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On the Brink: Managing the ISIS Threat in Iraq

On the Brink: Managing the ISIS Threat in Iraq

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The Obama administration needs to launch a comprehensive strategy for the region and prepare for the possible targeted use of force in Iraq to halt the rise of a new terrorist group that could threaten America.
The Obama administration needs to launch a comprehensive strategy for the region and prepare for the possible targeted use of force in Iraq to halt the rise of a new terrorist group that could threaten America.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Jun 17, 2014
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1 Center for American Progress | On the Brink 
On the Brink
Managing the ISIS Threat in Iraq
By Brian Katulis, Hardin Lang, and Vikram Singh June 17, 2014
In 2005, he Cener or American Progress called or he sraegic redeploymen o U.S. roops ou o Iraq.
1
 Tis comprehensive sraegy combined he wihdrawal o comba roops by a cerain dae wih a deeper regional, diplomaic, and securiy engagemen sra-egy o address he increased secarian divisions in Iraq and across he region ha hreaened U.S. ineress. Te wihdrawal o U.S. comba roops was necessary o creae an incenive or Iraqis o ake conrol o heir own affairs: Iraq had become dependen on an endless supply o American ground roops or is securiy. Te way orward or Iraq was and con-inues o be an inclusive democracy ha ully respecs he righs o all Iraqi communiies, providing a voice or Sunnis and Kurds in he poliical process and in governmen. Te ailure o Iraqi leaders, including Prime Miniser Nouri al-Maliki, o build an inclu-sive poliical sysem has enabled he curren sarling advances o milians across Iraq led by he Islamic Sae o Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Te jihadi milian group is so bru-al ha even Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri disowned i.
2
 ISIS has exploied dis-conen wih he Shia-led naional governmen among Iraqs Sunni populaion and has  been able o rally some elemens o Iraq’s Sunni ribes, as well as Sunni armed groups linked o he ormer regime o Saddam Hussein.
3
 As a resul, ISIS was able o quickly seize owns across norhern and cenral Iraq while he U.S.-rained and equipped securiy orces, weakened by Maliki’s poliicizaion o heir leadership and exclusion o Sunnis, meled away.
4
 Iraq is back on he brink o all-ou secarian civil war.In Syria, ISIS has batled he Syrian governmen, moderae opposiion orces o Presiden Bashar al-Assad’s governmen, and Al Qaeda’s affiliae he Nusra Fron, and i is a major orce in he disinegraion o he Syrian sae. ISIS’s acions in Iraq his pas  week provoked a swif reacion rom Iraq’s ragmened powers: Kurdish Peshmerga orces seized he oil-rich ciy o Kirkuk; Shia miliias mobilized in he srees afer an iniial call o arms rom he Grand Ayaollah Ali al-Sisani; and Iraq’s neighbors have already sared o mobilize, wih Irans Revoluionary Guard reporedly moving orces ino Iraq.
5
 urkey, which has seen dozens o is ciizens deained by ISIS, aces subsan-ial hreas rom he exremis group and could reengage in cross-border miliary opera-ions in Iraq as i did over he pas decade.
 
