By Arian Mufid (KT) – 5 May 2015 – When Haider Abadi, the current Iraqi prime minister succeeded his notorious predecessor Nuri Maliki last September, two things were on everyone’s mind. First, how could Abadi re-capture the areas that had been seized by Daesh (IS)? Second, how would he enhance the security of Baghdad and its surrounding areas and make the capital city safe for visitors? To date, neither question can been answered positively. Abadi is trying to build his image as a pragmatic and decisive man. But he comes from the same sectarian party as Nuri Maliki, the Dawa Party. Since he took over, the Iraqi army has made several attempts to recapture cities and towns in the centre of Iraq but all have been doomed to failure.
In Tikirit it’s still unclear who is in charge. Despite bold claims that the Iraqi army is in control, the village of Taqa, west of Tikirit, is controlled by Daesh and the city is no longer safe. The army has also failed to win back the provinces of Anbar and Beji. Abadi has built another military arm, called Hashdi Shabi (Popular Rally), which is equivalent to the force created by Saddam Hussain in the 1980s called the ‘Popular Army’. The Hashid Shabi troops have been described as worse even than Daesh and they are now infamous for looting and stealing goods and destroying people’s property.
America’s strong support for the Iraqi prime minister and his army has not resulted in any major advance in terms of the Iraqi government regaining control of lost territory. The main factor here is not a shortage of weapons but rather that the political machine of the Shi’ite Dawa party dominating the government also controls most of the military planning, in partnership with Iran whose real objective in Iraq is to wield the power that it has largely lost in Syria. The Iraqi military exists as a national army only on paper and these forces cannot be relied upon for a major objective such as the recapture of Mosul. The Iraqi government is trying to generate diplomatic pressure for the Kurdish Peshmarga to be deployed to help recapture Mosul. In reality, most of the US-led coalition’s airstrikes have targeted Daesh in and around the Kurdistan area, because the US knows they will be more effective there, in combination with the Peshmarga on the ground, in contrast to areas like Tikirit and Beji where the US fears that Iraqi troops will simply surrender to Daesh and hand over their newly-acquired military equipment. The Peshmarga have proven they are far superior. Despite having limited and basic weaponry from the outset, they have managed to recapture so many strategically vital areas, such as Zumar and Rabia which include main crossing points to Daesh-run Raqqa in Syria. Peshmarga forces have till now sacrificed almost 1,300 lives, with many more injured. They have prevented Daesh from advancing into the Kurdish city of Kirkuk, despite facing Daesh’s strongest attachments there. Daesh represents the power of international criminal thugs and is not easy to overcome because it is so well armed and was originally supported by several regional governments on the pretext of tipping the balance of power in the Syrian civil war to the side of the Gulf states.
The recapture of Mosul cannot be achieved without the Peshmarga and, indeed, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will not be safe so long as the Daesh headquarters is in Mosul. However, the President of Kurdistan’s military advisor Jaffar Mustafa has told the Rudaw website that the KRG has received only 1% of its military requirements from the western world, and he added that just a few rifles and a little ammunition cannot be counted as major help. The past eight months of Abadi’s rule have proven that the West cannot count at all on the Iraqi army. It has no sensible choice in Iraq but to place its hopes in the Peshmarga forces and give them all the support they need.