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Understanding Iraq Crisis

A civil war is raging in Iraq. There is a deadlock between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS an unrecognized state and active Jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria influenced by the Wahhabi movement). It is operating in Iraq and Syria.

Here we are analyzing the situation of IRAQ in FAQ form:

# What was Operation Iraqi Freedom?

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the overthrow of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States Government turned its attention to Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein. Citing intelligence information that Iraq had stockpiled and continued to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) such as poison gas, biological agents, and nuclear weapons, as well as harboring and supporting members of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network, the United States and Great Britain led a coalition to topple Hussein's regime in March 2003. Since the end of the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991, the United States Air Force had maintained a continuous presence in the Middle East, enforcing no-fly zones in the northern and southern portions of Iraq, termed Operation NORTHERN WATCH, based out of Turkey, and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, based out of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the U.S.-led coalition military operation in Iraq, was launched on March 20, 2003, with the immediate stated goal of removing Saddam Hussein’s regime and destroying its ability to use weapons of mass destruction or to make them available to terrorists. Over time, the focus of OIF shifted from regime removal to the more open-ended mission of helping the Government of Iraq (GoI) improve security, establish a system of governance, and foster economic development.

# What was the legality of the invasion?

The Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution of 2002 was passed by congress with Republicans voting 98% in favor in the Senate, and 97% in favor in the House. Democrats supported the joint resolution 58% and 39% in the Senate and House respectively. The resolution asserts the authorization by the Constitution of the United States and the Congress for the President to fight anti-United States terrorism.

The resolution "supported" and "encouraged" diplomatic efforts by President George W. Bush to "strictly enforce through the U.N. Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" and "obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion, and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." The resolution authorized President Bush to use the Armed Forces of the United States "as he determines to be necessary and
appropriate" to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

# What were the outcomes of Operation Iraqi Freedom?

The outcomes were:
a) End the regime of Saddam Hussein.
b) Elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
c) Destruction of terrorist infrastructure in Iraq.
d) Coalition military forces secured Iraq's southern oil fields
e) Sanctions on Iraq were imposed by the United Nations Security Council as a result of the Hussein regime's unwillingness to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and terrorist programs, account for individuals missing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and stop its repression of the Iraqi civilian population.  With the military action to remove the Hussein regime a success, U.N. sanctions against Iraq come to an end.
f) Estimates on the number of casualties during the invasion in Iraq vary widely. Estimates on civilian casualties are more variable than those for military personnel. According to Iraq Body Count, a group that relies on press reports, NGO-based reports and official figures to measure civilian casualties, approximately 7,500 civilians were killed during the invasion phase. The Project on Defense Alternatives study estimated that 3,200–4,300 civilians died during the invasion.

# What was Operation New Dawn?

The transition to Operation New Dawn, Sept. 1, marks the official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and combat operations by United States forces in Iraq.

During Operation New Dawn, the remaining 50,000 U.S. service members serving in Iraq will conduct stability operations, focusing on advising, assisting and training Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Operation New Dawn also represents a shift from a predominantly military U.S. presence to one that is predominantly civilian, as the Departments of Defense and State work together with governmental and non-governmental agencies to help build Iraq’s civil capacity.

The transition to Operation New Dawn represents the U.S. commitment to the government and people of Iraq as a sovereign, stable country that will be an enduring strategic partner with the United States. This has been made possible by the improved capability of the ISF to take the lead in securing their country.

New Dawn also signifies the success of the responsible drawdown of forces and the redeployment of thousands of U.S. Soldiers, as well as the return or transfer of war fighting equipment to the U.S. or to combat troops fighting in Afghanistan.

# What happened after withdrawal of US forces in 2011?

The withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq began in June 2009 and was completed by December 2011, bringing an end to the Iraq War.
Despite the elimination of a repressive single-party cult of personality state, the invasion and occupation led to sectarian violence which caused widespread displacement among Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi Red Crescent organization estimated the total internal displacement was around 2.3 million in 2008, and as many as 2 million Iraqis leaving the country. Poverty led many Iraqi women to turn to prostitution to support themselves and their families, attracting sex tourists from regional lands. The invasion led to a constitution which supported democracy as long as laws did not violate traditional Islamic principles, and a parliamentary election was held in 2005. In addition the invasion preserved the autonomy of the Kurdish region, and stability brought new economic prosperity. Because the Kurdish region is historically the most democratic area of Iraq, many Iraqi refugees from other territories fled into the Kurdish land.

# What was the economic and political situation of Iraq after withdrawal?

Iraq’s political and economic challenges dominated both its internal politics and relations with the US, Iran, and Iraq’s other neighbors. To improve economic situation Iraq needs trade and cross-border support from Iran, just as it needs aid, diplomatic, and military support from the US. Iraq’s much-reduced military capabilities make it dependent on aid, military sales, and training from the United States, and Iraq still lacks the resources and cohesion to resist against Iranian coercion and to defend against Iranian aggression.
A budget crisis that lasted from 2008 to 2010, and a political crisis that began long before the March 2010 election that produced a de facto stalemate in many aspects of governance, have added to these economic problems as well as sharply delayed critical qualitative improvements in every branch of Iraq’s national security forces. Iraq has not been able to absorb and support many of the aid projects funded during the US occupation, and its problems in national governance have been compounded by corruption, political infighting, and sectarian and ethnic struggles at the provincial and local levels.

