Experts: Iraq needs reconciliation, not weapons, to defeat ISIS

(By Deutsche Welle) Washington has promised to support the Iraqi government in its drive to defeat rapidly advancing ISIS militants. But experts say that more US weapons are unlikely to stabilize the situation.

Facing perhaps the greatest security challenge in Iraq since the US troop withdrawal in 2011, Washington has promised Baghdad additional assistance to beat back the advancing surprise offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

After capturing Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, ISIS continued to push south on Wednesday. According to Iraqi security officials, the Islamist militants have seized control of the central city of Tikrit and attacked the outskirts of Samarra, which lies 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Baghdad.

The State Department said on Tuesday that the US “supports a strong, coordinated response to push back against this aggression.” Washington is working closely with Iraq’s central government and authorities in the autonomous Kurdistan Region, according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“The United States will provide all appropriate assistance to the Government of Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement to help ensure that these efforts succeed,” Psaki said.

According to Ben Connable, Iraq expert at the RAND Corporation, that assistance will likely include additional arms and intelligence. Earlier in the year, Washington sent weapons to help Baghdad retake the western city of Fallujah, which fell under ISIS control in January.

Those weapons included hellfire missiles and surveillance drones. Despite the additional firepower, the Iraqi government failed to wrest Fallujah from ISIS control, and Fallujah is much smaller than Mosul, which has a population of more than 1.4 million.

“Sending weapons and advisors is a long-term policy – that’s something that requires many years of development, training and support to make an army or police force more effective,” Connable told DW. “We don’t have that kind of time anymore.”

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