The Corner

National Security & Defense

It’s Time to Modernize Our Approach toward Iraq

A member of the Iraqi Border Guard during exercises at the Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, Oct. 20, 2018. (Specialist Eric Cerami/US Army)

A decade ago, many Americans were deeply invested in the fate of Iraq’s democracy, not least because we had lost so much blood and treasure in the effort to help build and sustain it. But now, with the threat of ISIS greatly diminished, Iraq’s ongoing travails attract relatively little attention. As Bilal Wahab of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy reminds us, however, there are good reasons for the U.S. to continue to take an interest in Iraq.

For one, ISIS has yet to be fully vanquished, and Iraqi security forces need American assistance to finish the job. By strengthening the Iraqi state, and encouraging transparency and good government, we can build up Iraq as an ally in a volatile region. “Targeted support of this kind,” writes Wahab, “is also the most effective way of curbing Iran’s nefarious influence, which exploits the weak rule of law and institutions to bolster its status as a powerful arbiter (and bullying enforcer) in Iraq’s highly transactional and personal politics.” And then there is the fact that in recent years, Iraq has become a major source of forced migrants, causing serious integration challenges in neighboring countries and as far away as Europe.

With a new government just taking office in Baghdad, one dominated by non-sectarian technocrats ushered in by Iraqi voters fed up with corruption and civil strife, now seems like an excellent moment to offer a hand. As Wahab suggests, a little help today could spare us much bigger headaches tomorrow.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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