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US Questions Iraqi Government’s Readiness to Combat Purported Daesh Resurgence

© Sputnik / Andrey Stenin / Go to the photo bankFlag of the Islamic State in the conflict zone
Flag of the Islamic State in the conflict zone - Sputnik International
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Western outlets and the commander of the US-led coalition against Daesh have recently highlighted the spike in attacks by the group in Iraq. While there may be a financial explanation for the militants’ actions, Baghdad’s crippled, oil-dependent economy, coupled with less international military support, could pose a significant problem.

World Politics Review on June 4 called attention to Daesh’s ongoing “ramping up [of] a campaign of violence in rural parts of Iraq” that has been occurring since “the second half of 2019.” 

The militants have placed particular focus on Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahaldin provinces, and some 108 Daesh-related attacks were carried out in Iraq during the month of April alone, according to the report. 

While Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) - the official name for US-led coalition - currently lacks favorable relations with Iraq, Baghdad-based political analyst Sajad Jiyad wrote that coalition members “should make a renewed push to dedicate resources solely to its core mission of degrading and defeating [Daesh].” 

The analyst also noted that the coalition should avoid “tit-for-tat confrontations with pro-Iranian armed groups that tend to undermine relations with the Iraqi government.” 

This report comes nearly a month after Lt. Gen. Pat White, commander of CJTF-OIR, cited data on Daesh activity and warned of the group’s possible resurgence in Iraq. 

"The type of attacks they are conducting now, which are the majority small arms, rifles, small caliber mortars and no [vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices]," he told CNN on a May 8 phone call. "The pure numbers [of attacks] are very consistent with last year, exact same time.”  

Shortly after the US’ January assassination of Iran's Quds Force chief Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution ordering the termination of the foreign troop presence in the country. The motion declared that the Iraqi government’s previous request for international assistance was no longer valid “due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory” over Daesh forces. 

"The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason,” the resolution read. 

As a result, troops with the US-led coalition have begun exiting several area bases over the past few months. 

Just weeks prior to Iraq’s COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak in February, US President Donald Trump threatened to slap Baghdad with “sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever” over the “billions of dollars” that went into an “extraordinarily expensive air base.” The administration also threatened to block Baghdad’s access to its own account at the US Federal Reserve Bank in New York. 

Due to the country’s heavy dependence on oil, Iraq’s economy has been severely hit and is continuing to suffer alongside the weakened market. 

While economic instability is obviously a concern for a country possibly facing terrorism, the CJTF-OIR commander asserted to CNN in May that “even before the collapse of oil prices, Iraq had some stabilization issues.” 

According to White, similar economic issues experienced by Daesh could possibly explain the surge in attacks and related unrest attributed to the militants. 

"A lot of the intelligence suggests that the various [Daesh] lower-level leaders out in the provinces are really focusing on the kind of attacks that would get resources, like kidnapping for ransom and those types of things, and they're getting smaller amounts of money than they had in the past, still real money that's being generated but not enough to sustain them,” he claimed. 

"They are lacking in financing, they're lacking in fighters and they are lacking in support by the populace in most areas, and so this is all a part of their grand scheme to try to pull fighters and sympathizers underneath their cause, and they continue to fail.” 

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