Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Iran Has No Motivation to Help Stabilize Iraq

One advantage that Iran has gained from the war against ISIL in Iraq is that the Iraqi army has been unable to transition from a light infantry-dominated force useful for fighting insurgents and securing the country from insurgents and terrorists to an army capable of carrying out conventional warfighting.

This briefing on coalition efforts to train Iraqi forces is interesting.

One, the number of troops trained since it began its mission after ISIL rose up in Iraq in mid-2014 is limited:

To date, more than 150,000 Iraqi Security Forces have been trained across multiple locations in Iraq.

The training provided to these personnel address the full spectrum of Iraqi Security Requirements, not only to locate, identify, and destroy the last remnant of ISIS in Iraq, but also to provide long-term security for all Iraqis. In Taji, Bismayah, and in the Kurdish region, more than 98,000 Army, Kurdish and tribal forces have been trained in basic combat skills. Additional skills trained at this location include the demining operations and combat lifesaver training, of which the coalition has already trained more than 36,000 personnel.

In Western Baghdad, more than 25,000 police and border guard personnel have been trained in law enforcement and border security procedures. Finally, more than 18,000 counterterrorism forces have been trained in the skills necessary to defeat the last remnant of ISIS and to identify and pursue rising threats to Iraqi stability. [emphasis added]

Just 98,000 army, Kurdish, and tribal (I assume Sunni Arab and Shia) troops plus 25,000 police and border security, and 18,000 of the higher caliber counter-terrorism forces have been trained. That's 141,000. I assume the balance is for air force and navy forces, for the most part.

That's not a lot, especially when you consider that there have been casualties and certainly terms of service for many trained troops will have ended.

And a good chunk of that training effort is composed of tribal, police, and counter-terrorism troops that are nor really conventional warfare focused. The Kurds are lightly equipped as well.

(Although I suspect the Iraqi counter-terrorism forces will evolve into a replacement for the Saddam-era Republican Guard force that functioned as the mobile strike force component of the military.)

Yes, ISIL forces held their ground like conventional forces, but they were light infantry and not equipped with heavy equipment like a conventional army.

If the emphasis on domestic security isn't clear from the above information, there is more:

Seventeen Iraqi Army brigades have been provided with initial equipment sets, including personal equipment, small arms, ammunition, around 1,000 non-tactical vehicles and over 1,100 armored vehicles, including high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, and Iraqi light-armored vehicle Badgers.

Physical security operations across Iraq are being assisted by the coalition’s provision of additional equipment to around 20 federal police and border guard force brigades, including provisioning more than 180 prefabricated, border guard and police presence infrastructure since the beginning of 2018.

Additionally, over 400 explosive detection and demining kits have been provided to the Iraqi security forces this year to assist in the detection and removal of improvised explosive devices and external explosive remnants of war.

The transfer of equipment to the Iraqi security forces, coupled with the training that the coalition provides, guarantees that the Iraqi have exactly what they need to defeat ISIS and to put into place the conditions necessary to prevent terrorism and radicalization to occur again.

By all measures, the Iraqi security forces have already proven that they are more than ready and capable of securing the country.[emphasis added]

The 2,100 vehicles noted are not intended for conventional warfare. Other equipment is police-oriented.

So yeah, the Iraqi forces are prepared to "prevent terrorism and radicalization to occur again" and are "capable of securing the country" from such threats.

But Iraq still lacks a conventional fighting capability that would be useful to resist Iranian pressure to conform to Iranian demands. Iran's conventional military is still weak from the revolution, war, and sanctions. Iran does not want an Iraqi military capable of fighting a war with Iran.

Of course, the reality is that Iraq really does need to secure their country from internal threats. The history of internal threats with only a short breather between the Iraq War (2002-2011) and Iraq War 2.0 (2014-today) demonstrates that threat well enough.

Remember that one actual mistake America made after overthrowing Saddam in 2003 was in planning for a small 40,000-strong cadre of a conventional army focused on external security. We relied on the police and national guard to focus on internal security, assuming a fairly low threat level.

When the internal threats rose, unexpectedly bolstered by Syria, Iran, and plentiful jihadi recruits from the Moslem world, eventually the army rebuilding shifted to internal security and the national guard was folded into the army.

We still aren't at the level of internal security to shift the army to external security, but that is a mission that will eventually need to be carried out to deter Iran and allow for the reduction of Iranian influence in Iraq.

And 15 years after the American-led coalition destroyed Saddam's army and 30 years after the long Iran-Iraq War ended, Iran continues to have high motivation to prevent the Iraqi army from restoring its conventional warfighting abilities.