Iraq – Strategy, what Strategy?

While it has been a few weeks since Ramadi fell to the forces of ISIL, the conclusion is clear.  In its current form the government of Iraq has nothing to offer to the Sunni population.  While at the same time the US trained Iraqi army is a failure.  Both failures allow ISIL to continue conquering territory utilizing a lot less resources than what is available to the Iraqi government.   While at the same time the Shiite militias and Kurds remain the only ones capable of stopping or reversing advances of ISIL.  Our current strategy with regards to Iraq is clearly not working.  And it is not surprising as it was always based on unrealistic assumptions.

The fall of Ramadi highlighted the lack of Iraqi’s army will to fight.  The lack of will to fight should not have come as a surprise.  Our assumptions that all Iraqis need, is some training and equipment were and are completely false.  That’s what we said in 2006 too.  No amount of tactical support can fix the main problem.  The Iraqis have no will to fight because their government is a corrupt entity and most Shia Iraqi soldiers don’t want to die protecting Sunni lands.  That somehow 2000 anti-tank weapons destined for Iraq will change anything is a pipe dream.  They will just probably end up in ISIL hands when the Iraqi army abandons them as they did with US supplied Humvees.  In case someone does not know, the Iraqi army has tanks which can easily stop an armored Humvee or an APC suicide bomber, if used.  The fact that the Iraqi army can’t figure out how to use them at this time does not bode well for their future.

The Shiite militias can push back the ISIL fighters, but highly unlikely they would actually be able to conquer the Sunni heartland.  Even if they try, there is no way the Saudis and other Sunni countries would allow Shiites to dominate those parts of Iraq.  The Sunnis welcomed ISIL because it offers them once again a path to domination in Iraq.  What we need to understated is that Iraq as a country is gone.  The Sunnis and Kurds see no reason to participate in the government where they are permanently outnumbered.  What our strategy should be is to isolate ISIL.  Our strategy should slowly adjust to provide only diplomatic support to those fighting ISIL.  Militarily, the Iraqis have to sink or swim on their own.  Their failures can no longer mean that we will come to their rescue every time they don’t feel like fighting for their own country.

We should instead encourage the break up of both Iraq and Syria, to stabilize the region.  The example of the former Yugoslavia is clear.  Once the break up was complete and the ethnic and religious divide established, the conflicts subsided.  Similar outcome is possible in Iraq and Syria.  The problem of ISIL will be dealt by the Shiites living nearby.  As a last resort, the US can conduct targeted strikes to destroy government infrastructure in the ISIL controlled areas.  While not a perfect solution, it is better than pouring money and resources into supporting non-existent Iraqi state and allowing those same resources to fall into ISIL hands.  To those who fear the rise of Iran, the same limitations apply.  While it can control an area populated by Shittes, it is extremely unlikely they could control the Sunni areas.  Especially since the Sunnis will no doubt be supported by the Saudi Arabia and other Sunni gulf states.

The current strategy of supporting the government of Iraq in the hopes that they could recover the Sunni territory is not working.  It was never going to work and the fall of Ramadi again highlighted the failure of this strategy.  Our resources should not be wasted on any more such failures.  The government of Iraq is responsible for the control of their territory.  If they cannot do so despite superior resources, we should not be jumping in to hold their hand.  The Iraqis have to find their own will to fight.  If they can’t then they need to be ready to accept the consequences.  ISIL can be contained by the Shias around them.  US airpower could be applied for effect, but should be the force of last resort.  ISIL first and foremost the threat to those around them and as such those countries should be the ones responding to it.