2 Center for American Progress | On the Brink 
In he pas hree years, he enire Middle Eas has slipped ino a period o ragmena-ion, radicalizaion, and compeiion, as deailed in CAPs new repor “U.S. Middle Eas Policy a a ime o Regional Fragmenaion and Compeiion” ha was released on June 16.
6
 Te rise o non-sae acors such as ISIS is par o an overall rend affecing every counry in he region. Some o his is due o he 2003 Iraq War, which ended a U.S. sraegy o dual conainmen o Iraq and Iran and unleashed errible orces. Insead o leading o a wave o democracy and reedom, he Iraq War opened he door o Iran’s rising influence, made Iraq a hobed o Shia-Sunni secarian ensions, and aciliaed he ragmenaion o Islamis poliical orces wihin he Sunni camp.  Amid wider regional disinegraion, especially he civil war in Syria, hose orces o chaos and conflic have grown dominan. Te Unied Saes is now conroned wih a series o bad opions. Te expansion o a group such as ISIS hreaens o collapse Iraq and o desabilize he Gul Arab saes, Jordan, and souhern urkey󲀔all key allies o he Unied Saes. Shia miliias responding o ISIS hreaen o ear he abric o Iraq apar, spilling ino oher counries and enabling he mos subsanial sae haven or exremiss since pre-2001 Aghanisan. ISIS provides, eeds, and susains erroriss who could launch atacks agains Wesern Europe and he U.S. homeland, especially wih he influx o oreign fighers󲀔including rom Europe and he Unies Saes󲀔who have  joined he ISIS-led jihad.
7
 Afer more han a decade o exended U.S. miliary deploymens and cosly counerinsur-gency effors, he Unied Saes needs o find a new pahway ha employs a more argeed use o orce in coordinaion wih reliable parners in he region. Te Unied Saes mus use all elemens o saecraf o ge counries in he region o sop engaging in policies ha undermine long-erm sabiliy and sar aking seps o respond o he crushing social, economic, and demographic rends ha are affecing every counry in he region.
Recommendations for a path forward
In his complicaed and quickly evolving siuaion, he Unied Saes needs o be clear abou core U.S. objecives:  Weaken ISIS o preven i rom conrolling subsanial erriory in Iraq rom which i can become a hrea o he region, our allies, or he U.S. homeland.Reduce hreas o growing secarian conflic sparking a wider regional war.Saeguard reliable and capable parners such as Jordan, urkey, and he Kurdisan Regional Governmen.
 
3 Center for American Progress | On the Brink 
o advance hese objecives, he Unied Saes should ake five seps, none o which require he reinroducion o U.S. comba roops.
1. Condition additional U.S. assistance to Iraq on government reform and action to incorporate and empower moderate Sunnis
Te Unied Saes has a major securiy and miliary cooperaion package in place wih Iraqs governmen o provide a pipeline o arms and hundreds o miliary advisors worh $13.225 billion in 2013 and 2014 alone.
8
 Te Unied Saes has mainained a presence o more han 5,500 diplomas, inelligence proessionals, miliary advisors, and deense conracors o suppor Iraq. In oal, he Unied Saes and Iraq have plans in place or a major arming and equipping program ha could op $25 billion oal arms sales i ully implemened, including 140 M1A1 anks, 36 F-16 comba aircraf, he Inegraed Air Deense Sysem, and Apache atack helicopers.
9
 Prime Miniser Maliki’s secarian policies squandered he sacrifices o Americans by no producing an inclusive governmen. Presiden Barack Obama has righly called or assurance ha he Iraqi governmen will ake acions o uniy he counry and reduce secarian ensions. All urher aid󲀔beyond some acions direcly aimed a degrading ISIS and humaniarian assisance or hose displaced by he crisis󲀔should be condi-ioned on a unified, cross-secarian response by Baghdad and commimen o greaer regional auonomy and inclusive governance. Maliki wased he opporuniy o bring Sunnis who ough agains Al Qaeda in Iraq ino his governmen and securiy orces and reused o sign an agreemen wih he Unied Saes ha would have helped mainain greaer American suppor or a ransiion. oday, he Unied Saes should no ge drawn ino secarian clashes ha can only accelerae he ragmenaion o he counry.
2. Inoculate against a regional war and crack down on regional support for ISIS
Te Unied Saes should engage in a regional ull-cour press involving op miliary, inelligence, and diplomaic officials o persuade relevan regional sakeholders󲀔urkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran󲀔o sep back rom acions in Iraq and Syria ha could lead o a wider regional war. Te Unied Saes remains he dominan miliary orce hroughou he region, and i coninues o provide overall sabiliy in a region ha remains he op oil producer or he world. Even afer he Unied Saes redeployed is miliary orces rom Iraq a he end o 2011, i mainained a srong miliary presence in he Gul region, wih more han 35,000 roops deployed o help mainain sabiliy in he region.
10

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