Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Iraqi Weakness

I noted that ISIL took advantage of their attacks that weakened the Iraqi army around Mosul over a period of two years, combined with Iraqi military leadership problems inflicted by the government.

I've been blogging so long that I forgot that in 2003, we essentially exploited the same weakness of Saddam's army:

Iraq's army in 2003 disintegrated due to a far more interesting factor than simple bombs on target. The Saddam regime itself paralyzed and demoralized the Iraqi army and Republican Guards long before we crossed the border. Ground and air attacks destroyed Iraqi ground units, and even units not attacked disappeared as troops deserted and went home.

That post was primarily about disabusing air power enthusiasts from thinking precision weapons make ground forces optional. Other factors made Saddam's army vulnerable to our admittedly excellent air power.

But the parallel between Iraq's army in 2014 and 2003 is interesting. Already weakened by decisive military defeat in 1991 against the American-led coalition and under intermittent air attack throughout the 1990s (the equivalent of ISIL's two-year campaign), Saddam completed the hollowing of the Iraqi military with his fear of coup (which is why Maliki wrecked his officer corps, too), with the result that Saddam's military collapsed when we invaded in 2003 just as Maliki's ground forces collapsed in 2014.

Yes, Saddam's conventional forces in the south collapsed under impact with a sizable conventional invasion force coming out of Kuwait, but Saddam's northern forces collapsed, too, despite facing only a reinforced American parachute brigade committed to support the Kurds.

The Iraqis are capable of fighting well enough to win. But they need outside efforts to keep them focused on military duties.