Will Iraq collapse, just before the roll-back of ISIS and retaking the former two-million-inhabitant city of Mosul from Daesh?

After the United States defeated dictator Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003, the Americans did almost everything wrong in restructuring Iraq.

You can blame it on the first civilian coordinator Paul Bremer and his naive team, or on the George W. Bush White House.

More than 109,000 people were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.

4,300 American soldiers were sacrificed, 32,000 wounded  and over $ 1,300 billion tax dollars burned.

The result of all this today:

A lost (US military) victory and a total disaster- for the Americans and the people in Iraq:

  • ISIS could only grow in this poorly US-designed central structure of the country with a too powerful government in Baghdad and the former soldiers and officials of the Baath party kicked-out and not integrated, like done after World War II in Germany or Japan with much success.
  • A  corrupt and dysfunctional Shiite government for very long. Too many involved Mafia-style to pocket a big bite of the annual $ 50 billion of oil-income. Now even a budget deficit of more than $ 20 billion in 2016.
  • Several positions as commanding generals were for sale.
  • The rights of the Sunni minority and the Kurds have been ignored over the last 13 years.
  • Christianity, after more than 2000 years, is now almost eradicated in Iraq, with thousands killed, enslaved or exiled.
  • Baghdad is now best friends with Shiite Iran, the long time arch-enemy of the US and best friend of brutal dictator Assad in Syria and Hisbollah in Lebanon.
  • Instead as giving the country a federal structure in 2003/2004, too much power was centralized by the US administrator in the capital of Baghdad. Former Senator Joe Biden was a fan of a decentralized structure.
  • The capital is controlled by a Shiite majority, disliked by the Sunni minority, which ruled until then. Now important Sunni tribes support the Sunni ISIS in the North. It is a lot of frustration. Without a correction, ISIS will stay and win.
  • The Kurds were not treated well by the Americans, nevertheless they were and still are America’s best friend. Bagdad, but not Erbil got new weapons- absurd. The former Kurdish city of Kirkuk was not returned to them. The oil revenue under their feet is cashed-in by Baghdad first, and should be transferred to the Kurdish autonomous region by law. But the money stays in the capital and is stolen from them- see names in the Panama-papers.

Nihad Latif, the mayor of Erbil, the largest Kurdish city and regional capital of Kurdistan-Iraq, describes the situation like this:

  • The state of Iraq exists only on paper today. Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds all have their own territories.
  • No support from Baghdad for the Kurdistan Regional Government. No money- nothing. The important fighters of the Kurdish Peshmergas have not gotten any salary for months.
  • The Kurds tried for 13 years to live with the Shiites and the central government in co-existence and cooperation. It never worked. Now in November 2016, there will be a referendum for the independence of Kurdistan. A huge majority will vote in favor.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for an unannounced visit to Baghdad this weekend. He said: “The United States is determined together with Iraq and the coalition that we will succeed. Together we will help the people of this country recover and go forward.”

What must be done:

  • It was justified to kick Saddam Hussein out of office in 2003, as he was a brutal dictator killing any opposition, attacked Kuwait and Iran and used poison gas against his own Kurdish people. Russia had provided the chemical weapons to the dictator, but demanded a total withdrawal according to the secret agreement with Bagdad after the international pressure became too hot for Moscow. Therefore no chemical wepaons were found after 2003. The transition period after the US invasion and the political structure of Iraq were planned in the White House with too many flaws. Why does nobody in the United States have the guts to take over the responsibilities for this mess of today? When it was about to celebrate the first (military) victory in 2003, everybody was in the first row- and now? Paul Bremer (decorated with the State Department Superior Honor Award, two Presidential Meritorious Service Awards, and the Distinguished Honor Award from the Secretary of State) and all high-ranking officials involved – with the exception of the brave military leaders-  should return their high decoration and apologize to the people of America and Iraq for their failures. No less than 4,300 soldiers died for their political chaos.
  • 43rd US President George W. Bush (2001-2009), as well as Vice President Dick Cheney (2001-2009) and the master-mind behind the awful Iraq-plan, Condoleeza Rice (National Security Advisor 2001-2005; Secretary of State 2005-2009), should take responsibility and apologize to the people of Iraq, especially to the many expelled or killed Christians as they misled them into a failed state. 
  • Any US administration must bear now the responsibility to correct these American mistakes in the future, if they like it or not. It is not a choice, but an obligation, something President Obama has ignored for several years and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not push enough. This includes much  more political and military support, the promotion a new fair regional structure for the Sunnis and respect for more Kurdish independence. Iraq needs a new solid fundament, a fair distribution of the oil-billions and reconciliation with Codes of Tolerance to roll-back ISIS and find peace.
  • A Grand Strategy for Iraq and Syria is needed with 33 elements, not just short-term crisis management. Still there is too little basic planning and too much day-to-day thinking.