Quick Iraq Note

by Reihan Salam

I recently wrote a short column on Iraq, which draws on Kimberly Kagan and Frederick Kagan’s detailed analysis, published in National Review of September of 2012, of the negotiations surrounding an extension of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Elsewhere, in The National, Hassan Hassan provides context for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL):

In Iraq, the revival of the group since it was essentially wiped out in the wake of the country’s civil war in 2006 and 2007 was made possible in large part due the imprudent policies of prime minister Nouri Al Maliki. The biased anti-terror laws as well as the tendency to employ sectarian rhetoric in military campaigns against militancy in Sunni areas, as he did in his speech in December, have estranged the Sunni population, which has played into ISIL’s hands.

These policies lead Sunnis, even while they dislike ISIL, to feel they have no stake in fighting ISIL or resisting its presence because the government is just as bad. Additionally, there is a growing sense among Shiites that they have no stake in fighting in Sunni areas and leaving their areas exposed to danger. That leaves the Iraqi government forces with little appetite to face a brutal and resilient militia.

The Washington Post aggregates content relating to ISIL’s ill-gotten gains. The rebels have reportedly stolen large sums of cash and gold bullion. Daniel Drezner tentatively suggests that as the threat from ISIL grows, the U.S. ought to at least consider cooperating with Iran to address it. And Keith Johnson, writing for Foreign Policy, describes how Iraqi Kurds are capitalizing on the growing chaos in northern and western Iraq.