Thursday, April 14, 2011

Will Post-America Iraq Disintegrate?

Iraq Ethnic Map 2 lg
John R. Houk
© April 14, 2011

The Iraq Surge was pretty much a successful military venture; however it did not wrap things up in terms of reliable stability for Iraq as a sovereign nation that roughly has a majority population of Iran sympathizing Shias, a lesser minority of Sunnis who ruled the nation for a half century and the ever disenfranchised Kurds who tend to Sunni Muslims but are viewed as second class citizens by Sunni and Shia Arabs as well as by the Shias of Iran.

When President G.W. Bush finally rallied enough political support both at home and with the Coalition of the Willing to depose psycho-dictator Saddam Hussein, there were brief moments of the thought to divide Iraq (SA HERE) into three regional nations to accommodate Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. I say brief because it became evident a divided Iraq would make the Iraq area an easy target for Iranian invasion especially since the Iraqi Shias are very sympathetic to the Mullah ruled Iran. Also there is the question of who controls and/or benefits from the still profitable amounts in the ground in Iraq. There is no doubt one group would invade the other group to gain access to the oil to benefit which ever tribal minded Shia, Sunni or Kurd. Not to mention that Turkey was prepared to go to war to make sure a sovereign Kurdish nation did not exist on their southern border (See this possible recent development).

Because of Iran hegemonic regional designs coupled with a nationalistic Islamist Turkish government dominating that still hates Kurds, when the USA leaves Iraq the thin glue that has held the current Iraq together may dissolve rapidly. This is problematic because America does have an invested interest in the prayer that Iraq stabilizes internally. The disintegration of an Iraq central government will make Iraq a target for Iran to usurp the Shia portion of Iraq.

Also Turkey’s Islamist government has been reaching out to Iran lately. I see a possibility of Turkey and Iran clandestinely pulling off a form of a Hitler-Stalin pact. That pact led Hitler to invade Poland from the west and Stalin’s Red Army invading Poland from the east. A Turkey-Iran pact might look like Iran’s military annexing Iraq’s Shia locations and Turkey annexing the Kurd areas of northern Iraq.

Since I am by far no-means a geopolitical expert (I am just a no-name blogger), check out the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) email which speculates with clarity Iraq’s situation and why it matters to American National Interests.

JRH 4/14/11
ISW in Brief: An Uncertain Future for the U.S.-Iraq Partnership

By Ramzy Mardini
April 14, 2011
ISW Email

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Iraq to discuss the timetable for the U.S. military’s withdrawal, currently scheduled to conclude by the end of this year. During his three-day visit, Secretary Gates met with Iraqi leaders and communicated the United States’ willingness to extend its troop presence beyond 2011 should the Iraqis make such a request. His visit comes amidst growing concerns that a December 2011 withdrawal will leave a dangerous security vacuum in Iraq.

Secretary Gates’ visit coincides with growing Iraqi sentiment against an extended U.S. forces presence in Iraq. In stark contrast to Gates’ offer of an extension, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other members of his coalition have rejected the possibility of a continued U.S. military presence. Maliki reportedly told Gates during their meeting that his government opposes “any presence of U.S. troops or other foreign troops” and that Iraqi forces were capable of maintaining security and “countering any attack,” suggesting they were no longer in need of U.S. support. Maliki’s argument, however, contradicts statements made by senior Iraqi military officials that they will require additional U.S. assistance for years to come.

Yet, the strongest opposition to a continued U.S. presence comes from the firebrand Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party holds 40 seats in the 325-seat Council of Representatives, more than any individual party in Iraq. Following last year’s election, Maliki relied on Sadr’s backing in order to retain his position as prime minister. Should Maliki come to support an extension by way of a renegotiated Security Agreement, he would surely lose Sadr’s support, a move which could jeopardize his premiership. If Maliki were to lose Sadrist backing, he would have to seek alliances elsewhere. Yet, even Iraqiyya—another major parliamentary bloc—has expressed mixed views toward a sustained U.S. presence.

The Sadrists have also been working to rally popular sentiment in favor of U.S. withdrawal, chiefly through anti-occupation demonstrations. On April 9, just one day after Gates’ departure, tens of thousands of Sadr loyalists flooded the streets in Baghdad to mark the eighth anniversary of the ousting of Saddam, with anti-American banners and slogans demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces. During the rally, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Obaidi threatened to reinstate the Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia and escalate popular opposition in response to a sustained U.S. military presence. A recent report in al-Hayat suggests that the leaders of the Iranian-linked militant group, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, would consider rejoining the Sadrists if JAM is armed and reactivated, which would further reinforce JAM’s ability to destabilize Iraq.

Though an extension of the U.S. presence is a politically unattractive prospect for Iraqis, there are many unresolved issues that threaten to unravel recent security gains. Unsettled territorial disputes between Arabs and Kurds—particularly in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk—may escalate into a civil war between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces should the U.S. military presence be removed. Recent events have demonstrated the importance of a U.S. presence to mediate between the two factions. A recent incident in which the KRG deployed Peshmerga forces south of Kirkuk City, without consulting U.S. and Iraqi officials, heightened tensions and required Vice President Joe Biden to intervene to defuse the conflict. Both sides have come to the verge of armed conflict on multiple occasions, only to be deterred by the presence of U.S. forces.

Additionally, though extremist groups have been degraded, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) remains active, and could seek to fill the security vacuum left by a U.S. withdrawal. In one of their deadliest attacks in recent years, on March 29, 2011, AQI attacked a government building in Tikrit, killing 56 people and wounding scores more, including several provincial councilmen and the chief of police of Salah-ad-Din governorate. This incident demonstrates that AQI retains its ability to conduct high-profile attacks, prompting questions and concerns about the readiness of Iraq’s security forces.

Though the Iraqi military has made significant strides towards self-sufficiency, it remains unable to fill critical external defense functions, like protecting its borders and controlling its airspace. For example, Iraq’s Air Force lacks sufficient aircraft and trained pilots to defend Iraqi airspace from incursions. Moreover, reduced capabilities in logistics and intelligence also limit Iraq’s defenses. It is also likely that, following a complete U.S. withdrawal, other interested parties, such as Iran, may seek to expand their influence in the region by exploiting Iraq’s vulnerabilities.

All of these elements make a continued U.S.-Iraq partnership especially important post-2011; however, time is running out, and delicate diplomatic engagement will be required if any agreement is to be reached.
Will Post-America Iraq Disintegrate?
John R. Houk
© April 14, 2011
ISW in Brief: An Uncertain Future for the U.S.-Iraq Partnership

Ramzy Mardini is a Research Analyst at ISW.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.

ISW is a 501(c)(3) organization under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. All contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Copyright (C) 2011 Institute for the Study of War All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment