A lot of conventional wisdom about the crisis in Iraq likely oversimplifies the country’s present situation.
Chaos has gripped Iraq following the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and its allies’ blitz across the north and west of the country. According to Rutgers Professor and U.S. State Department lecturer Eric Davis, there’s been widespread misrepresentation of the root causes, and the solutions, of this ongoing crisis.
In an attempt to clarify the situation in Iraq, Davis detailed the top myths about the crisis. Here are five of the biggest ones:
The current crisis is the result of deep-rooted sectarianism
Before the peak years of violence between 2004 and 2008, intermarriage in Iraq between Sunnis and Shi’a was upwards of 40% in some cities, including Baghdad. The country’s disintegration is arguably underpinned by economic inequality between the sects which started during UN sanctions in the 1990s and was perpetuated under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government.
There is no viable alternative to Maliki
In fact, there are a number of Iraqi politicians who could plausibly replace Maliki and build a governing coalition. These include Dr. Adel Abdel Mahdi, an economist an former Iraqi president from 2005 to 2011, Husayn al-Sharastani, a minister of oil, or even Masoud Barzani, the current Sunni president of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Maliki won the 2014 elections and should remain as prime minister
The results of the April 2014 elections, which Maliki’s State of Law Coalition won, have not yet been verified. There were also numerous reports of voting irregularities — and many Sunnis in Anbar province could not vote at all due to ISIS’s disruption.
Shi’a militias can function as a substitute for the Iraqi Army
With some exceptions, the majority of Shi’a militias are poorly trained and have little battlefield ability. Maliki has instead mobilized the militias as a way to prop up his support among the Shi’a.
The crisis would not have developed had the U.S. remained in Iraq
Had the U.S. remained in Iraq, the Sadrist Movement — Maliki’s main opposition in Iraq at the time — would have latched onto the continued presence of American troops as a rallying point for attacking Maliki. The presence of thousands of U.S. soldiers would have also undermined the authority of the Iraqi central government.
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