By Mick Krever, CNN
On the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech outlining the American strategy against ISIS, and after the formation of a new government that was like a “caesarean operation,” Iraq’s new deputy Prime Minister said that ISIS in Iraq could be defeated.
“I think they are on the run, on the defensive. And with the increased international support coming … I think they would be defeated, at least here in Iraq. We have every confidence,” Hoshyar Zebari, who was long the Iraqi foreign minister, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
Zebari hailed the formation of a new government – a “big, big challenge” – but some are skeptical whether the leadership is renewed or simply reshuffled.
“We all agree that this government has to be different from the previous government – in its leadership, in its faces, in its composition, and its representation.”
But Nuri al-Maliki – who was just forced to resign as prime minister for his divisive policies and whom many blame at least in part for the rise of ISIS – is back as one of the country’s three vice presidents.
And the prime minister himself, Haider al-Abadi, though relatively unknown, is like al-Maliki a Shiite and hails from the Dawa party.
“Why,” Amanpour asked, “should anybody have any confidence with the same old faces?”
“Yes, well, we’ve changed places, as you know,” Zebari said. “The idea was to bring older Iraqi key leaders and faces together to give weight to this new government, to the new prime minster, Dr. Haider Abadi, and to work together.”
“Everybody is happy that we made it and defied all the critics. And now we have the tools to fight ISIS, jointly and collectively, and we have a common enemy now in order to work together and hold, bring the country together in this fight.”
“Ironically,” he said, ISIS came to tear Iraq apart but has instead united it; with a new enemy, ISIS, the government has focus.
“The main fight has to be done by us, by the Iraqis. This is our fight. But as you know, this fight has regional, international dimensions.”
While ISIS controls territory only in Iraq and Syria, the international community must help stem money and recruits flowing into the battle.
“And I think the key issue would be to rely on local Iraqis in those areas where ISIS is in control, specifically in Sunni areas … for them really to push ISIS away from the neighborhood, away from cities.”
President Obama has long been wary of becoming entangled in the war in Syria, but many security analysts and diplomats say that it will be impossible to defeat ISIS without addressing ISIS’s Syria stronghold.
“They have some of their main assets and command and control and leadership inside Syria, so I would not discount if they would be targeted too.”
“Airstrikes have been very, very effective. They have disoriented them. They have led to lack of command and control among themselves. They cannot mass large troops. They are nervous when they feel that there is a plane overlooking them in the Syria.”
“All these added to their demoralizations. So I personally would not discount some attacks or some measures inside Syria at the same time.”