Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Crisis in Iraq

The capture of Mosul by ISIL today forces us all into some sensemaking. The rise of radical Islamist groups in Iraq, mainly the Sunni ISIL, but also among the Shias with their own radical armed militias, is not taking place in vacuum. The country was occupied by a U.S.-led coalition for eight years. After the U.S. withdrawal, Saudi Arabia and Iran have followed sectarian policies in Iraq that have partly caused the present situation; by supporting Sunni militias in opposition to the government and Shia militias in support of it. But at the end of the day, it is the Iraqi government and its leader, who has been in power for two full terms and is trying to stay on for a third term, that should be held responsible for maintaining security and stability in the country.

On one hand, Maliki government pushed out his rivals, especially the Sunnis, out of a power-sharing arrangement that could have rallied support for the government among all the Iraqis at this hour of need. One the other hand, the central government has failed to start meaningful development projects to address the root causes of discontent in the society, and instead has become one of the most corrupt governments in the region, which is quite a feat considering the widespread corruption in many of the countries in the neighborhood.

Using data from the World Bank, the UN, and Transparency International, CSIS’s Anthony Cordesman has developed a summary report on governance and economics challenges facing Iraq today. below are several key points that emerge from Cordesman’s report (Anthony Cordesman, Hitting Bottom: The Maliki Scoreboard in Iraq; CSIS, 10 June 2014):
  • In spite of its oil wealth, Iraq has failed and remains a poor nation with the lowest per capita income of any state in the Persian Gulf except Yemen.
  • The World Bank ranks Iraq as the most corrupt nation in the region except Yemen and Libya. 
  • Transparency International ranks Iraq as the least transparent government in the region, and as the 171st worst country in the world out of 177 countries surveyed.
  • The World Bank puts Iraq near bottom of nations in terms of rule of law, and rates its performance under Maliki as worst off than under Saddam.
  • The UN ranks Iraq as 131st in the world in human development indicators, and as the worst country in the region except for Yemen in spite of Iraq’s oil income.
Iraq is on the edge of civil war. Lack of development, both politically and economically, creates fertile ground for discontent and dissent. And the sectarian policies of the government and outside regional powers pave the way for the rise of extremism that is now threatening the very existence of Iraq.

UPDATE: Aside from Mosul, several other cities have fallen to the ISIL. They include Hawija, Zab, Riyadh, Rashad and Yankaja. Also there are reports of militants in control of Qayara, Suleiman Bek, Albu Ajeel and Shirqat. ISIL has taken over a checkpoint on the outskirt of Tikrit, and have taken control of several nearby villages.

UPDATE II: ISIL is now in control of Takrit. CNN is reporting that ISF is repositioning its forces around Fallujah, bringing them back to Baghdad area to boost defense of the capital.

Photo credit: ISIL in Mosul. 10 June 2014 (


Anonymous said...

excellent citation of Cordesman's damning report on Maliki's failure.

Anonymous said...

The present situation has not been created by sectarian policies of the Islamic Republic, but by a logical outcome from an illogical input of the US insanity.............where they brought the war, trained Sunni militias as well as by supporting terrorists in Syria.

Those who create a wind, will face a storm,......... or who rules by sword will end.......


Mark Pyruz said...

- It certainly was not Maliki's fault that Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, becoming a U.S. ally in the process, resulting in economic ruin.

- It certainly was not Maliki's fault that Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, resulting in further economic ruin.

- It certainly was not Maliki's fault that U.S.-led economic sanctions were applied on Iraq, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths (mainly children) and further economic ruin.

- It certainly was not Maliki's fault that the United States invaded Iraq on faulty premises, resulting in Al-Qaeda linked armed groups taking root in Iraq.

- It certainly was not Maliki's fault that external powers supported armed groups in Syria, allowing a resurgence of Al-Qaida armed groups from Syria to remerge and cross back into Iraq.

So now we're blaming Maliki for all of this? That's a bit much.

We Americans hoisted that system of governance on Iraq.

So Maliki's armed forces are sustaining difficulties. Just imagine what Cordesman would be saying if he unleashed massed artillery and airstrikes on Fallujah and Mosil the way Assad has done in Syria.

Nader Uskowi said...

We blame Maliki only for what he could have done , and did not do. I don't know where you got the idea that I was blaming him for everything that has gone wrong in modern Iraqi history! Maliki has been in power for two full terms, and wants to stay in power for another term. Instead of forming a government of national unity in his two terms, his sectarian policies pushed the Sunni minority out of the government, and his government's corruption, as the data mentioned above shows, and his authoritarian way of governance even turned away some major Shia parties from him. He needs to be blamed for what he did.

