Showing posts tagged as "Iraq"

Showing posts tagged Iraq

20 Jun
In Support For Kurds, Does Turkey Hope For A Redrawn Middle East Map?
Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, spoke with NPR’s Robert Siegel about the complex relationships among Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurds in the wake of the ongoing crisis in Iraq.
Listen Here (NPR)
Photo: fredmalm/flickr

In Support For Kurds, Does Turkey Hope For A Redrawn Middle East Map?

Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, spoke with NPR’s Robert Siegel about the complex relationships among Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurds in the wake of the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

Listen Here (NPR)

Photo: fredmalm/flickr

"It took swathes of the country falling to jihadis to put the extent of state deterioration in perspective."

—Maria Fantappie, Iraq Analyst, on our briefing, Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box

Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box
The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.
Within days, the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conquered parts of north-western Iraq and revealed the fragility of a country ruined by sectarianism, hollowed-out institutions and high-level, pervasive corruption. Accumulated grievances of Sunnis in the area meant that ISIL pushed against a house of cards. But its possibilities are limited and a kneejerk international military intervention risks stoking the conflict instead of containing it. The International Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box , outlines necessary actions by Iraq, Iran, the U.S. and the wider international community to end the harmful course of events and reverse its underlying drivers.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
ISIL’s advance has highlighted all that has been wrong with the Iraqi government’s Sunni strategy, which sacrificed political reforms in the interest of fighting “terrorism” - a term used for all forms of Sunni violence but not for Shiite equivalents. This strategy enhanced polarisation and prepared the ground for the successful jihadi push in the north. International actors collectively failed to exert the necessary pressure on the Iraqi government to change its policy.
Despite their recent conquests, jihadis are not on the verge of storming Baghdad, nor is an all-out civil war inevitable. It could, however, be triggered by a disproportionate Iraqi Shiite and Iranian response that would cause Sunni ranks to close around the jihadis.
Iran and the U.S. should avoid a precipitate military response. Deployment of Iranian troops, who would be seen as a Shiite-Persian occupation force in Sunni-Arab territory, would bolster the jihadis’ standing further. The U.S., instead of rushing to send advisers, special troops or air power, should lay out plainly what it is willing to do to help Iraq address the ISIL challenge militarily but base its help on the premise that the government immediately implements overdue political reforms.
Iraq should form a genuine government of national unity, with meaningful Sunni inclusion and based on the recent election results, as the basis for national reconciliation.
ISIL’s rise is largely due to the growing integration of the Iraqi and Syrian arenas. Any lasting solution must be based on an integrated approach to those two arenas, possibly on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution if the Council’s disunity on Syria can be reduced.
“Under Prime Minister Maliki, the security apparatus has been undermined, parliament made toothless and other institutions gutted” says Maria Fantappie, Iraq Analyst. “All could see it, but it took swathes of the country falling to jihadis to put the extent of state deterioration in perspective”.
“A U.S. military response alone will achieve very little and could even worsen the situation”, says Peter Harling, Senior Middle East and North Africa Adviser. “Counter-insurgency cannot be successful without an effective Iraqi army to ‘clear’, an accepted Iraqi police to ‘hold’, and a legitimate Iraqi political leadership to build”.
FULL REPORT

Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box

The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.

Within days, the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conquered parts of north-western Iraq and revealed the fragility of a country ruined by sectarianism, hollowed-out institutions and high-level, pervasive corruption. Accumulated grievances of Sunnis in the area meant that ISIL pushed against a house of cards. But its possibilities are limited and a kneejerk international military intervention risks stoking the conflict instead of containing it. The International Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box , outlines necessary actions by Iraq, Iran, the U.S. and the wider international community to end the harmful course of events and reverse its underlying drivers.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • ISIL’s advance has highlighted all that has been wrong with the Iraqi government’s Sunni strategy, which sacrificed political reforms in the interest of fighting “terrorism” - a term used for all forms of Sunni violence but not for Shiite equivalents. This strategy enhanced polarisation and prepared the ground for the successful jihadi push in the north. International actors collectively failed to exert the necessary pressure on the Iraqi government to change its policy.
  • Despite their recent conquests, jihadis are not on the verge of storming Baghdad, nor is an all-out civil war inevitable. It could, however, be triggered by a disproportionate Iraqi Shiite and Iranian response that would cause Sunni ranks to close around the jihadis.
  • Iran and the U.S. should avoid a precipitate military response. Deployment of Iranian troops, who would be seen as a Shiite-Persian occupation force in Sunni-Arab territory, would bolster the jihadis’ standing further. The U.S., instead of rushing to send advisers, special troops or air power, should lay out plainly what it is willing to do to help Iraq address the ISIL challenge militarily but base its help on the premise that the government immediately implements overdue political reforms.
  • Iraq should form a genuine government of national unity, with meaningful Sunni inclusion and based on the recent election results, as the basis for national reconciliation.
  • ISIL’s rise is largely due to the growing integration of the Iraqi and Syrian arenas. Any lasting solution must be based on an integrated approach to those two arenas, possibly on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution if the Council’s disunity on Syria can be reduced.

“Under Prime Minister Maliki, the security apparatus has been undermined, parliament made toothless and other institutions gutted” says Maria Fantappie, Iraq Analyst. “All could see it, but it took swathes of the country falling to jihadis to put the extent of state deterioration in perspective”.

“A U.S. military response alone will achieve very little and could even worsen the situation”, says Peter Harling, Senior Middle East and North Africa Adviser. “Counter-insurgency cannot be successful without an effective Iraqi army to ‘clear’, an accepted Iraqi police to ‘hold’, and a legitimate Iraqi political leadership to build”.

FULL REPORT

18 Jun
Iranian Intervention in Iraq Would Be Risky | Aryn Baker
As U.S. President Barack Obama considers his limited options in Iraq, the United States is considering holding talks with Iran later this week on how to counter the militant threat. Both the U.S. and Iran have said they will provide qualified military support to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should he request it, a turn of events that could suddenly see the two foes fighting on the same side. But while such an alignment might improve the relationship between the U.S. and Iran going forward, Iranian military assistance in Iraq carries substantial risks. Done improperly, it could inflame sectarian tensions or even start an all-out war in the region.
The rapid advance of the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), into Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north was a result partly of local dissatisfaction with the Shi’ite-dominated central government in Baghdad. Iraq’s Sunni minority, which had ruled Iraq for decades until the fall of the Sunni dictator President Saddam Hussein in 2003, still seethes with resentment over what they see as their loss of power and dignity. Many dismiss Maliki as an Iranian stooge, set in place to advance Shi’ite interests in the name of a greater Iranian plot to extend Iran’s influence across the region. “Iranian troops operating in Iraq will confirm everything the Sunnis have always suspected, that the Maliki regime is an extension of Iranian power. So it will become a self-fulfilling dynamic,” warns Peter Harling, Middle East Project Director of the International Crisis Group.
FULL ARTICLE (TIME)
Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

Iranian Intervention in Iraq Would Be Risky | Aryn Baker

As U.S. President Barack Obama considers his limited options in Iraq, the United States is considering holding talks with Iran later this week on how to counter the militant threat. Both the U.S. and Iran have said they will provide qualified military support to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should he request it, a turn of events that could suddenly see the two foes fighting on the same side. But while such an alignment might improve the relationship between the U.S. and Iran going forward, Iranian military assistance in Iraq carries substantial risks. Done improperly, it could inflame sectarian tensions or even start an all-out war in the region.

The rapid advance of the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), into Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north was a result partly of local dissatisfaction with the Shi’ite-dominated central government in Baghdad. Iraq’s Sunni minority, which had ruled Iraq for decades until the fall of the Sunni dictator President Saddam Hussein in 2003, still seethes with resentment over what they see as their loss of power and dignity. Many dismiss Maliki as an Iranian stooge, set in place to advance Shi’ite interests in the name of a greater Iranian plot to extend Iran’s influence across the region. “Iranian troops operating in Iraq will confirm everything the Sunnis have always suspected, that the Maliki regime is an extension of Iranian power. So it will become a self-fulfilling dynamic,” warns Peter Harling, Middle East Project Director of the International Crisis Group.

