Iraq: New Friends And Responsibilities

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February 8, 2022: Iraq’s national elections in 2021 revealed much less support for Iran despite increased Iranian threats and financial promises Iran could not keep. Iran has been seeking ways to regain its influence in Iraqi politics and so far, has been unsuccessful. Iran initially responded with a failed assassination attack on the Iraqi prime minister plus rocket and mortar attacks on the American embassy and the remaining U.S. troops. Most Iraqis want some Americans to stay, more economic activity with Arab neighbors and an end to Iranian meddling in Iraq. Iran has other problems that must be tended to, including growing economic problems and domestic unrest because of that. Iraq is now a lower priority, but one Iran will eventually return to.

The 2021 Iraqi elections were mainly about confronting a larger problem than Iran; widespread corruption and resulting government mismanagement of the economy. While most Iraqis agree with this, members of the new parliament, especially the different coalitions, do not agree on where to start with eliminating corrupt practices. Eliminating corruption imposes a one-time tax on many Iraqi groups. The size of the “tax” varies and the debate is mainly about who gets hit first and for how much. You cannot do it all at once because there is no combined list of all the corrupt practices and what each costs the economy. “Eliminating corruption” is a simple slogan but implementing it requires far more effort. This problem has stalled the formation of a new government. If no new government exists in two months, the constitution mandates new national elections. Most parties want to avoid the expense and casualties (from those violently opposed to democracy). Working out problems like is one thing that separates a functioning democracy and a failed state or dictatorship.

One of the easier tasks is reestablishing economic ties with the other Arab oil states in the region. These nations, all run by Sunnis, offered peace and investment to Iraq and the new Iraqi government accepted the offer, even as some of those Arab states were establishing diplomatic, economic and military relations with Israel. This is a big problem for Iran because Israel has made it clear that it will use airstrikes and less obvious attacks to stop Iran from developing a working nuclear weapon. Iran’s prospective first successful underground test, which can be monitored by foreign earthquake detectors plus specialized aircraft that can detect and measure small amounts of fallout which often escape from underground tests. The first test might be an incomplete detonation or “fizzle”. Fixing this requires making some adjustments and testing again. Eventually the nukes become more reliable. But to make them robust enough to be used in ballistic missile warheads requires a lot more time and effort. That effort became more vulnerable to an Israeli airstrike because of the new Iraqi government and its Gulf Arab neighbors, who will trade with and support Iraq as long as Iraq does not aid Iran in its effort to obtain nukes and destroy the military power of the Arab Gulf states.

Iraq has found China willing to invest in the local economy, especially if it includes developing or operating oil production facilities. Iraq is also aware of the Chinese proclivity for eventually using these investments as political and diplomatic tools to achieve whatever local goals China had.

ISIL Forever

Despite the late 2017 declaration that ISIL was defeated, the Islamic terror group remains active in northern and Western Iraq, as well as in Syria where it was created by Iraqi Islamic terrorists. ISIL no longer controls large areas of Iraq but is a problem because of the violence, extortion, and disorder it brings in several provinces north of Baghdad. Defeating ISIL took four years of effort and several hundred billion dollars to pay for an expanded military, battle damage and economic losses plus over 100,000 Iraqi lives, to kill at least 20,000 Islamic terrorists. This eliminated ISIL control of Iraqi territory. That effort created other problems, and opportunities. Iran offered help and was allowed to organize, train and often lead in combat over 100,000 Iraqi (largely Shia) militiamen in what was and still is the PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces). Most Iraqis, including most Iraqi Shia (about 60 percent of the population) feared an Iran inspired coup but by early 2018 senior Shia clerics in Iraq and Iran agreed that the militias should stay out of politics. Iran’s government was not consulted on this decision and a minority of pro-Iran Iraqis still want an Iran style religious dictatorship. There are few PMF members who still support Iranian goals and the PMF is no longer a major security problem for Iraq.

ISIL has lost territory, and lots of members, since 2014 and is still around. That is because groups like ISIL persist in the Middle East because there is still plenty of corruption, bad government, economic stagnation and a prevalent religion (Islam) that justifies and encourages terrorism. Islam also creates an atmosphere that encourages corruption and bad government. Most Moslems see this as a fundamental problem that must be fixed. Finding and applying a suitable solution has been a work in process for centuries.

