Tags: Iraq | ISIS/Islamic State | richard haass | isis | ramadi | iraq | strategy

Richard Haass: Depending on Iraqi Government Against ISIS Isn't Working

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 09:00 AM

Depending on the Iraqi government to act as a partner in the fight against the expansion of the Islamic State is not working, and it is time "to go back to basics," Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass said Friday.

"The caliphate is not just verbiage; it's real," Haass said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "We have not had a strategy in Syria ... and the administration thought we had a strategy in Iraq, and I think what we're seeing increasingly exposed is that we don't."

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Part of the problem is, Haass said, is that the "border's irrelevant" when it comes to Iraq and eastern Syria, and the lines drawn years ago really no longer exist.

"We don't have a partner in Syria," said Haass. "The partner we thought we had in Iraq, the Iraqi government, isn't a partner. We have got to think seriously about an alternative strategy."

But, meanwhile, ISIS now controls at least half of Syria and the momentum in Iraq has switched the other way.

"This is not working and these guys will not stop there," said Haass. "When they call themselves the caliphate, they're interested in the entire region and places like Saudi Arabia and the rest are not immune."

Inaction will only result in ISIS continuing to gain territory, "because it's a momentum play," said Haass, and the wins such as in Ramadi bring in recruits and money.

Further, Haass said that suggestions that have been made to enlist Iran in the fight against ISIS would likely backfire.

"People in the Sunni world in particular side with them if they sense this is the future," said Haass. "If the only alternative is bringing in Shia militias backed by Iran, most Sunnis will say 'I would rather go with radical Sunni militias or ISIS than put my fate in the hands of Shia backed by Iran.'"

ISIS fighters captured the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra on Wednesday, and reports indicate the militants are detaining and killing dozens of people. Ramadi, in Iraq, fell to ISIS on Sunday.

And with the advances, ISIS is only between 60 and 80 miles from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

"You probably have a massive Iranian effort, Iranian troops as well as Shia militia, so I think Baghdad is safe," said Haass. But by using a Shia-backed Iranian force to help in the fight, "it's like using gasoline to put out a fire ... you're going to exacerbate the problem with the Sunnis whose affiliation you want to win."

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Depending on the Iraqi government to act as a partner in the fight against the expansion of the Islamic State is not working, and it is time "to go back to basics," Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass said Friday.
richard haass, isis, ramadi, iraq, strategy
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2015-00-22
Friday, 22 May 2015 09:00 AM
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