Entrenched corruption in the Iraqi military and police forces is undermining the fight against the Islamic State militant group, The New York Times reports.
The US is seeking to empower Iraqi forces and Sunni tribes by funelling more than $US1 billion in supplies and weapons through the government in Baghdad.
“But some of the weaponry recently supplied by the army has already ended up on the black market and in the hands of Islamic State fighters, according to Iraqi officers and lawmakers,” The Times reports. “American officials directed questions to the Iraqi government.”
Tribes argue that the US should arm them directly, but the Shia-dominated Iraqi government and its main backer, Iran, are wary of bolstering Sunni groups.
“The United States is not the first player in Iraq. Iran is the first player in Iraq. They think Sunni fighters will be like militias for the Sunnis,” Najim al Jabouri, a retired Iraqi army general who is now a fellow at the National Defence University in Washington, told Jonathan Landay of McClatchy recently. “I think Iran is working very hard to stop the United States’ strategy in Iraq.”
Meanwhile, Shia militias — some of them backed by Iran — are using the fight against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) to burn Sunni communities to the ground.
Despite corruption potentially subverting the US-led effort, it is unclear how much the roughly 3,000 US advisers in the country can help.
One American official involved in the program told The Times that working with the tribes and combatting military corruption was “not part of the advisers’ role, and there is no reason to believe that advisers’ presence will reduce corruption.”
Iran, which also backs the Shia government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in neighbouring Syria, reportedly see things differently.
“The American approach is to leave Iraq to the Iraqis,” Sami al-Askari, a former member of Iraq’s parliament and one-time senior adviser to former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, told Reuters recently. “The Iranians don’t say leave Iraq to the Iraqis. They say leave Iraq to us.”
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