(IISS Director of Studies and former Bush administration US AID official Patrick Cronin)
Patrick Cronin, Director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, has sent me a new publication from the IISS Armed Conflict Database titled “Flashpoint”.
I “think” I have permission to link it here, but may have to take this down if Patrick Cronin tells me that this is a ‘members and friends only’ document. (please note that the order of the pdf pages is off by one page — read page 2 first, then 3, then 4, then page 1)
But it’s very good, and folks should read it. The first issue, “Halting Iraq’s Descent into Chaos,” sets a sober, realistic tone for the mess in which America has tragically displayed real limits to its power:
It seems that the United States and its allies were blinded by possibilities in Iraq: freeing the Iraqi people of a brutal regime; ensuring that a hostile dictator did not possess weapons of mass destruction; and creating a democratic government in the Middle East. The US-led coalition was determined to pursue those ambitious objectives despite a lack of broad support for pre-emptive military action and warnings that state-building would be fraught with difficulties. Those have now become painfully clear and the lofty aims have given way to a desperate effort to arrest a downward spiral towards chaos across much of the country.
Hope has been eroded among Iraqis by the collapse of institutions, the coalition’s lack of preparation, a vicious hybrid insurgency, hostile external influences, the partial fragmentation of society into competing armed groups and the Iraqi government’s inability to foster reconciliation. The will to persevere appears to be diminishing among coalition nations and the international community — a perception reinforced by the outcome of the US mid-term elections. The coalition and Iraqis both want the occupation to end but there is agreement that a premature withdrawal of forces would be likely to lead to an even more devastating civil war that could destabilise the entire region.
Getting the analysis of the current environment right is key before any prescriptions can be considered. This issue of “Flashpoint” provides a great roster of incentives and disincentives for the component pieces of Iraq’s political and military schema to either collaborate or devolve further into anarchy, vicious power struggles, and genuine civil war.
This report also provides a breakdown of military strength of various players:
IRAQI AND COALITION FORCES
Total Iraqi (including police) 320,000
Non-US 16,000 (including 7,000 UK)
Including: al-Qaeda up to 1,000; Ansar al Sunna up to 1,000
Support network 80,000-100,000
Badr Corps. up to 10,000
Mahdi Army 30,000
— Steve Clemons