Iraq’s divisions will delay counter-offensive on ISIS

Reuters reports: U.S. air support and pledges of weapons and training for Iraq’s army have raised expectations of a counter-offensive soon against Islamic State, but sectarian rifts will hamper efforts to forge a military strategy and may delay a full-scale assault.

The Sunni Islamists stormed through northern Iraq in a 48-hour offensive in June, charging virtually unopposed toward the outskirts of Baghdad, humiliating a U.S.-trained Iraqi army which surrendered both land and weapons as it retreated.

By contrast, even a successful effort by the Shi’ite-led government to dislodge Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from Sunni territory where it rules over millions of Iraqis would be fiercely fought and could stretch well beyond next year.

The Baghdad government relies on Shi’ite militias and Kurdish peshmerga to contain Islamic State – a dependence which underlines and may even exacerbate the sectarian rivalry which opened the door for the summer offensive. [Continue reading…]

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