Michael Weiss writes: A fortnight before the battle got underway in Iraq to retake the city of Fallujah from the so-called Islamic State, I sat down with a native son of that restive town, Sheikh Khamis al-Khanjar. He was once a central power broker in Iraq’s political system and is now an exile with, it would seem, many millions of dollars at his disposal to try and buy his way back in.
As we talked in the lounge of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Tallinn, Estonia, where we were both attending the annual Lennart Meri Conference, Khanjar touched on the core problem bedeviling Iraq, of which ISIS is only one manifestation. The United States, he believes, is almost autistically focused on the issue of Sunni jihadism at the expense of broader social cohesion and geopolitics, particularly Tehran’s meddling in the affairs of its next-door neighbor. The very integrity of the modern nation-state a Western superpower tried hubristically to reinvent in Mesopotamia 13 long years ago is now in mortal jeopardy.
“Instead of saying, ‘We need to keep Iraq united,” Khanjar said, echoing a favored American talking point, “we must admit that Iraq is no longer united and ask what can we do to bring it back together. Iraq is on the path to disintegration.”
“Again today, we are repeating the mistake of betting completely on one person: Abadi,” Khanjar said. He was referring to Iraq’s prime minister, a Haider al-Abadi, a U.S. ally who has faced popular revolt against his dysfunctional government and seems ever less in control over Iraq’s security apparatus. [Continue reading…]