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Still Winning in Iraq

The Right Way to Fight ISIS

Iraqi security forces demonstrate their skills during military training in Jurf al-Sakhar, April 9, 2015. Alaa Al-Marjani / Reuters

Two months ago, my colleague and I published a Foreign Affairs piece warning about the political challenges that lay ahead in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, where the government and its security forces, with U.S. and international support, were seeking to rout the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS). We made three main points.

First, the Iraqi government could not simply conduct a repeat play of the Sunni Awakening, particularly because the Sons of Iraq and other Sunni leaders who had joined with the U.S. military to fight al Qaeda in the 2006–07 period have since lost their local credibility.

Second, Baghdad must lay the political groundwork, preferably before it tries to reconquer ISIS-controlled cities militarily, including allaying legitimate socioeconomic grievances in this region. Only fair and accountable governance—and the provision of services by Baghdad—can ensure the endurance of tactical Iraqi security forces (ISF) gains.

Third, Washington

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