2015 April 15 Wednesday
Iraqi Army Flees Villages Under ISIS Attack

Tribal fighters and local police were abandoned. Iraq's army has no stomach for a fight.

Anbar officials said that the army had fled the villages that were under attack, leaving tribal fighters and the local police, who they said were badly outgunned by the militants, to defend the areas. In recent days the American-led coalition struck several Islamic State targets near Ramadi, according to a Pentagon statement.

This is standard lameness, just another day.

Are Sunni fighters braver than Shia fighters? Or do Shia soldiers fight more effectively in militias than when part of a government force?

The (somewhat Shia) Houthi fighters seem to be quite effective against Sunni fighters> What's that about?

The newspapers do not explain the kinds of things I want explained. What's the relative efficacy of various fighting groups in the Middle East. What's the ratio of motivation, effectiveness, bravery between the various Middle Eastern factions? How many Iraqi Army soldiers does it take to drive 1000 ISIS fighters out of a city? 5000? 10,000? 50,000?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2015 April 15 09:04 PM 

Nick said at April 15, 2015 11:30 PM:

I think the problem is that no amount of Iraqi Army soldiers can deal with ISIS effectively without U.S. air support. Maintaining "stability" in Iraq means a permanent U.S. commitment. Who will have the courage to pull out and let the pieces fall where they may?

Black Death said at April 16, 2015 9:22 AM:

Back in the 1980's, the Iraqis, under Saddam Hussein, fought the Iranians to a more-or-less draw in a bloody eight year war. Iran is much more populous than Iraq (80 million vs. 30 million), but the Iranian military, equipped with mostly American and British gear, lost access to spare parts and technical support after the Shah was deposed. Iraq, on the other hand, received varying degrees of support from the USA, the UK, France and the USSR. The war had many interesting features - Saddam employed poison gas against the Iranians and Kurds, and the religious fanatics who were running Iran used massive human-wave attacks by child soldiers to clear minefields and try to get at the Iraqis (child soldiers are cheap and easy to replace, while tanks are expensive and costly to repair, especially if you can't get spare parts).

So, at least under the iron-fisted leadership of Saddam and his buddies, the Iraqis could fight pretty well. Nowadays, maybe not. The US has spent billions of dollars equipping and training the "new" Iraqi army, with little to show for it. The Iraqis seem unable to prevail without boots-on-the-ground help from Iran and US air power, which is highly effective, because ISIS lacks big-time air defenses. Welcome to the new Middle East - same as the old Middle East.

Jim said at April 16, 2015 10:32 AM:

Black Death -There is no such thing as "Iraqis" anymore than there is any such thing as "Yugoslavs" or "Ruritanians". The use of meaningless words like "Iraqis" is an obstacle to understanding reality.

Randall Parker said at April 17, 2015 9:09 PM:


Imagine what ISIS could do with American air support.

Emil Blatz said at April 21, 2015 12:03 PM:

The image I am forming of the Iraqi Army is something between F-Troop and McHale's Navy, without the laugh track.

Steve said at April 21, 2015 2:04 PM:

Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 is very insightful about this topic. Simply, it's a lack of trust among people outside of their tribal groups. The Iraqi army is kinda like a group of strangers, when the bullets start flying they have no confidence in their fellows. I don't think it's a Sunni/Shia thing, Hezbollah (in Lebanon not the Iraqi armed mob) is perhaps the best Arab force existent and is Shia and like you said the Houthi seem to be formidable.

Toddy Cat said at April 21, 2015 2:08 PM:

As I noted before, for whatever reason, U.S. trained armies simply do not perform well in the field, for whatever reason. The Iraqi "Army", the Afghan National "Army", the Georgians, etc, etc. The last foreign armies that we trained that could even remotely hold their own were the South Korean ROK's, and the Vietnamese ARVN #who weren't all THAT good, but who lost primarily because the U.S. starved them of ammunition, because the Democrats in congress wanted them to lose#. Those wars were a long time ago. I'm not sure what, something has gone very wrong here...

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