The United States has an intense interest in preventing Iraq from descending into all-out chaos amid the recent gains by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants. Not only would anarchy in Iraq affect volatile world oil prices, but ISIS itself has also made clear that it ultimately aspires to world domination.
ISIS is a magnet for foreign fighters who might return to their homelands to conduct attacks. This makes the prospect of its establishing and maintaining a foothold in Iraq a severe security threat.The Obama administration has been shipping arms to the besieged Iraqi government. The United States has an intense interest in preventing Iraq from descending into all-out chaos amid the recent gains by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
But an approach solely focused on supplying weapons to the Iraqi security forces would not only be unlikely to succeed but also would probably aggravate the situation, given how easily ISIS has seized American military equipment during its offensives inside Iraq and Syria.
Indeed, Iraq's army has proved itself to be deficient in urban warfare and dealing with the guerrilla tactics of ISIS. Aerial targeting has also proved sorely inaccurate.Security force abuses that were kept in check during the later years of the U.S. presence have returned since the U.S. withdrawal.
These practices aid the insurgency by hindering prospects of cooperation with Sunni Arab locals.Most notably, since the end of 2011, the security forces have engaged in mass arrests, often rounding up more innocents than suspects. The forces are increasingly relying on Iranian-backed Shiite militias, fostering the perception of the central government as a sectarian client of Iran.
At this point, the only way to roll back ISIS is to redeploy U.S. troops to Iraq on the ground. This would help the security forces reform their bad practices. It would also reignite and coordinate a Sunni tribal movement that inflicted substantial setbacks on ISIS' forebears in the 2007-09 period.
The presence of ground troops would allow the U.S. to exercise leverage in Iraq in pressuring the central government to integrate ordinary Sunni Arabs into political and economic life in Iraq. Without such reforms, the prospects for peace in Iraq are remote.