All Sorts of Things

Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.

Iraq: Yet Another Opportunity for Regional Cooperation in the Middle East

Over the past few days, the world has seen multiple reports on the advancements made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq’s infamous Anbar province.

According to the New York Times, ISIS – not associated with the FX show Archer but with Al-Qaeda (AQ) – has “destroyed the Falluja Police Headquarters and mayor’s office, planted their flag atop other government buildings and decreed the western Iraqi city to be their new independent state.”

Some may remember than Anbar, where over 1,300 American soldiers lost their lives, was the center of a Sunni insurgency during our occupation of Iraq.

The turnaround in that province – achieved through a mix of bribes and increased troop presence – led to the notion that we had defeated AQ in Iraq and won the battle in that nation.

Obviously, one could argue that we did defeat AQ there and that its resurgence is due to a mix of developments in Syria and the incompetence of the Iraq’s government – led by the increasingly sectarian Nouri al-Maliki.

Regardless of the reasons, the fact is that AQ – and ISIS – is resurgent. It also means the US has yet another opportunity to learn from and fix its past mistakes.

It can do so by developing a coalition of existing adversaries – Iran and Arabian Gulf nations (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) – to counter this resurgence.

As with most things, timing is critical because if Iraqi security forces – and local tribesmen – defeat this insurgency then ISIS will return to Syria thereby reducing Arabian Gulf nations’ desire to stand against it.

The reason why these nations could come together against AQ and ISIS is because this group represents a real threat to their current governments and societal structures, as it wants to establish an Islamic – read Sunni – caliphate.

Clearly, there are a number of roadblocks to any such coalition beginning with the religious differences: Shiites working with Sunnis is an anathema to these nations. However, if Saudi Arabia (the center of the Muslim world) and Israel (the center of the Jewish world) can come together for a common position – admittedly against Iran – then surely nations representing two sects of the same religion can do to the same.

On the other hand, there are multiple reasons why Washington should push for such a coalition. Firstly, despite the treasure spent and lives lost, we have failed to defeat AQ and national pride demands we do everything we can to change that.

Secondly, if we do nothing then other powers – particularly Russia – will take the lead, outmaneuver us once more and further reduce our influence in that region.

One example of this decline is how our efforts to influence the Iraqi government through arms sales have failed due to bureaucratic hassles and the Iraqis have turned to the Russians.

Finally, if we do not defeat AQ and ISIS in Iraq then this will embolden similar groups in Afghanistan and that nation’s armed forces are even less equipped and competent to handle AQ.

The fact of the matter is the US has failed in its fight against AQ but we continue to be given chances and opportunities to quash this enemy.

However, this fight cannot be successfully conducted by outside nations. Regional powers need to step in and Washington should work with Tehran, Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi to develop such a coalition and take the fight to AQ.

One comment on “Iraq: Yet Another Opportunity for Regional Cooperation in the Middle East

  1. Pingback: Middle East: To Parent or Guide is the Question | All Sorts of Things

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This entry was posted on January 4, 2014 by in International Affairs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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