February 6, 2022: In the northeast (Diyala Province) an ISIL attack on a police convoy was defeated. One policeman was killed and three others wounded, including a police general who was apparently the primary target. The convoy was well protected and the ISIL attackers quickly withdrew when they realized that. Assassinations of key security forces commanders and intelligence specialists is a standard strategy with ISIL because it is the most effective way to reduce the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts.

February 4, 2022: In the north, the autonomous Kurdish government turned over control of one of its combat brigades to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. This brigade, with about 2,000 veteran Kurdish soldiers, will remain in the north and work with Iraqi troops to deal with Islamic terrorists, especially ISIL, that operate on the Iraqi side of the Kurd/Iraq border and along the Syrian border.

February 3, 2022: In the Kurdish north, outside Erbil, ISIL sniper fire wounded three Kurdish troops. Return fire killed one of the snipers and caused the others to flee. Kurdish forces pursued. Attacks like this are rare because there are few Islamic terrorists in the Kurdish north. Kurdish security is good and Kurdish troops are trained to track down and kill or capture any Islamic terrorists. In the Kurdish north there are few local civilians willing to provide support for Islamic terrorists and there are no Kurdish Islamic terrorists. There were a few in the past but they did not survive long.

In Syria another Iraqi head of ISIL was located and killed by the American Special Forces. This took place in northwest Syria (Idlib province) where American commandos raided the house a few kilometers from the Turkish border where Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurayshi, the current leader of ISIL lived. Qurayshi was selected for the job a week after the 2019 raid on the Idlib province hideout of ISIL founder al-Baghdadi. Both men were Iraqi Islamic terrorists who became active after Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003 and ended up in Syria after their Iraq terror campaign was defeated in 2008. Both ISIL leaders were from families that supplied military and police commanders for Saddam’s forces. Iraqi Islamic terrorists went to Syria after 2012 to join the fight against the secular Assad dictatorship. In 2014 Baghdadi, and senior associates like Qurayshi created ISIL as the ultimate Islamic terrorist organization that was going to restore the reputation of Iraqi Islamic terrorists who failed in Iraq. ISIL was successful for about three years, but then the counterattack by all the enemies they had made, including fellow Islamic terrorists, destroyed the “caliphate” and forced survivors like Baghdadi and Qurayshi to flee with their families to Idlib province, where the Syrian government allowed surrounded Islamic terrorists to go to as long as they surrendered the territory (neighborhoods or towns) they currently occupied rather than fight to the death and see their surroundings blasted to bits and pro-Assad civilians killed. This tactic worked by concentrating nearly all the surviving Islamic terrorists in within one Syria province on the Turkish border. The Turks fortified their Idlib border and warned Idlib refugees that any attempt to find refuge in Turkey would be resisted with force. Syria, with the help of Russian air power and equipment, have slowly been retaking Idlib province. The Assad’s cannot go for a quick victory because they would lose more troops than they can afford to lose. Syrian soldiers have been at war for a decade and it is understood that they will stay in uniform as long as the Assads don’t get a lot of them killed.

Meanwhile the U.S. offered a $10 million reward for information on Qurayshi and this was not mentioned in reports of today’s pre-dawn raid. The rewards program works because if an informant supplies accurate information, he and his immediate family are moved to a safe foreign country. This is something similar to the successful American domestic Witness Protection program.

February 2, 2022: In the south an Iran supported Iraqi militia, the True Promise Brigade, took credit for launching three Iranian UAVs, equipped with explosives and programmed to crash and explode in the UAE. That failed because UAE aur defenses have been upgraded to detect and destroy UAVs or cruise missiles coming from any direction. The True Promise Brigade is not very large or active and is now targeted by Iraqi counter-terrorism forces. Iraq is seeking to improve its economic relationships with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and reduce contact with Iran.

