The Daily Star – Beirut – 19 May 2015 – Late last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi raised a fuss about the discovery of 50,000 “ghost soldiers” in his country’s army – he vowed to stamp out corruption and improve his military’s ability to fight ISIS jihadis.
While Abadi might be sincere in his quest, there is little to no evidence that anything is going right when it comes to the Iraqi army.American official Paul Bremer was widely blamed for dissolving the Iraqi army back in 2003 but in the more than 10 years since then, the Iraqi authorities have done nothing to reverse this catastrophic decision. Instead, they and their allies in Washington and Tehran have had only one policy option in mind: the militia nation. For decades, the Iraqi military was considered the Arab world’s most powerful national army. Instead of returning the Iraqi military to its former state, a concerted effort is being made to ensure that only memories of this era remain.
Iran’s policy is centered on ensuring that Shiite politicians and parties dominate, backed by sectarian “popular mobilization” militias. Washington’s approach, meanwhile, has favored the Kurds and more recently the Sunnis. Both of Iraq’s “patrons” have one priority – support the nonstate actors of their choice, and to hell with the consequences for the country as a whole.
As it stands, the fall of Ramadi to ISIS will usher in the same type of shameful series of events as in Tikrit: ISIS takes over, sectarian militia fighters drive the group out, and then commit human rights violations that only lead to more grievances, fragmentation and weakness – the kind that can be easily exploited by ISIS. If the actual policy is to prevent the rebuilding of a national force capable of defending Iraqi sovereignty, it’s certainly working.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 19, 2015, on page 7.