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Time to renew US-Iraq policy

Without a shred of doubt Iraq is in dire straits again. It has been nine months since the International community received a dramatic wake-up call after ISIS launched a massive incursion into Western Iraq and occupied large parts of the country.

This development prompted a very hastily assembled response from the world and regional powers, one with no real substance, inflated expectations and offered -at the very best – a very short-lived solution by forming a coalition of air strike partners to join in combating ISIS initially through air power alone.

{mosads}These measures have exacerbated the suffering of the Iraqi people and added more tension within Iraq and the region and will make it much more difficult to liberate other areas occupied by ISIS. Additionally we have ample evidence that there has been increased ISIS recruitment since the air campaign started – something we warned about over and over again. 

ISIS operates in Iraq and Syria and there may appear to be some similarities but the ISIS success in Iraq is a bi-product of the immense suffering of the Sunni population under the cruel and sectarian government of former Prime Minster Nouri Al Maliki. 

The area has been ripe for change and ISIS seized the opportunity. The international coalition addressed and combated the threat of extremists in Iraq and Syria in different ways but have so far failed to offer any pragmatic solutions needed by the people of both countries. 

In Iraq, much reliance in the war against ISIS was placed on terror militias heavily supported by Iran, this is a fatal mistake that will lead Iraq towards much greater fragmentation, strengthen ISIS and invite in other extreme organizations. It will wreck all efforts towards national unity. 

Unfortunately it seems that the U.S. government learned very little from the campaign in 2007 launched against Al-Qaida, when the Sahwa and U.S. Forces joined hands and together decimated Al-Qaida. The Sahwas were abandoned by the U.S. government shortly afterwards and as a result hundreds of Sahwa members were targeted by the militias and murdered. 

The crisis in Iraq has three dimensions, internal, regional and International, a real solution would address all three. Solutions and reforms offered must be carefully thought-out and offer real solutions and not merely stop-gap or cosmetic measures. Changes must involve all Iraqi institutions and the legislative and executive branches of the government to implement laws that would protect the rights of all Iraqi citizens equally. There must be a concerted effort to avoid past mistakes and restore the people’s trust in their government. 

There was a small glitter of hope when former Prime Minster Maliki was replaced by the current PM Haidar Alabadi , but now, six-months later there have been no tangible changes whatsoever from Abadi and this can partially be attributed to the fact that the circle of officials and decision makers in Baghdad’s Green Zone sitting around Abadi are no different than the circle that was around Maliki. 

We desperately need help in restructuring the Iraqi government and placing Nationalistic Iraqis in powerful positions – Iraqis that do not take orders from Iran or any other nation for a change. 

The Iraqi people need tremendous amount of help, the goodwill and positive role by the Western world along with International guarantees can help impose and affect real political solutions. Changes that will allow millions of Iraqis to rally behind it, peace and stability will then start flowing into Iraqi veins, the standard of living increases, national unity may actually become a reality. This offers the best chance to bring rapid demise to ISIS and to the Iranian backed terror militias. 

This is how we envision a long-term solution for Iraq and for the region. 

Bombing from the air and militias on the ground – as what is happening now  – is not a real solution and a recipe for a major future disaster. 

Al-Dhari is president of the Peace Ambassadors for Iraq and a senior Iraqi tribal leader.


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