Iraq: ISIS Blends In, Trouble Brewing

[Disclaimer/Proclaimer: To Friends/Readers/Browsers: Occasionally, I will include in this blog a strictly news-oriented report out of the nation's capitol, Washington DC, reflecting my own effort as a journalist. Since I do have access to newsmakers from time to time, it is important, I think, to share factual developments or informed opinions that have implications for our wider world and its citizens. From my perch here in Arlington, Virginia, it is my firm belief that mainstream media outlets and a proliferation of poorly educated and biased bloggers are not serving well those Americans who care about the details of developments in a very complex and diversified political and social landscape.

Anyone who reads Capitol Scooper, or most of my posts in fact, must be willing to put a little time into the exercise. Knowledge does not often follow from glancing at tweets and facebook announcements. I do ask everyone to invite new readers, though, and not to shy away from airing your own views and experiences here. ( I will have to arbitrate and edit comments, however).

Scattered amongst future musings and photo postings on the adventures of travel, I will identify these occasional journalistic reports as the "Capitol Scooper." A scooper is a handy tool to help sort and bag real facts and opinions in a town where fact and fiction have become a very fuzzy (and smelly) commodity.

Unfortunately, here in my first blog based on a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute last week, I have to disavow any implication that I am a hacker. The New York Times chose today unfortunately to allege that unknown Russian-linked hackers have singled out conservative think tanks in DC, including the Hudson Institute (named in the article), as a base for circulating mis-information. The coincidence is curious and ironic given that this is my first report on a Hudson Institute event and that I myself have been highly critical of the Institute in the past (given its significant funding from Jewish organizations and individuals). I do not lean conservative or liberal in my reporting and I know of no hackers -- I myself am quite clueless about Internet mechanics and am generally among the technical illiterate.]

Here is the first Capitol Scooper: (I choose to report on what I believe is important for global citizens to know for their own well-being, and will try to avoid inserting my own opinions or perspective without clearly identifying such views for what they are).

Capitol Scooper

Iraq: ISIS Blends In, Trouble Brewing

A panel discussion on August 17 in Washington D.C., sponsored by the Hudson Institute, aired a seeming near consensus among Middle East policy-trackers that all is not well in Iraq. That view may not be surprising in itself but (1) recent elections in Iraq (boycotted by more than half the voting-age public there), (2) relative reporting silence in the Western mainstream media, and (3) the evaporation of the brutal ISIS conflagration across Iraq and Syria, have smothered public angst among Washington's elite policymakers lately. President Trump has declared ISIS "defeated." The veneer of calm though was pierced by each of four guests invited by the Hudson Institute to discuss "Iraq: Political Parties, Protests, and Security."

The panelists included Michael Pregent, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute; Vivian Salama, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal (moderator); Bilal Wahab, the Nathan and Esther K. Wagner fellow at The Washington Institute; and Ahmad Khalid Majidyar, a fellow and the director of the IranObserved Project at the Middle East Institute.

Among the surprising concessions of the members of the panel, according to the Institute's own summary of the event, "discontent persists, and many questions remain unanswered regarding the future of democracy of the country [Iraq]. Pressure on the country’s political elite has only been made worse by mounting tensions in the region, particularly between the U.S. and Iran, as well as a resurgence of ISIS and other militant groups." A fresh United Nations report issued in mid-August warns of a grave resurgence of ISIS, one panel member noted. The report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against IS and al-Qaida said the current total IS membership estimate in Iraq and Syria came from governments it did not identify. The estimate of between 20,000 and 30,000 members includes “a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters,” the UN analysis concluded.

According to the panelists, the resurgence of militant groups, particularly a blend of reinvented ISIS operations and al-Qaeda, fed by persistent distrust between the ruling Shia government (and factions within) and its Sunni residents, is perhaps the most persistent, worrisome and self-evident chasm in Iraq today. As Iraq attempts to “write the next chapter of its history,” Wall Street Journal reporter Salama (the AP's Baghdad bureau chief from 2014 to 2016) remarked at the outset, "it’s a bumpy road."

Pregent, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, is a senior Middle East analyst, a former adjunct lecturer for the College of International Security Affairs, and a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. Pregent is a former intelligence officer with experience in the Middle East and North Africa, and has achieved other foreign political and military credentials.

Pregent affirmed the cogency of the UN’s gener