By Michael Knights, for the Combating Terrorism Center.
The Islamic State Inside Iraq: Losing Power or Preserving Strength?
In addition to losing control of Iraqi cities and oilfields, the Islamic State has clearly lost much of the capability it developed within Iraq from 2011-2014.
Quantitative attack metrics paint a picture of an insurgent movement that has been ripped down to its roots, but qualitative and district-level analysis suggests the Islamic State is enthusiastically embracing the challenge of starting over within a more concentrated area of northern Iraq.
The Iraqi government is arguably not adapting fast enough to the demands of counterinsurgency, suggesting the need for intensified and accelerated support from the U.S.-led coalition in order to prevent the Islamic State from mounting another successful recovery.
A new report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says that Iraqi hydrocarbons “will either be exploited by Iran and its allies or used for Iraq’s own benefit, transforming the country into an energy export hub between the Gulf states, Turkey, and Europe. The United States has a strong strategic interest in promoting the latter outcome.”
Authors James F. Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, and Michael Knights, who has worked extensively on energy projects inside Iraq, suggest that the US should put its weight behind a north-south energy corridor in which Iraq serves as an energy hub between ever-friendlier Gulf states and Turkey, ultimately forming an export bridge to Europe.
They add that Washington should also support the Basra-Haditha-Aqaba pipeline project to bring Iraqi oil and gas to Jordan.
In a new report published for the Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies, Dr Michael Knights, Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that those who say that there is no longer any such thing as the Iraqi security forces (ISF) are fully aware the line they are peddling is nonsense.
“They are motivated by schadenfreude – a foolish desire to mock Iraq in its moment of suffering,” he says.
“Iraq stands at a crossroads. The choice is very simple. Put the right people in charge of security and give them the right authorities and resources and allies. Or witness the further deterioration of Iraq’s stability and unity.”