The Iraqi Army’s (now former) Chief of Staff, General Babaker Zebari, retired yesterday. Or, rather, he “was retired,” which is the phrasing that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s spokesman somewhat hilariously used when talking to AFP. I guess in Iraq you can’t even give a guy the dignity of pretending to have quit of his own accord. Anyway, Zebari appears to have been forced out after almost 12 years on the job, for the frankly petty reason that the army he’s been commanding has utterly failed to do its job at pretty much any time over the past year plus. Eh, details.
The Iraqi Army is by many accounts a horror show, though unfortunately that often gets blamed on individual Iraqi soldiers instead of its officer corps. Iraqi soldiers are undertrained, underequipped, and led by men who are more interested in selling commissions and collecting kickbacks and in inventing “ghost soldiers” in order to collect their paychecks than in fighting or preparing to fight. Much has been made, here included, of the sectarian dimension in the collapse of the Iraqi Army, in the lack of a sense of national unity that would drive Shiʿa soldiers to fight to defend Sunni areas, and Sunni civilians to trust those Shiʿa soldiers, but the far less abstract reason why Iraq’s army isn’t ready for prime time is that it’s been led for many years by a bunch of petty crooks who treat it more like a pyramid scheme than a fighting force. If Zebari’s ouster helps fix that problem, great.