MESOP TOP OF THE AGENDA Kerry Visits Iraq to Press ISIS Fight
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Friday for talks with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other high-level officials in a show of U.S. support for Iraq’s ongoing military campaign against fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (VOA). The visit comes days after Abadi announced he would replace most of his cabinet with new technocratic ministers, following weeks of protests over corruption by supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr (VOA). Kerry is expected to encourage Iraqi leaders to maintain focus on the fight against the Islamic State (WSJ) in the wake of the country’s political shakeup, officials said.
“Under ISIL, local Sunnis are killing their tribal and neighbourhood brethren every day. The Sunni towns and villages are being destroyed by the war and by the economic ruin wrought by isolation from the Iraqi state’s payroll and services.Tribes have turned inwards upon themselves. As one Sunni religious interlocutor explained: ‘There are Sunni tribes who hate their own brothers more than the Shia now, and who want to use the Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilisation Units] for revenge and for power.’ Above all else, these affected Sunnis want to return to their homes, to live in peace, and to be protected and helped in reconstruction through partnership with a government in Baghdad. The widespread psychological shock of ISIL occupation is a potential reset button in sectarian relations,” writes Michael Knights for Al Jazeera.
“Despite the concurrent push by Abadi and Sadr for change, the two do not necessarily share the same visions for what reforms should exactly entail, and the strategy under which they should be carried out is still largely vague. Ideas for reform have been generally confined to broad outlines such as fighting corruption, justice and accountability. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 by the United States and its allies, Iraq has had no shortage of such slogans while seeing corruption grow and the country’s situation further deteriorate. Whereas Sadr insists on reforms with or without the blessing of political factions, the prime minister seeks a national consensus for his efforts,” writes Mohammed A. Salih for Newsweek.
“Washington clings to the hope that the militias and the U.S. administration are united against a common foe – the bad Sunnis in Islamic State. The Iranians and their allies in Baghdad, who are also supporting many of the same militias, are more likely to see this is as a war against the Sunnis in general. As for any sort of brokered settlement among the non-Islamic State actors in Iraq, if 170,000 American troops could not accomplish that in almost nine years of trying, retrying it on a tighter timetable with fewer resources is highly unlikely to work,” writes Peter Van Buren for Reuters.