Sunday, July 20, 2014

Degree of Difficulty

The last time Iraq's Baathists joined up with the al Qaeda types to launch a Sunni Arab uprising, they had far more success than they've had this year.

In spring 2004, when we faced a Sunni Arab uprising that consisted of the Iraqi Baathists joining arms with al Qaeda, the situation was a lot worse.

Back then, all of Iraq was set ablaze as the Shias backed by Iran (Moqtada al Sadr and his ilk) joined in the mayhem.

Half the Iraqi ground security forces dissolved in that 2004 offensive and we had to take the lead in the fight againts the Baathists, al Qaeda, and the pro-Iran Shia militias for the remainder of that year.

This time, Iraqi security forces in the north collapsed. But outside of that area, the remainder did not evaporate. Damage done to the rest of Iraq's security forces predated the ISIL offensive and was from lack of rule of law and the effects of corruption.

So outside of the Sunni Arab areas, the Baghdad region is not ablaze. And the Shia south is fairly secure, without Iran's violent meddling.

I confess that clashes between a Shia militia and security forces in Karbala is a worrisome development on this score. But as long as it doesn't get to 2004 levels of resistance, it's still an improvement.

Although Iran is taking the opportunity to fill the vacuum that our perceived insufficient attention has left to put their men back into Iraq, unfortunately. But still, seing Iran going in as better than their being in Iraq, as they were in 2004.

And there are more Sunni Arabs still willing to fight ISIL jihadis than in the 2004 uprising. In addition, those who welcomed the ISIL "liberation" last month are already learning that their joy might have been a big mistake.

So from a distance, we aren't facing a problem as bad as we successfully coped with in 2004. We can decisively intervene in Iraq without putting combat brigades into action.

Let's not panic. Work the problems of defeating ISIL, supporting rule of law and effective military force in Iraq, and keeping Iranian influence in Iraq to as low a level as possible.