I sit here once again, in the land of milk and honey, and in that most ubiqituous symbol of American commercialism – Starbucks [I might have said Walmart, but that’s really more a Chinese symbol….]; and reflect on where Iraq is at present.
An enemy, at once both foreign and domestic, has largely been vanquished, and the Iraqi’s held their own theater of “mission accomplished” in the form of a parade, that from the rooftop of our SCIF, we could make out some of the assembled forces readying themselves to march past the Prime Minister. Yet, just as in 2011 as coalition forces withdrew as mandated by the 2008 agreement between the Bush and Maliki governments….the Shi’a factions hold no small amount of power, this time in the official form of the Popular Mobilization Forces, integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces apparatus.
Yep, the same Shi’a blocs that were and remain Iranian-backed; who did and still aspire, attack U.S. forces within Iraq. To put a fine point on the last sentence, Shi’a Militia elements killed one U.S Solider and critically wounded another on October 1st, 2017.
While domestic political theater still revolves around blaming Bush for invading Iraq without a definitive plan for occupation, or blaming Obama for adhering to the 2008 withdrawal agreement……the American polity is largely unaware of the drivers of Iraqi politics, and how that effects it’s security….and contributes to the rise of radical Islamic terror groups.
Make no mistake….though ISIS has lost it’s vast swaths of territory once held, it remains committed to an insurgency that will only succeed when the Shi’a blocs increase their oppression of the Sunni minority. It’s already occurring. In several ‘liberated’ locations across Iraq, ISIS cells are engaging in “Phase II Insurgency” activities [loosely based on the Maoist model]. We will be back again….of this I have no doubt. Iraqi governance, or lack thereof….will create the space needed for Islamic insurgency to continue to grow, or re-grow as it were.
Through all of this, I’m saddened by what the American polity [writ large, I’m generalizing] focuses on. Not the actual drivers of instability, not the actual issues facing the Iraqi people [much of which wrought by our 2003 invasion]….but rather, the narratives that can be used to bludgeon the political opposition here at home. This is particularly insulting as they [by and large] profess to the heavens that they “support the troops”. This reached critical mass for me, when the current POTUS all but claimed victory for the “defeat” of ISIS……ignoring the hard work of U.S. and Coalition forces during the preceding years….as he did nothing more than continue the policies of the previous Administration. Most Americans seem completely unaware that beyond airstrikes and special operations raids [which they know very little about for obvious reasons] we’re not actually doing the fighting in Iraq.
Is this the fault of our media? Certainly partially, as our media completely avoids educating the public on world events, in life of giving uninterrupted space for the two major parties to propagandize. But it’s not all the fault of the media. Reporting of the problems highlighted above, can be found if one really wants to look. But you’re not going to be educated by your favorite sock puppet cable opinion show.
After spending the last several months away from this theater, and in the company of Americans and Coalition partners who understand the dynamics at play….my bliss comes to an end of sorts. But I know that I’ll probably have another deployment in my near future….in another place that we shouldn’t still be, supporting a cause that our taxpayers don’t really understand.
Some links worth reading for deeper context to my paltry overview above:
New Masters of Revolutionary Warfare: The Islamic State Movement (2002-2016)
The New ISIS Insurgency – What Jihadists Do After Losing Territory