US should not add fuel
to inferno with weapons aid
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in the US seeking aid.
THE COUNTRY THAT America ‘broke’ in 2003 will be back on top of the agenda today at The White House.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is scheduled to meet with President Obama after spending his day Thursday pleading for assistance for his strife-torn land.
But, like in its neighbors to the west and east – Syria and Iran – the situation is Iraq is complicated, to say the least. It is difficult to figure out who is fighting whom, and why.
What is not in doubt is that 2013 has so far seen the worst surge in violence in Iraq since 2008, when US troops were still stationed there.
Military aid is not the answer, as Maliki says. A political settlement with devolution of power – perhaps a federal model – is the only viable long-term approach.
THE IRAQI LEADER spent Thursday making the rounds in Washington, D.C. as reported by Voice of America in Iraq’s Maliki Presses for US Military Aid.
“Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is appealing to the United States for more help to fight a surge of violence in his country.
The Voice of America story about Maliki’s plea for help on Thursday. Click image to enlarge.
“Mr. Maliki met Thursday with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top officials in Washington. They discussed the political and security situation in Iraq and ways to enhance bilateral strategic cooperation.”
Maliki is presenting the current violence as attacks by terrorists, according to VOA.
“Earlier, at a speech in Washington, the Iraqi leader said the fight against organizations such as al-Qaida in Iraq and the al-Nusra Front is preventing his government from moving forward on other issues.
“While the Iraqi government blames much of its troubles on terrorism, analysts say much more than terrorism is at play.”
That is an understatement.
“The violence is largely sectarian, they say, and fueled by many complicating factors including a political deadlock in Baghdad and a spillover of al-Qaida activity from the conflict in Syria.”
The prime minister’s visit comes on the heels of daily attacks such as the one reported Wednesday by the BBC in Iraq violence: Fresh wave of bombings kills 20.
“Three separate bombings in Iraq have killed at least 20 people, officials have said.
An account of the latest violence appeared on the BBC on Wednesday. Click image to enlarge.
“In the deadliest attack north of Baghdad, two suicide bombers killed at least 11 military and police officers overnight on Tuesday.
“Another suicide bomber drove his car into a checkpoint near the northern city of Mosul. A third hit near a policeman’s car in Tikrit.”
According to the BBC, there were shocking casualties reported for September:
“Almost 1,000 people were killed and more than 2,000 wounded in September alone, according to the UN.,” the BBC reported.
Understanding the schism is not easy.
“The violence is often fuelled by sectarian divisions between Shia and Sunni Muslims and much of it is blamed on al-Qaeda, who are known to target security forces and other government employees.”
But this is perhaps an oversimplification. A much deeper analysis was published Oct. 3 also by the BBC in Analysis: Iraq’s never-ending security crisis by Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“In any other country, the detonation of 15 car bombs in a capital city on [Sept. 30] and the dozens of resultant deaths would have been an unprecedented event.
“But in Iraq, it was fairly unremarkable – the 38th such “spectacular” in the last 12 months,” Knights writes.
He notes the country has had a decade of “deep security crisis” and then delves deeply into the details.
The authoritative analysis by Michael Knights published by the BBC on Oct. 3.
“In 2010, the low point for the al-Qaeda effort in Iraq, car bombings declined to an average of 10 a month and multiple-location attacks occurred only two or three times a year.
“In 2013, so far there has been an average of 68 car bombings a month and a multiple-location strike every 10 days.”
The violence is getting worse at an alarming rate, according to Knights, who presents a chart that is chilling to look at.
“The UN says 5,740 civilians have been killed since January – almost double the figure it reported for the whole of 2010.
“At the low point of violence in Iraq in early 2011, the country suffered about 300 major security incidents a month. Throughout 2013, the monthly total of incidents has regularly topped 1,200.”
Knights is the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has worked in all of Iraq’s provinces, including periods spent embedded with the Iraqi security forces. He has collated security metrics on Iraq continuously since 2004.
Knights is not optimistic about the ability of the government to maintain order.
“Iraq’s security forces have almost entirely abandoned the successful formula of population-focused counter-insurgency developed by the US-led coalition, instead falling back on counter-productive traditional tactics such as mass arrests and collective punishment.
“Outside the cities, the Iraqi military cannot take the strain of continuous operations – its logistical capabilities collapsing and its aviation and intelligence capabilities proving insufficient to cover the country’s vast rural expanses.”
Knights’ analysis is authoritative and exhaustive.
It is frightful to think the Iraqi leader is seeking more weapons for a military force that seems incapable of using them effectively.
What the president should do is tell Maliki forcefully to find a political solution. The US cannot and should not add fuel to a raging inferno. It should use what little leverage it has left to urge the parties to find a peaceful, democratic solution.
Such a solution would necessarily involve devolution of power to autonomous regions in which the majority takes responsibility for its own security.
Only this way can a more peaceful co-existence be achieved. If not, Iraq is doomed to a continuing and worsening cycle of violence.
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