Chaos in Iraq Puts Fight Against IS at Risk

09 May, 2016

The United States is expressing concern about the rising political unrest in Iraq.

The Obama administration is concerned about how the unrest will affect the fight against the self-declared Islamic State group.

Recently, protesters raided the Green Zone in Baghdad. The Green Zone is the protected area of Iraq's capital where foreigners live and work.

Sheikh Sabah took part in the protests. "This is what we want," he said. "If there are no reforms the whole government should be replaced."

Shi'ite clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr sent the protesters to the Green Zone to pressure the Iraqi government. The government led by another Shi'ite, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

This is just one example of divisions within the country.

James Jeffrey served as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq under President Barack Obama.

He says from the U.S. position, there is probably about a 60 percent chance that Iraq will stabilize, at what he calls, the same level of dysfunctionality.

The United States has supported Abadi's effort to build a central government across different religious groups. The hope is that a stronger government will help Iraqi and local forces beat back Islamic State forces.

But with the rising disorder and trouble, President Obama is urging the Iraqi government to move quickly.

"It's up to the Iraqi people to determine the government that they form. We do think, however, that it is vital for the health and stability of Iraq that the cabinet and the makeup of government is finalized and stabilized. And we've been urging them to get the job done."

With a weak government, Jeffrey says, U.S. officials should not depend on the Iraqi government to successfully face the militant group. That is, unless Washington is willing to do more militarily.

Jeffrey says the U.S. should continue fighting against the IS militants. He adds, if the Iraqi government falls apart, then there other groups, like the Kurds and local Sunni tribes, which the U.S. military can turn to and train.

The Iraqi army and local forces have made gains in recent months with the help of U.S. airstrikes and military trainers.

But the growing U.S. military presence comes at a cost. A member of the U.S. armed forces was killed Tuesday near the city of Mosul. He was part of a U.S. military effort to help Christian and Kurdish fighters against IS forces.

The Obama administration has predicted that Iraq and local forces, backed by the coalition, will recapture Mosul by the end of the year.

But observers say the political unrest will not help in the fight to defeat the extremists.

While IS has lost about 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq, it still keeps control of large areas.

I'm Anne Ball.

Mary Alice Salinas wrote this story for VOANews. Anne Ball wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

stabilize – v. to be still or right; to stop going up or going down

dysfunctional – adj. having poor and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes; confused and without direction