Iraq's Road to Counterinsurgency

In conclusion, it is time to end the paranoia and over simplifications surrounding the complex organization of the Hashd al Shabi, and over simplifications about Iraq’s desperate battle with ISIL, characterized as a “sectarian conflict.” Clearly, while sectarianism in Iraq still poses a challenge to defeating ISIL, it is not an equally distributed centrifugal force.

A reasoned analysis would ascertain the convergences of interest in Iraqi politics and take the opportunity to further support Abadi as he seeks to reassert state authority. Continuing to support the Iraqi armed forces is a good start, but accepting that Abadi has to do business with people we deem unsavoury is something that must be accepted. As Haddad argues, to ignore the Hashd now is to become increasingly irrelevant in Iraq. The ultimate question is, can the Coalition begin meaningful dialogue with elements of the Hashd? If they did so with former Sunni insurgents, in the face of much controversy, it might make sense to keep exploring this option. That will be difficult--Moqtada al Sadr has publicly opposed any talks with the US, but others may be less hard-line.

Lastly, we must be careful that critique of the anti-ISIL coalition on the ground in Iraq and Syria is measured, condemns any targeting of civilians and demands investigation into human rights abuses, but also remembers our recent history, and our own difficulty in establishing a counterinsurgency doctrine.

46 Responses to Iraq's Road to Counterinsurgency

  1. Nicasso 6th July 2015 at 07:45 #

    Hi Robert,

    A useful article - good stuff. Muqtada al-Sadr will be minor player in any dialogue with the Hashd al-Shabi. His 'Peace Brigades' are not in the same league as Badr, AAH or Kaitab Hezbollah. Lots of rhetoric but the capability is not there as it was 2004-2008. Another problem will be convincing rank and file Hashd al-Shabi that the US is their ally. The amount of suspicion of US intentions is palpable in southern Iraq. It's quite common to hear ordinary Shi'a Iraqis talking of the US arming ISIS, even though elements of the Hashd are reportedly living side by side with US forces in Anbar. I believe closer co-operation is required but it will need high level agreement between US and Iranian officials....yes Iranian not Iraqi.