Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Abadi's Blame Game

"To be honest, we need a lot of political work on the part of the coalition countries. We need an explanation why there are so many terrorists from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Egypt ... European countries. If it is due to the political situation in Iraq, why are Americans, French and German (fighters) in Iraq?"

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi opened verbal fire on his coalition allies yesterday during talks in Paris. He blames the coalition for lack of progress against the Islamic State (IS) on a lack of military involvement by the coalition, and as referenced by the above quote, a lack of political involvement. Abadi's blame-shifting misses the point, however. It's not only the coalition; it's the ethnic divide.

To be fair, the U.S. and coalition partners are partially to blame for the current state of Iraq. Disbanding the Iraqi Army and hunting down Ba'athist political operatives wasted a tremendous opportunity to utilize seasoned Army commanders to rebuild a dedicated and trusted military force and use politicians to create a constitution and political structure appealing and fair to all Iraqis. The radicalization of these segments of the Iraqi government is also one of the reasons IS is so strong militarily - experienced troops with deep knowledge of tribal loyalties and geography.

However, a bigger issue stems from the marginalization of the large population of Sunnis by the Shiite-dominated government. The lack of national cohesiveness and outright discrimination gave rise to a radicalized Sunni population with no desire to cooperate with a government that hates them.

The lack of a ground offensive and a somewhat ineffective air campaign in Iraq are topics for another conversation. Abadi's comments are ignorant of the obvious recent history of Iraq and the mistakes that led to the current conflict. His attempt to shift blame was weak and quite transparent. The focus of the Paris talks are to repair the Sunni-Shiite relationship, an endeavor that will bear more fruit than the blame game.

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