While the existence of vast oil reserves in Iraq are not in question, the country’s petroleum sector faces many challenges that have limited its ability to produce, export, and deliver this valuable natural resource.

Battle over Iraq’s natural resources has a significant impact on its domestic politics and divisions. Iraq faces political fallout between the central government and the Kurdish regional government (KRG) over energy contracts and the right to invite and award lucrative contracts to international companies. In April 2012, the KRG halted its supply of oil for export through Iraq’s national pipeline, claiming that the central government owed over $1.5 billion in operating costs to companies in the Kurdish region.8

For its part, the government in Baghdad has threatened to simply deduct that lost oil revenue from what the KRG’s portion of the Iraqi budget. At the same time, Iraq’s oil-rich Shi’ite provinces want a larger share of the country’s export earnings while other Arab Shi’ite and Sunni provinces want the distribution of these shares based on need of their portion of Iraq’s total population. Internal disputes between the central government and Iraq’s oil rich regions, as well as poor infrastructure, political uncertainty, sabotage, and internal demand will further limit Iraq’s ability to produce and export oil.

# What were the criticisms for the USA invasion on Iraq?

The Bush Administration's rationale for the Iraq War has faced heavy criticism from an array of popular and official sources both inside and outside the United States, with many U.S. citizens finding many parallels with the Vietnam War. For example a former CIA officer who described the Office of Special Plans as a group of ideologues who were dangerous to U.S. national security and a threat to world peace, and that the group lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. The Center for Public Integrity alleges that the Bush administration made a total of 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq's alleged threat to the United States.

Criticisms include:
• Legality of the invasion
• Human casualties
• Insufficient post-invasion plans, in particular inadequate troop levels (a RAND Corporation study stated that 500,000 troops would be required for success)
• Financial costs with approximately $612 billion spent as of 4/09 the CBO has estimated the total cost of the war in Iraq to US taxpayers will be around$1.9 trillion.
• Adverse effect on US-led global "war on terror"
• Damage to U.S.' traditional alliances and influence in the region, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. Endangerment and ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities by insurgent.
• Disruption of Iraqi oil production and related energy security concerns (the price of oil has quadrupled since 2002)
• After President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, some anti-war groups decided to stop protesting even though the war was still going on.
Some of them decided to stop because they felt they should give the new President time to establish his administration, and others stopped because they believed that Obama would end the war.
The financial cost of the war has been more than £4.55 billion ($9 billion) to the UK, and over $845 billion to the US government. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes it costs the United States $720 million a day to wage the Iraq war. This number takes into account the long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware.

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University. Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the US economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion to $6 trillion, including interest rates, by 2053.

Humanitarian crisis increased

Malnutrition rates have risen from 19% before the US led invasion to a national average of 28% four years later. Some 60–70% of Iraqi children are suffering from psychological problems. 68% of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water. A cholera outbreak in northern Iraq is thought to be the result of poor water quality. As many as half of Iraqi doctors, have left the country since 2003. The use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by the U.S. military has been blamed for birth defects and cancers in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. A study entitled "Birth defects in Iraq and the plausibility of environmental exposure: A review" was completed to review the impact of other war-related environmental factors on birth defects in Iraq.

As of 2011, nearly 3 million Iraqis have been displaced, with 1.3 million within the Iraq and 1.6 million in neighboring countries, mainly Jordan and Syria. More than half of Iraqi Christians have fled to neighboring countries since the start of the war.

# What are the reasons for current crisis?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, took power in 2006 and largely left out many Sunnis from ascending in the political ranks, leaving religious strife as the centerpiece of this disagreement. In the past, al-Maliki has also been criticized for his alleged "spoils system" approach in promoting his political allies to posts in the military. Earlier  Shiite militants  had encouraged by the government to conduct sectarian cleansing in mixed areas around Baghdad, particularly in Diyala province between Baghdad and the Iranian border. These events contributed to the motivation of Sunnis who have taken up arms or acquiesced in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's offensive.

Even as the ISIS tide rolls southward down the Tigris, there is probably little danger of Baghdad and other Shiite areas falling into Sunni insurgent hands.

# Who are the major players in the Iraq crisis?

The major players and groups in the crisis:
• Insurgents
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a Sunni jihadist group that has its roots in the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents that formed the backbone of the resistance against U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. It has since expanded operations into Syria, where it is fighting the regime of Bashar Assad, and has broken formal ties with al-Qaeda. It embraces a radical form of Islam and consists of battle-hardened
fighters.

