New Zealand should abstain from all military engagement in Iraq..
Kevin P Clements
The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
University of Otago
Sending New Zealand Defence Force Personnel to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State is misguided ,counter productive and will enhance the power of Islamic militants.
Neither Prime Minister John Key nor Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee have made a strategic rationale for the deployment of 40-100 NZ Infantry men to Iraq as trainers. “Training and preparation “ has begun on “ a contingency basis”. But no explanation has been given for what contingency would trigger the deployment of these military advisors.
The fact is that there is no strategic rationale for the Governments of New Zealand and Australia adding insult to injury and exacerbating the existing failed strategy led by the United States.
First, the United States and allied bombing raids in Iraq and Syria have neither dealt a fatal blow to the Islamic State nor changed the repressive regime in Syria. Nor have they been successful in transforming the repressive and corrupt regime in Iraq.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, is not proving any more successful than his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki in controlling the military, dealing equally with Sunni and Shia and preventing patterns of widespread military oppression and corruption. It is his regime and his corrupt military that our 40-100 advisors would be training.
Second, the Obama administration responded to a well orchestrated and brutal public relations campaign by ISIS in exactly the way that ISIS wanted. Their desire was to commit heinous crimes in order to provoke Western military overreaction in order to consolidate and enhance their brutal power and influence. The new bombing campaign and proposed training programme have boomeranged already.
The New York Times 27/11/2014 said that the Obama administration’s “Conflicting Policies on Syria and Islamic State were eroding US standing in the Middle East”.
Surely it would be better if John Key and Tony Abbot used their influence in Washington to urge a change of direction instead of perpetuating a failed and failing strategy?.
Third and perhaps most worrying of all is the corrupt, inefficient, repressive and nepotistic nature of the Iraqi army. What do we think our 40-100 soldiers could do to make any real difference to this military machine?
The United States is reintroducing 3,000 military advisors to Iraq. There is no reason to suspect that they have been, or will be , better able to advise and change the Iraqi military under Mr Habadi than they were under Mr Al Maliki.
On the contrary there is evidence that corruption and military incapacity is expanding.
The Pentagon, for example, requested $1.3 billion in the 2015 budget to provide weapons for the government forces and $24.1 million to support tribal groups.. Some of this weaponry has already ended up in the black market and in the hands of the Islamic State Fighters. Colonel Shaaban al Obeidi of the Iraqi internal security forces said last week “ I told the Americans , don’t give any weapons through the army –not even one piece-because corruption is everywhere and you will not see any of it. Our people will steal it” .
American officials say that “reducing corruption is not part of the advisor’s role”. This means that no matter how principled , professional and competent our military advisors are there is no way that they can stop the basic rot in the Iraqi military.
The Iraqi military engages routinely in torture. Those with money are able to buy officer titles. The military shakes down civilians and then offers protection for a price. It siphons money from inflated military pay rolls on a daily basis. A lot of the external US and internal funding is used to fund ghost soldiers.
Why would we want to tarnish the excellent reputation of the NZ military by involvement with such a corrupt and illegitimate regime?
I haven’t seen any strategic or political justification for this deployment from any politician. This is not the way to deal with ISIS brutality or Iraqi vulnerabilities. The policy is misguided and misplaced. Perhaps one of the most bizarre elements of this proposed deployment was the suggestion that the ANZAC contingent could deploy on the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli, 25th April 2015. To commemorate one military tragedy a hundred years ago by deploying ANZAC troops to a 21st century military tragedy seems totally incredible. .John Key and Jerry Brownlee need to provide more justification for this proposed deployment. They should not be able to spin their way into advising or fighting in a risky and unwinnable war.