Just as the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State expanded operations, internal political struggles are beginning to threaten the cohesion of the Iraqi government, potentially threatening progress in the fight against ISIS.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had calls for his resignation and members of parliament (Council of Representatives, or COR) have illegally attempted to remove leadership. A group of about 131 CORs created a sort of political insurgency Wednesday, barricading themselves throughout the night while voting to remove Salim al-Juburi, the speaker of the COR. To make matters worse, tensions between the Kurdish and Shiite party factions led to an all-out brawl in the middle of a parliamentary meeting.
“The conflict has crippled parliament … and could obstruct the work of the government, impacting the heroic operations to free our cities and villages [from ISIS],” al-Abadi said Thursday in a statement
Al-Abadi has made attempts to create a coherent government, but Iraq’s internal disputes politically reflect the vast cultural, religious and ethnic differences that exist within the country. Though the country is largely Shia Muslim, there are also Sunni, Kurdish and various other minority groups within Iraq, each with their own political interests.
Al-Abadi had originally intended to populate the various ministerial positions in the government with independent leaders in an attempt to clamp down on corruption. That plan fell apart as the sectarian divisions in Iraqi politics proved too entrenched. Al-Abadi caved to pressure from Shia clerics in February, agreeing to remake the government to reflect the various Iraqi sects.
The political disruption could not come at a more precarious time for Iraq. While the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have been able to retake some portions of Iraq from the ISIS grasp, they have also seen significant desertions and continue to be harassed by the terrorist group’s guerilla tactics.
A lack of cohesion in the ISF ranks has essentially halted missions in preparation to retake Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul. Additionally, the Kurdish Peshmerga, the one consistent fighting force that has battled ISIS since its inception, has reported that it is sorely underfunded due to the Kurdish Regional Government’s $100 million per-month budgetary deficit.
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