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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Coming Test In Iraq

The portion of the city of Mosul in Iraq that is still in the hands of ISIS is very small and getting smaller every day.  The battle for the city which has raged for about eight months will soon be over.  The liberation of Mosul from ISIS will mean that all of Iraq's major cities have been freed from the ISIS terrorists.  There will still be some areas towards the Syrian border where ISIS forces will be active, but those forces ought to be rolled up in the coming months.  In other words, ISIS is about to be completely defeated in Iraq.

Before you get too happy with the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, you need to remember that once ISIS is gone, the question arises as to what happens next in that country.  It is not a simple matter.  We have thousands of US troops on the ground there.  There are also tens of thousands of troops that are either Iranian or under Iranian control.  Then there are the Shiite militias that have been fighting with Iraqi armed forces.  They are friendly to Iran.  The government in Baghdad is Shiite.  In the north, especially in the northeastern part of Iraq, there are Kurds who have been operating almost like an independent country.  The Iranians do not want to see the Kurds gain independence since there are millions of Kurds in Iran and that could lead to unrest there.  About a third of the population is Sunni Arab.  They mostly live in the region that ISIS overran two years ago.  They may be glad to see ISIS gone, but they don't want to be controlled by Shiites, especially those from Iran.  Simply put, Iraq will be an ethnic stew that will be boiling for some time after the end of ISIS.  Even worse, no one has the recipe for peace in that country.

For the USA, it will be a difficult course to follow to figure out how to move towards peace in Iraq without strengthening Iranian hegemony in the region.  Do American troops stay?  We saw the disaster when president Obama pulled out our troops; ISIS moved in to fill the vacuum.  Do we move to support an independent state for the Kurds?  Should we follow Joe Biden's old plan of a three part partition of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite states?  There is no easy answer.

The coming days are going to be difficult. 

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