Showing posts for "Iraq"
Ever since the self-declared Islamic State overran Mosul in June 2014, virtually everyone has made it fairly clear in mostly unintended ways that we do not understand a lot about the group. Perhaps that is a bit unfair. There are a number of talented scholars who have done great work on the origins and worldview of the Islamic State. Both Will McCants and Dan Byman have new books on the group and Aaron Zelin has long been a terrific resource on all things extremist. Their work should help Washington understand how to meet the challenge the Islamic State presents, yet I keep hearing the same things about the Islamic State that I have been hearing since everyone discovered it and rediscovered Iraq fifteen months ago. One of the most dissatisfying is this, or some variation of it: “The Islamic State cannot provide services in the areas that it controls thereby sowing the seeds of its own demise.” This strikes me as one of those things that make a lot of sense to those of us here, but seems erroneous in the context of the Islamic State. It is pretty clear to me that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi does not care about guaranteeing services, that failing to provide things like electricity will not actually undermine the Islamic State, and that the inability (or unwillingness) to extend services to people living in IS-land does not make it all that different from any number of states in Middle East. Read more »
On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter appeared on CNN’s State of the Union during which he reflected on the performance of the Iraqi Security Forces in the recent battle for Ramadi. “What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” he said. “They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight.” It was a stunning admission. The United States has been retraining and reequipping the Iraqi military (again) since last summer and its ignominious performance in Mosul, Tikrit, and every place in between. The defeat in Ramadi and Secretary Carter’s blunt assessment suggests that the Obama administration’s return on investment is close to nil. It is extraordinarily worrisome because the White House’s entire strategy is based on providing local actors, primarily the Iraqi Security Forces, the means to “degrade and defeat” the self-proclaimed Islamic State instead of deploying American soldiers to do the job. The secretary’s statement was particularly surprising since Secretary of State John Kerry assured the press a few days earlier that the Islamic State’s grip on Ramadi would be temporary, while the White House called it a “tactical setback.” Perhaps Carter was responding to the Iraqis who blamed Washington for the defeat. Or maybe he knows better than anyone what is what in Iraq, and when the inevitable accounting is done, Carter and the Pentagon do not want to take the blame for who lost Iraq (again). The most straightforward explanation for the administration’s mixed signals, however, is this: No one really knows or understands what is happening in Iraq. Read more »
From the Potomac to the Euphrates examines how debates about Mideast policy in Washington connect to the region, with a special focus on Egypt and Turkey.