RELEASE: Iraqi Prime Minister’s Visit to Washington an Opportunity to Solidify Coalition Support in Fight Against ISIS
Washington, D.C. — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s visit this week to Washington, D.C., comes in the wake of an important victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, in Tikrit, Iraq. The battle for Saddam Hussein’s hometown demonstrated the rising influence of Iranian backed Shia militias in Iraq, but it also showcased the indispensable role of U.S. airpower in the fight against ISIS. On the occasion of the prime minister’s trip, the Center for American Progress has released a column outlining steps that the United States and its coalition partners can take to assist Abadi to defeat ISIS and reassert the authority of his government.
“Success in Tikrit was complicated. It undoubtedly increased Iranian influence through proxy militia but was ultimately made possible only with U.S. and coalition airpower and Iraqi national forces, not just the Iranian-backed Shia militia,” said Vikram Singh, CAP Vice President for National Security and International Policy. “Prime Minister Abadi’s visit to Washington this week is an opportunity to help rebuild the authority of the Iraqi government and bolster national Iraqi efforts to consolidate stability in Tikrit.”
“Last summer, the Obama administration used the promise of military assistance to remove then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from power” said Hardin Lang, CAP Senior Fellow. “Today, the United States can use that same leverage to strengthen Prime Minister Abadi’s hand and to nudge Iraqi politics in more inclusive direction.”
To this end, the column calls for the United States to refrain from the use of airpower in support of ground operations led by the Shia militia outside the authority of the central government. Going forward, the United States and its coalition allies should look to Prime Minister Abadi’s government to set the agenda for the next phase of the campaign. This mayinclude the sequencing of military objectives in Anbar province before Mosul, where the Iraqi Security Forces may need more time to prepare to liberate the city.
Finally, the column cautions that military operations may be getting ahead of the political process. Prime Minister Abadi’s government should be encouraged to think beyond the national guard concept for an inclusive political formula to reintegrate the Sunni Arab communities that fell to ISIS. The latter is a prerequisite of an Iraqi state that can hold together over the long term in the face of the sectarian grievances that paved the way for the ISIS blitzkrieg last summer.
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