National Review Online Symposium

How It’s Looking: Iraq, three years in.

I was invited to join a symposium of experts at National Review Online concerning the three year anniversary of the liberation of Iraq. The question was “What do you consider the most important points to keep in mind when considering Iraq three years after the Coalition invasion?”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • How much battlespace controlled by the insurgents(none), how much battlespace controlled by the Iraqi’s(30,000+ sq miles and rising) and How much battlespace controlled by the coaltition(120,000 sq miles and falling).

  • peterb says:

    Most important in this order:
    1) Iraq has no government (this one is the make it or break it for Iraq. If they don’t have a government soon, they’re in big trouble)
    2) Sectarian tensions are rising dramatically
    3) Economy is stagnant
    4) Electricity production is falling
    5) Some progress has been made against the Sunni insurgency particulary in Western Anbar province but the insurgency has not been defeated

  • cjr says:

    The balance of forces is one item. However, this would usually analyze “the strength of the insurgents vs the strength of the Iraqi govenement/Coalition to determine which side is going to win”. However, I think another angle would be at least as relevent:
    “The balance of forces between the forces pulling Iraq apart vs the forces pulling Iraq together to determine if Iraq will hold together.” This could include politcal, military, foreign forces…

  • tblubrd says:

    I have to question peterb’s assessment. There is a government in Iraq. 4 elections ago there wasn’t. The government is going through understandable churn picking party leaders, but so do we. This is not aiding or stopping any sectarian tension. And from the Iraqi blogs, it appears that government forces are welcome in those areas of violence. The rising violence can not always be the response of sectarian differences as much as AQ ratcheting up their own violence so that it appears to be sectarian – as Bill Roggio has reported here recently. And as far as the economy and electricity production, I can’t argue with you because I don’t know. But I’d like to see the figures you are using on the electricity production. I can understand the economy – but that is temporary, I feel.

  • JAF says:

    Good points, there is no government yet and when one is formed, there is no guarantee that this will lessen the violence. After all, take a look at the bitterness between the 2 parties here at home.
    But what would you do at this juncture? Would you stay and continue to build up the good guys (the majority of Iraqis who want unity), or just say forget about it, you guys fight it out?

  • peter says:

    I think quick formation of a government is the only hope Iraq has. I think it might cause the violence to at least calm down a bit even though nothing is guaranteed. If there are Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders working together and finding consensus solutions, civil war is unlikely in my opinion. If they continue what they are doing now and barely talking, I think civil war is almost guaranteed. It seems that there is a relationship between political developments and what happens on the street. After Sunnis voted in the last election, it seems to have weakened the Sunni insurgency significantly.

  • JAF says:

    Worse case scenario, what if they don’t? Don’t really want to think about that.
    But I did think of something else. The jailbreak issue appears to be purely an Iraqi thing with no coalition troops involved and this brought to mind that famous quote about “Better them to do it imperfectly, than for us to do it perfectly.” I hope there are lessons learned and the Iraqis take it to heart. With the terrorists succesfully pulling this off, there will be more attempts.

  • dj elliott says:

    Iranian involvement? That is my big worry. How much support is Iran providing? (Not just AQI, The militias.)

  • Bill Roggio says:

    FYI: I only had 200 words to do it, and like a good soldier I followed orders, but yes there was much more I wanted to say…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram