Defeating IS: ‘US didn’t have strategy before, it doesn’t have one today’

Reuters / Stringer
To defeat Islamic State there has to be a concerted effort, the US has to coordinate with those fighting the extremists and not to support those associated with them, Said Arikat, former UN spokesman for Iraq, told RT’s In the Now.

According to Iraq Body Count more than 17,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2014 when Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) began its assaults. Despite the US leading a bombing campaign against the terrorists, IS managed to seize some key areas like Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. However, the US seems not to have a “complete strategy” for training Iraqi forces to defeat IS as Obama said at a G7 news conference.

RT:Did you have a clue that ISIS would grow into this huge monster?

Said Arikat: Indeed. I think when they took over Mosul last year that was all over. You could see that as clear as day. The problem is that those who are fighting ISIS - at least the US - didn’t have a strategy then and it doesn’t have a strategy today. When the president of the US said: “We don’t have a complete strategy” that tells me that they don’t really have a strategy, that it is ad hoc, basically.

READ MORE: More airstrikes & advisers: US claims to have a ‘clear strategy’ against ISIS

RT:Is it honest that Obama admits they don’t have a strategy?

SA: It may be honest, but that doesn’t mean that you are going to defeat IS, because he said that “We are going to degrade and defeat IS” - obviously neither degrading nor defeating have really taken place so far, quite the contrary. We’ve seen IS expand beyond what was even imaginable a year ago even after they took Mosul, they control Ramadi, they control a great deal of the Anbar Governorate. Now they have a larger geography all together than the whole of Syria, they control half of Syria. That’s a group that is on the march; they control parts of Libya, an air base there, another refinery and so on. It’s definitely growing. So the degrading part and the defeating part are just not happening. Of course the President is being honest when he is saying, “I don’t have a complete strategy,” but on the other hand when they keep saying day after day that we will defeat them, that you don’t see on the ground. And to do this really honestly the first thing they must do is coordinate with those who are fighting IS, coordinate more, and that is the Syrian government troops in Syria, there are the Shia militias in Iraq that are fighting, aiding the Kurds and so on, and really addressing the Sunni grievances. So there has to be a more real and tangible effort in that direction.

RT:According to President Obama the US should enhance its training of Iraqi forces. Is it going to help?

SA: The program that the US has implemented since 2003 has failed. First of all they basically deconstructed the army; in fact they dissolved the army, as you remember. Then they tried to build an army that was by and large based on nepotism and some sort of ethnic and sectarian structure. That will never work; that’s why the army collapsed in Mosul, it collapsed in Ramadi, it will continue to collapse because it’s not really a national army, it’s more like an ethnic or sectarian militia. So the whole effort to reconstruct this army is premised on the wrong premise. What they need to do is first have real national reconciliation where everybody has a stake in defending the country. Second, build a real national army without ethnic or sectarian allegiances.

Reuters / Stringer

RT:Why isn’t that something that we are hearing the US government talk about?

SA: Because the US government in Iraq has been miserably failing all along. They had a plan to invade Iraq but nothing after that. To dissolve the army, the writing was on the wall then and everybody spoke about that including myself, I wrote about it, that dissolving the army would thrust the country into chaos and would basically segment it along sectarian-ethnic lines. Second, when they began aiding a very sectarian government like Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki all along under the Bush administration, which aided and abetted Maliki and his program, they did the surge and then there was no plan after the surge. When the US pulled out in 2011 there was no plan to continue to aid the awakening council, which they have established among the Sunni tribes, Iraq and so on. So it’s always been an ad hoc policy, not a long-term policy and simply because they didn’t want to own up to the horrible and horrific mistake of invading Iraq to begin with.

RT:You mentioned the US would have to team up with other forces like Iran and Syria – countries that were positioned as evil ones a year ago. Maybe now it’s time to look at that as an option?

SA: Absolutely, there was time to look at that option early on. And there were some efforts when Tikrit was surrounded a few months back and the US actually wouldn’t bomb as long as …the Shia-supported militias were attacking Tikrit. When they pulled out, they went on and bombed. These individualized efforts are not going to produce the kind of result the world wants to see in defeating IS. There has to be a concerted effort, a sort of marshaling of all the forces of those who are fighting IS and then you go on and you lean on your allies like the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, not to support or send arms to groups that are associated with IS. So there is a whole gamut of things that needed to be done and implemented in place to defeat it.

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