This is an update to Chapter 10 of the book "Energy and Security: Strategies for a World in Transition."
U.S. policy in Iraq is based on the assumption that a more inclusive and democratic government in Baghdad can prevent the country from fragmenting. In reality, Iraq has already fragmented, with many centers of power controlling different regions. If the United States wants Iraq to reunite, it needs to promote negotiations among such power centers, not a stronger government in Baghdad.
The collapse of central authority in both Syria and Iraq, coupled with the rise of a growing number of non-state actors, has given rise to much speculation about the future of the Levant and the end of at least some of the states formed after World War I. The first of a long series of agreements that defined the post-Ottoman Levant was one reached by a British and a French diplomat, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, in 1916. The “end of Sykes-Picot” has become the short hand for speculation about a possible reconfiguration of the states of the Levant.
U.S. officials have been deluding themselves that they can fight ISIS in Iraq without cooperating with the Shi’a militias and Iran. The defeat in Ramadi proves them wrong. The goal of the new intervention in Iraq is to defeat ISIS. The United States needs to focus on that goal and work with the militias, or get out.
Ottaway writes that ISIS has at least three components: ISIS as a proto-state, ISIS as part of an Islamist network, and ISIS as a state of mind. These different aspects of ISIS cannot be fought with the same means, and policies that might help against one of these components may make attempts to combat the others more difficult.
Tehran has had a longstanding alliance with Damascus since 1979, and its relations with Baghdad have steadily improved subsequent to the ouster of Saddam Hussein. This has resulted in close ties between Iran and these two key Arab states. However, this has all been called into question with the eruption of the Syrian revolt, and the recent rise of ISIS and its challenge to the Iraqi state. This article provides an overview of the conditions in Syria and Iraq which facilitated the rise of ISIS, and explains what is at stake for Iran, particularly in the case of Iraq.
Military action in Iraq and Syria is moving ahead without a political strategy to accompany it. Although the administration argues that defeating ISIL requires the formation of inclusive governments, neither Iraq nor Syria has such government. The absence of a real political strategy will undermine any military success.
For this issue of Viewpoints, the Middle East Program reached out to a number of its regular contributors and invited them to share with us their thoughts and concerns on the treatment of women and girls by ISIS.
Saddam Husayn and Islam, 1968–2003 offers an intellectual history of the Baʿth Party from the 1940s through 2003. Amatzia Baram focuses on the transition from its early insistence on “unity, freedom, and socialism” to its Islamization by the time it was toppled by US forces in 2003.
Iraqis are heading to the polls at the end of April. More important than the results of these elections are fundamental issues confronting the country such as the economy's utter reliance on oil, the prevalence of corruption in every sector, and the deepening sectarianism that is impacting political and economic decisions.