Saturday, August 02, 2014

Good News and Bad News From Iraq

We have good news and bad news about the Islamic State that controls northern Iraq (and parts of Syria).

The good news is that the ISIL (ISIS)-local Sunni Arab alliance that enabled the capture of Mosul and a swathe of territory in the north of Iraq in June is fraying already:

Residents of Iraq's second-largest city, which has been under the control of ISIS since early June, have reportedly started clashing with militants, Tim Arango reports for The New York Times.

They're chafing under the brutal rule of an organization too extreme even for Al Qaeda. But ISIS's assault on the region's cultural heritage has been particular cause for local alienation from the group.

The bad news is that the Baathists (you remember Saddam Hussein's party of depravity, right?) could be the ones to exploit the growing rift:

There has already been sporadic fighting throughout Iraq between ISIS and Baathist fighters. The destruction of cultural heritage in Mosul and growing local frustration against the group could be another step in the complete breakdown of their alliance.

Baathists are still resisting more than eleven years after they were ejected from their palaces. It is as if Nazis were still fighting in Germany in 1956.

In the winter of 2006-2007, we were able to exploit the al Qaeda-Sunni Arab rift by engineering the Awakening. Sunni Arabs who wanted to reject the jihadis needed a strong partner to help them and we provided that help.

Of course, we aren't in Iraq in any strength to exploit the rift that always develops. We abandoned Iraq in 2011 by declaring mission accomplished and going home.

Who else might exploit the rift? The Iraqi government is too weak. And we won't help the Iraqi Kurds directly to intervene. So only the Iraqi Baathists may be in a position to exploit the rift.

Yeah, tell me again that de-Baathification in Iraq was a mistake. Saddam's henchmen are not to be trusted.

UPDATE: Related from Strategypage.