Expert opinion International review

Corruption, the second major challenge for Iraq

Source: NBC News.

This material belongs to: Al-Arabiya.

Driving ISIS out of the Iraqi town of Rawa – the group’s last stronghold in the country – was inevitable as a terrorist gang cannot defeat a state regardless of its size and brutality.

The terror outfits “victory” three and a half years ago was achieved because Iraq did not have a proper government at the time. There was an entity that resembled a government spearheaded by a gang of “politicians” competing over money, power and authority.

They were preoccupied with their disagreements. Therefore, there was no state to confront gangs, which came from beyond our borders with direct or indirect support from regimes in Syria, Turkey, Qatar and other countries.

Administrative and financial corruption before June 14, 2014 has deeply infiltrated the state. Armed forces equipped by better ammunition and gear were thus defeated against few hundreds due to their commanders’ corruption.

Geographically speaking, liberating Rawa marked Iraq’s liberation from ISIS. However, terrorist threats continue to exist as long as there is corruption.

This is what Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Center, headquartered in Munich, said in its recent report as it warned that ISIS’ defeat in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria will not end the continuous threat the group poses both locally and internationally.

“Rawa, Fallujah, Mosul and even Baghdad will still be threatened by ISIS if they do not launch a nationwide campaign against corruption”, – Adnan Hussein.

Picturing losses

The report said this defeat may actually push the group to adopt a new strategy to establish a “shadow state” in the areas it lost. Matthew Henman, the center’s head, said that the terrorist group has pictured its losses on the ground as part of a long-term battle against crusading forces and it will work to maintain its capabilities so it can regroup via a bigger campaign to restore the lands it lost and expand.

Henman also warned that regionally defeating ISIS will expedite the emergence of conflicts between powers that worked on deterring ISIS, whether in Syria or Iraq. According to Henman, this will result in further insecurity and instability and will thus alter circumstances, which ISIS will exploit to facilitate its return.

Earlier this year, Transparency International noted that ISIS can never be defeated if the corruption conditions which help the organization grow and expand are not addressed. A report published by the NGO in February said the organization exploited corruption to spread extremism and recruit and presented itself as a cure to corruption while it worked to cover up its dishonest activities.

Katherine Dixon, Director of Transparency International Defense and Security Program, said: “The failure to grasp this undermines efforts to tackle the rise of violent extremism,” adding that “corruption is a real security threat, more than just a means for elites to line their pockets. In the end, corrupt governments, by fueling public anger and undermining institutions, are the architects of their own security crises.”

All forces should have been recruited and all capabilities should have been mobilized to drive ISIS out of Rawa. However, Rawa, Fallujah, Mosul and even Baghdad will still be threatened by ISIS and other groups if they do not immediately launch a massive nationwide campaign against corruption.

This campaign must recruit all forces and mobilize all capabilities, just like they’ve done on the military front.

Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.