Iraq is at a crucial crossroads. The Iraqi government, backed by the United States and its coalition partners, is on the brink of retaking all major urban territories once occupied by ISIS. While very encouraging, the global coalition’s focus on militarily defeating ISIS obscures the fact that Iraq is beset by worsening sectarian tensions and proxy wars, political dysfunction and growing humanitarian crises. These perils, left unaddressed, will not only cripple international and diplomatic efforts, but also plunge Iraq further into instability and conflict long after ISIS is defeated on the battlefield.
The future of Iraq is important, not just for Iraqis but for the region and the international community. What the international community and regional states do or do not do will have a significant impact on that future. Today, by consolidating and capitalizing on the gains that the Iraqis, United States and international community have made in this second war against violent extremism in Iraq, the hope is that the same global coalition can avoid becoming entangled in a third and fourth and finally pave the way for rebuilding Iraq politically and economically.
A Country Fragmented
The Iraq war has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion so far and with interest could swell to more than $6 trillion, according to a study.
The new study concluded that both the war and the subsequent $212 billion reconstruction effort were failures as the war “reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women’s rights, and weakened an already precarious health care system” while “most of [the reconstruction] money was spent on security or lost to waste and fraud.