Why does the Barack Obama administration insist on continuing to pour hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars and precious human resources into the all-consuming, never-propitious black hole of the failed state of Iraq?
From its very conception after the First World War — when the supposed nation’s borders were hastily demarcated by Great Britain and France as part of the political dicing up of a post-Ottoman Middle East — Iraq has been and continues to be an ungovernable and unsustainable territory rife with sectarian violence, endemic corruption and petty political rivalries between culturally and ethnically diverse populations with little in common.
The argument that the United States and Europe need the support of the flaccidly inept administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his overpaid army of cronies and cohorts in order to defeat the Islamic State (IS) does not hold water since time and time again, when faced with battle, these would-be soldiers have preferred to put down their weapons and flee their posts rather than confront the enemy.
When the Islamic State moved into Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, the Iraqi army simply turned on its heels and ran, as it did in the case of Ramadi and practically every other military confrontation with Daesh, despite having greatly outnumbered and out-artilleried the terrorist rebels.
Moreover, the IS political hierarchy is heavily weighted with former Baathists who honed their sadistic skills and accrued their deadly bag of tricks under the Iraqi master of carnage Saddam Hussein.
The Sunni tribal troops and Shi’ite militias are far more interested in warring with each other than with taking on IS, which means that the only real defense against the caliphate in Iraq is the United States-led Western military coalition.
Financially, Iraq is a basket case on the brink of full-fledged bankruptcy, and Al-Abadi and his accomplices in financial malfeasance are ravishingly sacking the country’s coffers for anything they can get before the proverbial axe falls.
The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Iraq will formally default in its financial obligations by December of this year, despite a $1.24 billion emergency bailout last year and the promise of an additional loan of $15 billion from the World Bank this year. (See “Baghdad is Burning,” which ran in this space on May 2.)
And while the free-fall in international oil prices has sliced government revenues by at least 60 percent in the last year, three-fifths of the country’s $99 billion budget is earmarked for state wages, half of which, some analysts say, goes to nonexistent employees.
The Iraqi government pays out a mind-boggling $4 billion in salaries and pensions to its bloated array of 7 million military and public-sector workers each month (in a country with a population of just 32 million).
Even Al-Abadi has admitted that his country will face a $25 billion budget deficit in 2016, and that figure was based on the price of oil being $45 a barrel, so that real shortfall could be much worse.
Thirteen years hence from the fall of Saddam Hussein, a dysfunctional Iraq is still teetering on the edge of anarchy, with near-daily suicide bombings and untethered protests by a disgruntled people with no organic identity and no sense of national unity.
Iraq is the very definition of a gescheiterter staat.
It is high time to accept the inevitable and take this terminally moribund patient off of expensive and futile life support, letting it die a merciful and much-anticipated demise.