FULL ARTICLE (TIME)

Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

13 Jun
For ISIS, Iraq’s Spoils Could Tip Balance in Eastern Syria | Karen Leigh
On Wednesday, images surfaced of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) driving U.S.-made humvees across the Iraqi border, into the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. If real, the photos prove that the border between Iraq and Syria is now an open road for ISIS fighters hoping to establish a Sunni caliphate in the region. To the leaders of the extremist group, the battles in Iraq and Syria are part of a single, broader fight.
Analysts say the financial and strategic spoils of ISIS’s capture of Mosul and Tikrit could provide a significant, nearly unstoppable boon to its Syrian arm, helping turn the tide in the months-long battle for Deir Ezzor.
"The weapons and money that they’re gaining through the takeover of Mosul and other areas in Iraq can be used not only to consolidate what they’re doing in Iraq, but to send money back into Syria, both to their operation in Deir Ezzor and to push further into the northern part of country, Aleppo and Idlib, where they’d been operating but been pushed back," says Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who studies the Syrian jihad.
FULL ARTICLE (Syria Deeply)
Photo: Jayel Aheram/flickr

For ISIS, Iraq’s Spoils Could Tip Balance in Eastern Syria | Karen Leigh

On Wednesday, images surfaced of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) driving U.S.-made humvees across the Iraqi border, into the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. If real, the photos prove that the border between Iraq and Syria is now an open road for ISIS fighters hoping to establish a Sunni caliphate in the region. To the leaders of the extremist group, the battles in Iraq and Syria are part of a single, broader fight.

Analysts say the financial and strategic spoils of ISIS’s capture of Mosul and Tikrit could provide a significant, nearly unstoppable boon to its Syrian arm, helping turn the tide in the months-long battle for Deir Ezzor.

"The weapons and money that they’re gaining through the takeover of Mosul and other areas in Iraq can be used not only to consolidate what they’re doing in Iraq, but to send money back into Syria, both to their operation in Deir Ezzor and to push further into the northern part of country, Aleppo and Idlib, where they’d been operating but been pushed back," says Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who studies the Syrian jihad.

FULL ARTICLE (Syria Deeply)

Photo: Jayel Aheram/flickr

2 Jun
Obama’s counterterrorism doctrine: Let locals lead the fight | David Rohde
In a foreign policy address this week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.
“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat - one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”
But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr

Obama’s counterterrorism doctrine: Let locals lead the fight | David Rohde

In a foreign policy address this week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops.

“We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat - one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.”

But critics say America’s past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr

28 Apr
"Baghdad has played up al-Qaeda’s role to justify responding with force to a political challenge."

—Maria Fantappie, Crisis Group’s Iraq Analyst, Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain

Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain
Baghdad/Brussels  |   28 Apr 2014
An alliance between the local military council and the jihadi ISIL group is keeping the besieging Iraqi army at bay around Falluja, but unless Sunni alienation is addressed, the city risks a new round of devastating conflict. 
In its latest report, Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain, the International Crisis Group examines the precarious situation in the Anbar province city that in 2004 experienced the worst fighting of the U.S. occupation. In December 2013, after the police cleared a year-long anti-government sit-in, protesters took to the streets. The army was sent in, and the extremists of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took advantage. A self-reinforcing cycle has taken root: jihadi activity encourages government truculence that pushes the city to seek protection from jihadis, whose world-view most residents reject. After Wednesday’s provincial elections, this political and security impasse must be addressed before a miscalculation or calculated escalation produces extensive bloodshed. 
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to revive his waning political fortunes, exaggerated, and so exacerbated, Falluja’s threat to national stability. This enabled him to rally Shiites against alleged terrorists, divide and politically neutralise Sunnis, redeem the army’s image as defender of the nation and lobby the international community, with its often myopic terrorism focus.
Maliki has staked re-election on a crudely sectarian counter-terrorism campaign from which neither he nor the Sunni political spectrum is likely to retreat.
After the 30 April parliamentary elections, the government should work with Falluja’s military council – which itself should repair relations with Sunni rivals – to push ISIL from the city.
The Baghdad government, UN and U.S. should distinguish ISIL from the city as a whole and its military council, not bundle them together in an indiscriminate “war on terror”.
The Falluja situation is symptomatic of the worsening violence in Iraq, which needs to be seen and addressed for what it is: a consequence of the state’s deep political flaws, not their root cause.
“Baghdad has again played up al-Qaeda’s role to justify responding with force to a political challenge. The international community, by and large, backs this approach, partly as a way to hurt al-Qaeda”, notes Crisis Group Iraq analyst Maria Fantappie. “This is empowering the opposition’s most radical voices”. 
“The elections, at least for the Sunni community, will not be credible, not only because Anbar is a virtual war zone but also because political violence and an obsessive concern with security have warped Iraqi political reality”, says Acting Middle East Program Director Robert Blecher. “Beyond elections, Iraq needs a new political compact to break the cycle of violence tragically exemplified in Falluja”.
FULL REPORT

Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain

Baghdad/Brussels  |   28 Apr 2014

An alliance between the local military council and the jihadi ISIL group is keeping the besieging Iraqi army at bay around Falluja, but unless Sunni alienation is addressed, the city risks a new round of devastating conflict. 

In its latest report, Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain, the International Crisis Group examines the precarious situation in the Anbar province city that in 2004 experienced the worst fighting of the U.S. occupation. In December 2013, after the police cleared a year-long anti-government sit-in, protesters took to the streets. The army was sent in, and the extremists of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took advantage. A self-reinforcing cycle has taken root: jihadi activity encourages government truculence that pushes the city to seek protection from jihadis, whose world-view most residents reject. After Wednesday’s provincial elections, this political and security impasse must be addressed before a miscalculation or calculated escalation produces extensive bloodshed. 

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to revive his waning political fortunes, exaggerated, and so exacerbated, Falluja’s threat to national stability. This enabled him to rally Shiites against alleged terrorists, divide and politically neutralise Sunnis, redeem the army’s image as defender of the nation and lobby the international community, with its often myopic terrorism focus.

Maliki has staked re-election on a crudely sectarian counter-terrorism campaign from which neither he nor the Sunni political spectrum is likely to retreat.

After the 30 April parliamentary elections, the government should work with Falluja’s military council – which itself should repair relations with Sunni rivals – to push ISIL from the city.

The Baghdad government, UN and U.S. should distinguish ISIL from the city as a whole and its military council, not bundle them together in an indiscriminate “war on terror”.

The Falluja situation is symptomatic of the worsening violence in Iraq, which needs to be seen and addressed for what it is: a consequence of the state’s deep political flaws, not their root cause.

“Baghdad has again played up al-Qaeda’s role to justify responding with force to a political challenge. The international community, by and large, backs this approach, partly as a way to hurt al-Qaeda”, notes Crisis Group Iraq analyst Maria Fantappie. “This is empowering the opposition’s most radical voices”. 

“The elections, at least for the Sunni community, will not be credible, not only because Anbar is a virtual war zone but also because political violence and an obsessive concern with security have warped Iraqi political reality”, says Acting Middle East Program Director Robert Blecher. “Beyond elections, Iraq needs a new political compact to break the cycle of violence tragically exemplified in Falluja”.

FULL REPORT

6 Mar
LINK

Inside the Middle East: Q&A with Maria Fantappie

Maria Fantappie, Crisis Group’s Iraq Analyst, discusses the situation in Iraq with Jennifer Rowland of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

3 Feb
Catch up on the world’s conflicts in this month’s CrisisWatch map.

Catch up on the world’s conflicts in this month’s CrisisWatch map.