In the north (Kirkuk province) intel about a remote ISIL camp was accurate enough for an Iraqi warplane to find and bomb the target. When ground troops arrived, they found four ISIL men dead,

February 1, 2022: In the north (Nineveh province) Intel efforts paid off as the location of an ISIL bomb workshop was discovered, raided and troops seized 80 explosive devices, including explosive vests, roadside bombs and explosives for turning a car or truck into suicide bomber vehicles. The location was the main supplier of explosive devices for ISIL operations in the north.

January 28, 2022: In the north (Saladin Province, some 200 kilometers north of Baghdad) ISIL gunmen made a night attack on an army checkpoint. Four soldiers, as well as one of the attackers, were killed. So far this year ISIL has been carrying out similar successful attacks several times a week in the north, along the border between Iraqi and Kurdish territory. Most of the attacks fail because there is no element of surprise or the troops targeted are well prepared. This is especially true when ISIL tries to attack army bases, even small ones.

January 25, 2022: In the last 48 hours Iraqi warplanes made three attacks on ISIL targets, including one outside Baghdad and the other two in the north (Nineveh province). Over twenty ISIL members were killed and even more wounded. The targets were located using tips from locals followed by aerial surveillance by UAVs and manned aircraft.

January 23, 2022: In the south ( Qadisiya province) there was another roadside bomb attack on an American supply convoy but there were no casualties or damage

January 22, 2022: In the north (Nineveh province) an Iraqi airstrike killed the ISIL commander in charge of provincial operations and one of his assistants. ISIL commanders are generally very careful when moving and this one may have been hit by chance because the identity of the dead leader was not discovered until the bodies were examined for IDs or useful documents.

January 21, 2022: In the north (Kirkuk province) three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb and another wounded.

January 18, 2022: In the northeast (Diyala Province) an ISIL attack on an army base left 11 soldiers dead. A later investigation revealed that the garrison was sloppy with its night security and enabled ISIL to get close enough to launch a successful attack. The base was equipped with night-vision devices and if these were used the ISIL attack would have failed.

January 11, 2022: Israel declared that it would attack Iranian nuclear weapons facilities alone if the U.S. and key European countries agreed to lift the economic sanctions on Iran in return of Iranian assurances that it will halt its nuclear weapons program. Israel does not believe Iran will abide by these terms, just as it has never halted work on nukes in the past. Iran work has slowed down in the past, largely because of economic sanctions. When Iran has more money, some of it goes to nukes and most of it goes to overseas military operations in places like Syria, Gaza, Iraq and Yemen. Most nations feel no immediate threat from Iranian nuclear weapons, especially early models, which will be crude and less effective. Iran believes nukes will make neighbors more likely to agree to Iranian demands. The one country that is always mentioned as the first target for Iranian nukes is Israel. The Islamic radicals in Iran continue to openly proclaim their desire to nuke Israel. No other nation has been threatened with nuclear attack and Israel considers lifting economic sanctions on Iran as an opportunity for Iran to finally build a nuclear weapon and use it against the Little Satan (Israel). The Great Satan is the United States, which is too far away and too powerful to be the first foe to feel the nuclear wrath of Iran.

Israel is gaining more Arab allies against Iran. A growing number of Moslem states are establishing diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. After more than a century of increasing anti-Semitism, most of Israel’s Arab neighbors realized that Israel would be a valuable economic, diplomatic and military ally against common enemies like Shia Iran and Islamic terrorism in general. Israel is also the only nation in the region with nukes and reliable ballistic missiles, which are also used to put Israeli spy satellites into orbit. These missiles can also reach any target in Iran, using nuclear or non-nuclear warheads.

Many Iranians are willing to change but their corrupt leaders are not and use their war on Israel as an excuse to violently suppress any Iranian opposition to the current suicidal strategy. Iranians born after the 1980s are now the majority and want an end to corruption, theocracy and expensive foreign misadventures. The decade-long operation in Syria was seen as particularly wasteful and expensive, especially with Israel threatening to use whatever it takes, including their nukes, to prevent Iran from creating a military presence on their northern border. These young Iranians also know that until the 1980s Israel and Iran were allies and trading partners and that may well be a case of the “Good Old Days” being more reality than misleading nostalgia.

 

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