Saturday, January 4, 2014

U.S-Iraq Distrust Hinders Fight Against al-Qaeda

Obama's abandonment of Iraq is playing out, as I mentioned yesterday, "Al-Qaeda in Iraq Resurgent."

And now here comes this, at the Los Angeles Times, "Distrust hinders U.S.-Iraq fight against resurgent Al Qaeda militants":

WASHINGTON — With insurgents linked to Al Qaeda battling for control of two major Iraqi cities, long-standing suspicion between the Obama administration and the government in Baghdad is hindering joint efforts against a common foe.

Sunni Muslim militants have gained control of territory in western Iraq's Anbar province in recent weeks, and intense fighting has broken out in two of Anbar's main cities, Fallouja and Ramadi, that were the sites of crucial battles during the Iraq war. On Friday, militants waving the Al Qaeda flag blew up key government buildings in Fallouja.

The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has rushed reinforcements into the region. More than 8,000 Iraqis died in the fighting last year, according to United Nations figures, making it the bloodiest year since 2008. But in one sign of the gap between Washington and Baghdad, Maliki's government recently halted secret U.S. surveillance flights by unarmed drones.

Across the border in Syria, militant groups are playing an increasingly large role in the insurgency against President Bashar Assad. Among the most prominent militant groups on both sides of the border is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The group has roots in Iraq, but the civil war in Syria has provided fresh supplies of money, weapons and fighters. Under the leadership of Abu Bakr Baghdadi, it seeks to create an Islamic caliphate including the territory of both Syria and Iraq.

As some ISIS militants were fighting government forces in western Iraq on Friday, others were battling other Syrian rebel groups trying to limit their reach near Aleppo, in western Syria.

Some current and former U.S. officials say they believe the White House is still weighing how deeply it wants to be involved in containing the militants, but several former officials are urging it to waste no time in stepping up its efforts.

"It was bad enough when this contagion was just inside Syria, but now it's spreading, and that's a whole lot worse," said Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to '09. Nothing could be more worrisome, he said, than the militant groups' plan to expand their grip on territory, giving them a base from which they could plot long-range operations.
Continue reading.

And more at the Washington Post, "Rebels battle al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters across northern Syria."