The Iraq Debacle: What to Read


Events in Iraq are moving fast and there is a glut of commentary coming out every hour. We separated the wheat from the chaff for you, dear readers. Here is what you should be reading:

What President Obama had to say today – The President insisted this problem is not new, nor is it primarily a military challenge. “Unfortunately,” he said, “Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.” 

Hold Your Horses, Iraq Is Not About to Fall…Yet – According to WOTR contributor Doug Ollivant, the rush to blame either Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or President Obama for what’s going on obscures the real complexity of the problem. He counsels, “We must be quite careful not to conflate the interests of Iraq’s Sunni citizens with the interests of the extremist and largely imported ISIS fighters.” This is mainly about Syria, where ISIS grew from a breakaway jihadi faction into what it is today. There are many things we cannot yet know – the true strength of ISIS, what really led to the collapse of Iraqi Army units in Mosul, and how neighboring countries will react. Ollivant says, “it might be prudent to let the situation develop for a week or so.” Ollivant will be debating Joel Rayburn on the crisis in Iraq next week at the New America Foundation.

Why the Iraqi army collapsed (and what can be done about it) – Over at Monkey Cage, Keren Fraiman, Austin Long, and Caitlin Talmadge point the finger at poor intelligence and the politicization and corruption of Iraq’s security forces. They argue, “Even with better intelligence, Maliki is unlikely to reverse the collapse of the security forces unless he professionalizes them. And that, in turn, is unlikely unless he decides that his own political survival depends on it.”

Inside Mosul: Why Iraqis are Celebrating Islamic Extremists’ Takeover of their City – Niqash’s special correspondent in Mosul reports that many of the city’s Sunni residents have cheered the ISIS takeover because they view the Iraqi government as predatory and corrupt. He notes that the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, which is tied to former Baathists, is one of several groups fighting alongisde ISIS under the command of a Supreme Military Council. While many in Mosul may welcome the takevoer, the Niqash correspondent predicts that jubilation will eventually turn to furstration, fear, then regret once ISIS starts implementing its harsh version of Islamic law

The fierce ambition of ISIL’s Baghdadi – Al Jazeera’s Graeme Baker offers a useful profile of ISIS/ISIL’s fearesome emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to Baker, “Baghdadi supporters speak of him as al-Qaeda mark two, the leader of a new generation working to bring about the Islamic caliphate envisoned by Bin Laden.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Has a Consumer Protection Office – Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Polic just published this excellent guide to the ISIS blueprint for state-building. By looking at what it has done so far in the pockets of Syria it controls, like al-Raqqa, Zelin maps out how ISIS is likely to behave in newly conquered territory in Iraq.


Image Credit: AlaJaJaJaable1


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