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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Abadi encouraging continued anti-corruption, pro-reform demonstrations.

Link: Abadi serious about reforming Iraqi government.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has made it obvious that his attempts at reforming the Iraqi government aren't limited to sacking a few corrupt ministers and eliminating a redundant post or two.  Abadi is determined to reshape the government, and in doing so, will no doubt strengthen his own political base.  At the moment, Abadi is controlling the conversation, and has yet to meet with any focused opposition.  On 21-22 August, the Babil Provincial Government imposed a curfew to frustrate the efforts of demonstrators.  Abadi promptly ordered the Babil Operations Command to cancel the curfew, and ordered the Iraqi Army to provide security for the crowd.  Abadi has carefully maneuvered around a number of political minefields, as he plays the demonstrators off against his political rivals.  But Abadi has to be careful not to be lulled into a false sense of security.  As of today, popular and sometimes reactionary Shi'a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his followers (practically the entire population of the huge Shi'a slum to the northeast of Baghdad known as "Sadr City") to participate in Friday's anti-corruption demonstration in central Baghdad.  But Sadr has always been a wildcard, at times proving difficult even for his Iranian handlers to control.  Most political analysts are supportive of the Abadi reforms; the Iraqi government that evolved out of the ashes of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Ba'ath Party was often ineffectual, redundant and practically encouraged corruption.  So far, every step taken by Abadi will simplify the governing process, increase accountability, and safe money.  But when a government makes changes that result in financial savings, then someone isn't getting their "take".  The functionaries, civil servants and politicians who have made a living sucking on the teat of Iraqi corruption, will no doubt attempt to thwart Abadi, and opportunities to cause problems are plentiful.

The planned demonstration in central Baghdad on Friday, 28 August, will be the largest demonstration yet.  Not only will the Iraqi Police and related security forces have their hands full keeping ISIS SVBIEDs from crashing this party, but the potential for conflict between political groups is also a serious concern.  Sadr's people and the folks from Ahl-al Haq (League of the Righteous) may be protesting corruption together, but neither side will pass up a chance to make trouble for the other, and a huge public demonstration will provide ample opportunity.  Also, Maliki's supporters in Dawa and SLA (State of Law Alliance) can cause the Abadi Administration great embarrassment if the security arrangements go south.  Lets face it, Abadi has signed off on this demonstration, and he needs it to come off without too much drama.  Eventually, opposition to Abadi will coalesce, probably around Maliki; but by then, he may be too strong to defeat.

ISIS fighters continue to make the ISF pay a high price for every bit of ground gained in the neighborhoods of Ramadi.  The ISF has yet to puncture ISIS' main defensive perimeter around Ramadi, choosing to roll-up neighborhoods block-by-block, street-by-street.  True to their modus operandi, ISIS fights tooth-and-nail for territory, and then before retreating, they wire and booby-trap everything including stray dogs and urinals.  The Iraqi government is determined that when the actual residents of Ramadi return, they may find nothing but piles of rubble, but at least their won't be an IED hidden amongst the rubble.  While the attention of the world seems to be focused on Ramadi, ISIS continues to cause headaches in Baiji and probe Iraqi defenses in Haditha and Samarra.  ISIS has proven time and again, that it can conduct operations on numerous fronts simultaneously.  In the past, one of the reasons why ISIS has been able to survive high-profile defeats is because they are able to mount offensive operations simultaneously in other areas.  This type of strategic distraction has a habit of making the enemy take their eye of the ball, so to speak.  In the last few weeks, as the clashes around Ramadi and Fallujah have intensified, ISIS has been able to launch spectacular VBIED attacks in both Diyala Province and Baghdad.  The key for the Iraqi government, the military High Command, and the militias/Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), is to step up the pressure when ISIS conducts an operation aimed at distraction.  ISIS has been astonishingly effective at predicting the actions of the enemy, in both Syria and Iraq.  The goal of the offensive in Anbar which commenced in July, was the liberation of both Fallujah and Ramadi, followed by the breaking of the siege of Haditha.  Once the ISF and its allies reach this point, then they can turn north to Salad-ad-Din Province and Baiji, and roll-up isolated ISIS units along the way.

*(One more than a few occasions, we have been critical of the allied air campaign that President Barack Obama announced on June 15, 2014.  For an extended period of time, it appeared as if this united effort, which included the Air Forces of the United States, Kuwait, Iraq, U.A.E., Qatar and Bahrain, was severely handicapped by the political sensitivities of some of the Arab members.  One country would expressly forbid its jets to participate in the bombing a particular group, and another nation would forbid its planes to target some other group.  This development received a good deal of airtime in the western press; probably more than it actually deserved.  Be that as it may, there also seemed to be an ongoing problem getting real-time reporting on the actions of the allied air units.  But in the last two months, these issues seem to have been addressed, as the air campaign has really started to inflict serious casualties on ISIS, and successfully disrupt its attempts at movement and resupply.  The arrival of Iraqi Air Force F-16s has invigorated the Iraqis, and together these military air resources have become an invaluable part of the effort to push ISIS out of Anbar, and out of Iraq altogether.)

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