Tag Archives: ISIL

No end in sight for Iraq’s nights of terror

No end in sight for Iraq’s nights of terror

A victory against ISIL will depend on an inclusive Iraqi government and new national security forces.

Salah Nasrawi

On Monday night, terror descended on the Iraqi capital when gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a shopping mall in a busy, predominantly-Shia area, killing and wounding dozens of people and spreading panic among residents.

An even deadlier attack almost simultaneously killed at least 20 people in the beleaguered town of Muqdadiyah northeast of Baghdad. A bomb exploded at a cafe, and a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle after people gathered at the scene.

The series of attacks that were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, was the nightmare scenario that intelligence and security experts have been warning against as peace and stability remain fragile in Iraq.

And, like all bad news, more tragic events followed fast. At least seven Sunni mosques and dozens of shops were firebombed and 10 people were shot and killed in Muqdadiyah the next day in what appeared to be retaliatory sectarian attacks.

For Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the bombings were “a desperate” move by ISIL after “victory [was] achieved” through the retaking of the key western city of Ramadi from the group.

However, what the escalation indicates is that the prospect of the total defeat of ISIL remains far off. ISIL’s decentralised networks in Iraq seem to have become more decentralised and still capable of carrying out large-scale attacks.

There are two sets of factors that explain why the group remains the most significant threat to Iraq: First, its adaptation to new circumstances and methods, and second, the failure of Iraq’s political elite to end the country’s paralysis.

What accounts for ISIL’s ongoing effectiveness in the face of unprecedented onslaught? The answer lies in the group’s ever-changing nature. Since its inception as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the organisation has shown a surprising readiness to adapt its mission and tactics.

The group’s capacity for change is manifested by its ability to be more appealing to recruits and attract new allies, making it harder to find and destroy.

Despite a number of military setbacks across Iraq in the past year, ISIL’s manpower and their ability to carry out attacks do not seem to be waning.

The ongoing attacks in Baghdad and other urban centres are the work of enormous sleeper cells adopting new techniques that make them hard to detect.

As for the political deadlock, this week’s violence has confirmed that the country’s stabilisation will depend largely on resolving its lingering communal conflicts and establishing an all-inclusive, power-sharing process to replace the current dysfunctional ethnic and sect-based quota system.

Much of ISIL’s recruitment comes from disgruntled Iraqi Sunni Muslims who feel excluded and marginalised. Without fair and effective political representation, many feel that they are left with few alternatives for addressing their grievances and resort to joining violent groups like ISIL.

Iraq’s security problems also have some roots in the Shia militias, which are making a bad situation worse.

The militias, which were supposedly created and expanded to fight ISIL, are now assuming more power.

The militias’ rise in political stature and their increasing role in policing neighbourhoods are undermining the security establishment and weakening its resolve to carry out its duties and fight terrorism.

This precarious security situation has worsened communal violence and criminality. Armed clashes between tribes and attacks by armed groups – which include murder, kidnapping for ransom, rape and other violent crimes – are now widespread.

For months, residents in Iraq’s main port city of Basra have been complaining of pervasive lawlessness as armed tribesmen fight one another over economic interests and influence.

In Baghdad and other cities, scenes of unidentified, bullet-riddled bodies strewn in the streets are normal sights.

Another bad omen for Iraq that could have far-reaching consequences for the country’s stability is its faltering economy and financial crisis caused by plummeting oil prices.

The general assessment is that low oil prices are likely to persist, and given the fluid situation in Iraq, security could deteriorate to the point of chaos.

The government has halted spending and imposed sever austerity measures, including the elimination of jobs, higher taxes, and salary cuts for public servants and pensioners.

While the security forces will bear the brunt of the decline in revenues, cuts in spending will damage development and could be a precursor of worse things to come. The economic crisis has led to street protests, and emerging troubles are expected to add a new source of instability to the ISIL violence and Iraq’s fractious sectarian system.

If anything, victory in the campaign again such violence will depend on whether Iraq’s feuding factions can agree on an inclusive government and new national security forces that could defeat ISIL and make Iraq safe from the ongoing threat of terror attacks.

