Triumph or Terror? The Iraqi Question

AQI militant, courtesy of USA Today
AQI militants, courtesy of USA Today

The terrorist network of al-Qaeda has proven to be both resilient from destruction in Iraq and prolific across the Middle East. Oren Dorell wrote in his front page USA Today article on January 13th, “Losing Iraq,” that “many significant gains of the eight-year-long Iraq war in which more than 4,400 Americans died are now threatened.” This threat has become manifest in the al-Qaeda capture of the strategic towns of Fallujah and Ramadi in the Anbar Province. This province is especially important as it borders Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, allowing AQ elements to foment conflict across nations. The Iraqi government – a beacon of democracy in the Middle East – has been challenged with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, politically alienating Sunni Iraqis. This divide has further stagnated responses to the terrorist threat, and caused al-Qaeda to appear appealing to disenfranchised Sunnis. Furthermore, American mass military intervention in the Middle East, has dispersed the terrorist network across the map from Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in Africa, to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, exploding in the conflicts in Iraq and in Syria, and across the hills and caves of Pakistan.

The U.S. has several options in combating this threat in Iraq and elsewhere. Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations claims that President Obama can make military and intelligence aid dependent on Prime Minister al-Maliki’s democratic standards and legitimacy. Notable American military advisor Fred Kagan contends that the violence is the result of the Iraqi’s military lack of counterterrorism capabilities, leading to mass arrests which polarized Sunni and Shia Muslims against each other. Both factions are needed for Iraqi in the long term to function as a democracy and as a sovereign state.

AQI Leadership captured or killed courtesy of the Long War Journal.
AQI Leadership captured or killed courtesy of the Long War Journal.

In order to be effective against al-Qaeda, the United States has to work on a sui generis basis with the states threatened by the network’s influence to meet the specific domestic needs of a democratic country. The threat of terrorist networking, however, is inherently transnational, and in order to be effective must incorporate bilateral agreements in the broader multilateral strategic scope of the Middle East and North Africa region, which can be achieved using the American foreign policy apparatus of the Department of Defense, Department of State, and American intelligence agencies working with nongovernmental organizations to coordinate security strategies. The specific key with Iraq is balancing the interest of both the Sunni and Shia Muslims for a better functioning democracy. If al-Maliki can extend trust and cooperation to the Sunni community through aid, development, and political enfranchisement, then al-Qaeda appear as a less viable option to once-frustrated Iraqis. Iraq is more than a country; it is the foci of the Middle East, where stability or terror will triumph in the long term depending on the level of democratic inclusion achieved.


Viable Links:

USA Today Article:

Long War Journal:


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