Is Maliki the only culprit? Of course not. I have mentioned in the post, in case you did not have the chance to read it, that eight years of U.S-led occupation of the country and the sectarian policies of Saudi Arabia and Iran and their support of armed militias in the country, on Sunni and Shia sides, as well as the evil policies of ISIL, are all the factors that has brought Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Let's hope the progressive and moderate forces in the country unite in forming a government of national unity, bringing in Sunnis, Shias and Kurds into a real power sharing arrangement, and not just as a show. Iraq could still be saved, and we should all support its existence and its unity.

Anonymous said...

Forget Iraq...that place was doomed to begin with. The question is now this.

Should iran deploy troops to protect the holy Shia sites as a pretext to eventually take over those areas??

Russia has made that precedent with Crimea already so I don't see anything different here.

B.M.A said...


Your solution for IRAQ has been just simple-A GOVERNMENT of National unity !.and its chance of succeeding is 'foreign powers' to leave the country alone!.What a joke from you !

@-Never will this region know peace as long as the world's beacon of democracy keeps on stirring trouble with the sole aim of profiting from @ arms sales @ keeping Muslims busy fighting as the Jewish state silently expands settlement schemes ! @giving the corrupt Arab despots some lifeline as radical youths that may cause trouble at home are sent to fight for an INTOLERANT caliphate built on the foundation of TERROR ,using low grade military tools that are made by the hands of non-Muslims- [which will never succeed].

@you only build a Government of national unity with a willing rival.

Nader Uskowi said...

Establishing a government of national unity that would truly represent the Sunni and Kurdish factions as well as the Shias is not a joke, it's the only acceptable way ahead during these very difficult days for Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Now the islamic occupying regime in Iran has two civil wars on its hands,Syria and now Iraq. Let us hope the anti-Iran regime sends its zombies into the pandora of islamic terrorism. The hidden one demands it !

Anonymous said...

The Sunni-Shia sectarian hateful relationships and wars goes back before Maliki, Saddam and to the beginning of the Islamic rule in the area. Doubt that this can be resolved by forming governments, it usually dictatorship and rule by one side over the other and as long religious beliefs guide the peoples behaviour these sectarian warfare will remain in the region and will slave them within their own hate of each other.

Anonymous said...

We really don't need a lot of Arabs in Iran. Iran don't need to go there

Anonymous said...

"In spite of its oil wealth, Iraq has failed and remains a poor nation with the lowest per capita income of any state in the Persian Gulf except Yemen." ==> at least, that should shut the mouths of contemporary Iranian supporters of US intervention depicting today's Iraq as a so-called all-out middle-eastern rising star in all areas of progress would it be industrial, economic or in terms of geopolitical weight not a month ago via their comments on this very blog, FOR EVER.

A salute to the ones stating proudly here that the people of Iran should view its status as an example to follow with regards to US interventionism and pro-western obedience and quoting gulf monarchies as beacons of success as opposed to a supposedly backwards and much less developed Iran.

Notwithstanding of course the shared responsibility of Iran and Saudi Arabia in their selfish and destructive rivalry wiping off whatever is left of post-occupation Iraq as a country in the process of their proxy gaming.... I cannot believe it is happening by our very eyes so soon... this is another terrible day for the region and the world... made in USA,UK for their invasion and occupation, the KSA and Iran for their struggle for hegemony using a foreign land as their battlefield for dominance, and finally, last but not least, Israel and its gigantic pressure it put in 2003 through AIPAC and neo-cons in power to push for war with Iraq no matter what and having succeeded in mobilizing the American military machine, and by establishing itself massively in Iraqi Kurdistan afterwards to have a say and strong role in basically anything that goes by.


Anonymous said...

I agree. In most cases the solution short of a civil war is to partition the country on religious or ethnic lines. This is not ideal but keeps the peace at least. There are dotted examples of in the form of Cyprus (Turks and Greeks), former Yugoslavia, the enclave of Nakhjevan in Armenia and so forth. Some cultures have no concept of tolerance and Arabs are fascinating examples of it. Having said that, a divided and weak Iraq and for that matter any other Arab country is in the interest of Iran. Practically all nations neighboring Iran are failed states such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The exceptions are to some extent Turkey and Armenia. So how do you survive among all these lawless nations? It is a great strategic challenge for Iran.

It is good to establish a federal government for these failed states. However, that is just talk of a good talk so to speak. In practice they are light years behind such schemes.

B.M.A said...

-A are you not the same person who the other day argued that Iraq is infarct in good position economically and militarily given its access to western technology and new arms ?

Anonymous said...

No , I do not think I ever said that, quite a lot of the contrary actually once, when facing someone trying to sell us the laughable claim that today's Iraq was a new super-rich and prosperous Qatar surpassing Iran at every level.