Source: Al Jazeera

Analysis: What does US Intel really know about ISIL?

Analysis: What does US Intel really know about ISIL?

The US intelligence failure on ISIL is raising serious questions in the Middle East.

Salah Nasrawi |

 A major cause of President George W Bush’s blunder in Iraq was US intelligence failures, first over Saddam Hussein’s lack of weapons of mass destruction and then, after connecting the dots of the September 11 plot, the linking of the Iraqi president to Osama bin Laden’s Al­Qaeda.
It took Bush’s partner in the Iraq fiasco, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, more than 13 years to grudgingly admit in October to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the war conspiracy which led directly to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the destruction it has wreaked in the Middle East was based on “wrong” intelligence.
Without the controversy over the Chilcot Inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War, it would also have been hard to get an admission from Blair that there were “elements of truth” in the idea that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 assisted the rise of the ISIL.
What he has failed to admit, however, is that the prewar intelligence was deliberately “sexed up” to build the case for the invasion. OPINION: Blair, the Iraq War and me Now, as US President Barack Obama agonises over how to defeat ISIL, it seems to be happening again.
Messy US intelligence failure in the war in Iraq has resurfaced, leading to allegations that the US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees military operations across the Middle East, is cooking the books about both ISIL and Iraq.
This week Obama ordered his senior defence officials to find out whether classified intelligence assessments for policymakers had been altered at Centcom to reflect a more optimistic picture of the US military campaign against ISIL.
With cracks revealed in France’s counterterrorism efforts by the November 13 attacks in Paris, the Centcom scandal has gained increasing attention, including a Congressional probe.
The New York Times, which first broke the story, reported that supervisors revised conclusions to mask some of the US military’s failures in training Iraqi troops and beating back ISIL.
According to the newspaper, the analysts said supervisors were particularly eager to paint a more optimistic picture of the US role in the conflict than was warranted.
While revelations that French intelligence failures might have played into the hands of ISIL in carrying out its deadly attacks in Paris and hence broadening the group’s focus to attack the West, the Pentagon spying scam tells another story of doctoring intelligence behind the group’s expansion.
It appears that the Centcom intelligence reports have overstated military progress against ISIL in Iraq, giving Obama the leeway to avoid responsibility for the rise of ISIL.
Many analysts had for years argued that Obama’s lack of vision on Iraq and his ineffective strategy in Syria would create a radicalising momentum that would help ISIL expand its power.
What the little information about the Centcom scandal revealed so far indicates is that the problem goes beyond analysis failure to actually meddling with intelligence about the campaign against ISIL, by exaggerating successes and downplaying serious setbacks in order to serve the president’s agenda.
This bodes ill for Obama whose current approach to ISIL has largely failed to dislodge the group from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. Now Obama could face criticism that US intelligence and military officials were only telling him what he wants to hear.
However, the case of US intelligence failure over ISIL is raising more serious questions in the Middle East. Absurd as it may seem, the revelations about cracks in US intelligence have added fodder to conspiracy scenarios that Washington is behind ISIL.
While some Iraqis have complained that the US has been sitting on its hands as the war has raged against ISIL, Iran­backed Shia militias have often accused the US­led coalition of parachuting weapons to ISIL fighters or even targeting Iraq’s security forces’ positions.
In Syria, Obama’s seesaw strategy has given rise to similar theories, in both President Bashar alAssad’s camp and that of his opponents. While the Assad regime blames the Pentagon for failing to foresee the rise of the “Islamic State” as a consequence of its strategy, Syrian opposition believe that the Obama administration has signed off on diplomatic initiatives aimed at bringing down Assad.
Check that against what US Senator John McCain disclosed last May that 75 percent of US pilots on missions to attack ISIL targets are returning without dropping any ordnance, due to delays in decision­making up the chain of command, then conspiracy theorists here seem to be making some rational points.
This analysis appeared first on Al  Jazeera on November 26, 2015