Earlier this year, the group ransacked Fallujah and Ramadi, two influential Sunni cities in western Iraq. It has managed to hold much of Fallujah and portions of Ramadi. More recently it seized parts of Mosul and was positioned to edge toward Baghdad.
ISIL is also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
• Nouri al-Maliki
The prime minister of Iraq leads a Shiite dominated government that has alienated many of the Sunnis in Iraq over the past several years. Maliki has been criticized for not taking more steps to include rival Sunni leaders in his government.
Shiites are the majority sect in Iraq, but for most of Iraq's history they were oppressed by the Sunnis, who dominated the government. Saddam Hussein and his key leaders were all Sunnis. Shiite leaders during that time were driven into exile.
• Iraq's armed forces
Organized, trained and, to some extent, equipped by the United States, the Iraqi military was a competent force when the United States pulled all its forces out in 2011.

But over the past several years Maliki has been accused of appointing political cronies to key leadership positions and the military has ceased to conduct regular training. Sunnis have said the army is little more than another Shiite militia and have little confidence in its ability to protect them. Many units simply collapsed when insurgents attacked Mosul and other cities in Iraq.
• Shiite militias
During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Shiite militias, some of which were backed by Iran, grew to become powerful forces. Among the strongest such militias is the Mahdi Army, a group loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Shiite militias at various times attacked U.S. forces and also participated in sectarian warfare in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, which peaked in 2006. Most of the insurgent gains were in Sunni or mixed areas. Shiite militias will likely try to protect Shiite neighborhoods if insurgents attempt to move into Baghdad.

# Who are ISIS?

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham abbreviated ISIL and ISIS, is an unrecognized state and active Jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria. In its unrecognized self-proclaimed status as an independent state, it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant including Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and Southern Turkey. It was established in the early years of the Iraq War and has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group was composed of and supported by a variety of insurgent groups, including its predecessor organisation, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah, Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura etc., and other clans whose population profess Sunni Islam. Its aim was to establish acaliphate in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq, later expanding this to include Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIS.

In addition to attacks on government and military targets, the group has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. Despite significant setbacks for the group during the latter stages of the Coalition's presence in Iraq, by late 2012 the group was thought to have renewed its strength and more than doubled the number of its members to about 2,500. In early June 2014, following its large-scale offensives in Iraq, ISIS have seized control of most of Mosul, the second most populous city in Iraq, its surrounding Nineveh province, and the city of Fallujah. ISIS has also taken control of Tikrit, the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate, with the ultimate goal of capturing Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. ISIS was believed to have only 2,000–3,000 fighters up until the Mosul campaign, but during that campaign it became evident that this number was a gross underestimate

# What steps can be taken to control the problem?

The problem will only get worse in the coming months. Now that the Iraqi government's weakness in Sunni territories has been exposed, other Sunni extremist groups are joining forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to exploit the opening. The Baathist-affiliated Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist Ansar al-Sunna Army are reportedly taking part in the offensive as well, and they are drawing support from a Sunni population that believes itself persecuted and disenfranchised by al-Maliki's government and threatened by Shiite militias that are his political allies.

The problem at its core is not just a matter of security, but politics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its allies would not have had the opportunity to seize ground in the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of Salaheddin, Nineveh and Anbar if there had been more inclusive and sincere political outreach to the mainstream Sunni Arab community.

In the end, the solution to the ISIS threat is a fundamental change in Iraq's political discourse, which has become dominated by one sect and one man, and the inclusion of mainstream Sunni Arabs and Kurds as full partners in the state.

If al-Maliki truly wishes to restore government control to the Sunni provinces, he must reach out to Sunni and Kurdish leaders and ask for their help, and he must re-enlist former Sons of Iraq leaders, purged military commanders and Kurdish Peshmerga to help regain the territory they once helped the Iraqi government defend. But these are steps a-Maliki has shown himself unwilling and unlikely to take.

Recommendations for a path forward

In this complicated and quickly evolving situation, the steps that can be taken are:

• To weaken ISIS to prevent it from controlling substantial territory in Iraq from which it can become a threat to the region.
• To reduce threats of growing sectarian conflict sparking a wider regional war
• To safeguard reliable and capable partners such as Jordan, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
• The nations should engage in a regional full-court press involving top military, intelligence, and diplomatic officials to persuade relevant regional stakeholders—Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran—to step back from actions in Iraq and Syria that could lead to a wider regional war.
• Additional security and intelligence coordination and operations with Jordan, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Regional Government are essential, along with humanitarian assistance to help care for those displaced by the crisis. These partners have intelligence and capabilities that should leverage to degrade the threat from ISIS.
• Action against ISIS in Iraq alone will likely push the problem back across the border into Syria, where ISIS controls large swaths of ungoverned territory. This possibility requires more robust efforts to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition forces that have shown a willingness and ability to fight ISIS and Assad, something CAP has called for previously. The administration and Congress should make this the first test of President Obama’s Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, using resources already dedicated to Overseas Contingency Operations. Details about vetting, the location for training, and the types of equipment necessary should be worked out rapidly.
 

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