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Fares Khattab

Why are the Arabs ignoring Iraq?

Residents of Ramadi flee as IS takes the city [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 May, 2015

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Comment: Arab countries should create a united military force in Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, and to stop non-Arabs intervening in Arab affairs, argues Fares Khattab.

The Islamic State group has shown its military superiority in Iraq, from the battle of Mosul in June 2014 until the fall of Ramadi in May 2015.

The militant group now controls nearly a third of the country, and is getting worryingly close to Baghdad. It almost completely dominates the strategically important provinces of Nineveh and Anbar, Iraq's northern, western, and southern gateways to Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

The Iraqi government is panicking after losing control of the military and political situation. The only countries that are supporting it are Iran, which has sent assistance including weapons, and the United States, which has provided military air support.

Iraq's political and military leaders reacted quickly to the IS takeover of Ramadi, and the shameful flight of the Iraqi army from the city. After Iran's defence minister visited Baghdad, Ali Akbar Wilayati, adviser to the supreme leader of Iran, said his country would intervene and fight IS if the Iraqi government officially requested it.

     The Iraqi government is panicking after losing control of the military and political situation.

 

The Pentagon sent General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command, to meet Abadi and Khaled al-Obeidi, Iraq's defence minister.

The general offered US help and full aerial support to expel IS from Ramadi.

Due to the IS gains on the ground in Anbar, Iraqi and US figures have called for the mainly Shia "Popular Mobilisation" militias to be brought in as a strike force. They argued the militias are an ideological force that have modern and advanced weaponry, unlike the Iraqi army and federal police.

The Popular Mobilisation militias said they would only take part in operations in Ramadi if it was sanctioned by parliament.

Although their support is much needed in Anbar, these Iran-backed militias have been accused of committing atrocities, particularly against Sunni communities, in parts of Iraq including Tikrit and Diyala.

Arab governments, however, have failed to express a serious position about developments in Iraq.

Are the Arabs ignoring this strategically important nation? Have they decided to leave it to Washington and Tehran? Why are they not taking advantage of the situation to secure the future of the region?

Tehran, meanwhile, is doing everything it can to support the pro-Iranian regime in Iraq. But it seems to want to stop Baghdad becoming a major Arab power that could again counter its own regional ambitions.

Arab states taking part in the Saudi Arabia-led intervention in Yemen, which has proved to be strong and well-organised, should consider establishing a force to fight IS in Iraq. 

This would enable them to play an important regional role, support anti-Iranian forces on the ground in Iraq, and stop Haider al-Abadi using militias and non-Arab states to defend Baghdad from IS.

Despite the position of some Arab countries, especially in the GCC, over the potential collapse of Iraq, Arab countries need to unite and offer military support to Iraq to fight IS and stop non-Arabs intervening in Arab affairs.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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