning as we watch what the United States achieved there evaporate after nine years of war, after nearly 4,500 Americans were killed, 32,000 wounded and $800 billion in U.S. taxpayer money spent.

from The Great Debate:

What’s happening in Iraq? Some smart takes to help figure it out.

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The Iraq created in large part by the United States after the 2003 invasion appears to be collapsing.

The U.S. military disabled Saddam Hussein’s forces in short order. Then the straightforward part of the war ended. The American-led Coalition Provisional Authority made some fateful choices soon after Saddam’s government collapsed: to disband the Iraqi Army -- one of Saddam’s main methods of keeping the nation together -- and remove all Baathists from the government. Since the Baathists previously had a monopoly on power, they were the only ones who knew how to keep the country running.

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