Iraq: boots on the ground?

Iraq: boots on the ground?
With IS maintaining control over nearly a third of Iraq, there are increasing calls for the US to send troops to fight the organisation on the ground.
3 min read
22 December, 2014
There are currently 7,000 US troops in Kuwait [Getty]
It has been nearly four months since the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) was created. During that time, the US has also provided military and logistical support to Iraqi troops. Despite this support, Iraqi troops, militias and clans backed by Western air cover, had only liberated about 200 sq km of land under IS control by 9 December. IS currently controls 150,000 sq km or 32 percent of Iraq.

The war with IS has displaced 2.5 million Iraqi's, mostly Sunni Arabs, and pushed the country into the worst financial crisis in 12 years. That crisis in Iraq has been exacerbated by a drop in global oil prices, as oil makes up approximately 95 percent of the country's foreign earnings.
     Iraqi troops and militias backed by Western air cover are unlikely to win the battle against IS.

Over the last week the Iraqi public and politicians have increased pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to allow US and western troops to enter Iraq. The US currently has 7,000 soldiers based in Kuwait. They argue that issues of national sovereignty are no longer a reason to stop US troops entering the country. This is not only due to the IS group’s extensive control, but also the presence of thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards .

A senior Iraqi military official said that Iraqi troops and militias backed by Western air cover are unlikely to win the battle against IS alone. In addition, allowing fighting to continue could lead to the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, and the outbreak of civil war that could destabilise the region.

"We are patient but the general losses and costs will be too high for the country and its people. We have to make sacrifices to win, including recognising the need for land intervention by friendly armies based on international agreements," Iraqi Brigadier General Mustafa Abdul Salam told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The main cities currently controlled by Iraqi troops and militias are small and of little geographical or military significance. In contrast, IS controls major Iraqi cities in the north and west of the country.

Arguing it was important to bring in foreign forces to end the battle as soon as possible, Taha Abdul Ghani al-Jawad, professor of political science at the University of Baghdad said: "IS has launched counter-attacks against cities it previously lost, and regained control of them."

It seems only a matter of time before the Iraqi government will ask for greater western intervention, especially if IS advances on Baghdad. Western reluctance to do so will then be properly tested.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.