For months, the critical issue for Iraq has been its capacity to win back territory in its western provinces controlled by the so-called Islamic State (IS). The focus abroad has been on building an international coalition to support Iraqi forces; enabling various Kurdish militias to do their part in the war against IS; and strengthening Iraqi resolve, particularly among Sunnis, to see the IS threat in all its dimensions and reinvigorate Iraq’s national capacity and purpose. But in Baghdad, other dynamics are in play. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi followed through on pledges to take on corruption and governance shortcomings. Abadi is doing the right thing, while being honest and open that the losers in his new drive to make Iraq’s political class more accountable will fight back. It’s not too late to support the push and pull of democratization in Iraq, but the centrifugal forces—from IS, disaffected Sunnis and increasingly confident Kurds—are surely formidable.
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