Monday, November 17, 2014

David Ignatius’s handy-dandy Iraq checklist

From the WaPo, David Ignatius provides a checklist for the U.S. as it goes forward with the state of “Iraq.”

The strategy from the WH according to Ignatius:

 “President Obama’s basic strategic framework seems right, in theory. Obama reiterated Monday in Beijing: “It’s not our folks who are going to be doing the fighting. Iraqis ultimately have to fight [the Islamic State] and they have to determine their own security.”

A Sanka Freeze Dried version of the checklist, something to which we should refer as we measure levels of success in this strategy, along with Ig’s prognostications for success over the long haul:

1. New Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must  bend down the corruption curve.

Does it look like it will happen?


2. Abadi must bend down the Shia/Sunni sectarianism curve.

Gonna happen? 

3. The U.S. must bend up the probability of success in military training. 


As in the past, there is plenty o’ reason to be skeptical.

4. Iraqi ‘government’ must share lucre with Kurds and ‘outreach’ in other ways to those grownups to their north.

Gonna happen? 


5. Abadi must outreach to other Gulf (Suni) states, not just Iran. 

Gonna happen? 


6. The U.S. can’t just give “Iraq” piles of money with no oversight. 

Gonna happen?

Yep, likely. This is completely within our control. Won’t make that mistake again.


That’s 4/4 ‘not gonna happens’ on things that are in Abadi’s control, a doubtful on the training question, and #6 essentially boils down to the U.S. having to ask and answer the question in #1. Given that the answer is a ‘nope’ it seems we should not and will not give large scale help to “Iraq” again. It’s going to be a waste of money, and any men and time we also ‘invest.’

Now, consider what the answers to these questions would be if we asked them about the Grups up North (Kurds).

1. Far less corrupt governance to begin with. Promising future.

2. Little sectarianism in KRG. Promising future.

3. Peshmurga forces are pretty effective militarily as is. Our presence, equipment and training would only improve their postition. Good gamble militarily and geo-politically. Promising not only for the Grups, but for us.

4. N/A

5. Kurds already effective at outreach not only to Gulf States, but world. Promising future

6. Because #1 is not a large scale endemic problem, oversight would be easier, and the Kurds would be open to oversight. Funding would be used for purposes intended, not stolen by corrupt leaders.

The strategy should be to make the Kurds full allies, generously fund their military, encourage trade with  and develop their business, and put the weight of the U.S. toward complete independence for them. While doing this we provide aid to “Iraq” at levels not much greater than present, primarily military training, in order to prevent complete dissolution in the short term.  However, most of our military operations/partnership aimed toward eliminating ISIS-IS-ISIL would be carried out with the Kurds and from KRG. We should base there as much as they would allow. For the long term, we aim to treat them as we presently treat our friends the Saudis and other autocracies in the region, but with the intent to wean ourselves off those states, and make do without them, while we maintain substantial and increased ties to Kurdistan. Eventually we can tell the Saudis and others what they can go do with themselves