Advertisement

How Mosul fell: the role of coup-proofing in the 2014 partial collapse of the Iraqi security forces

  • Quint HoekstraEmail author
Original Article
  • 11 Downloads

Abstract

The Islamic State’s capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul in June 2014 was a seismic event. How can this be explained? This article answers this question by turning to the literature on anti-coup d’état measures and its side effects. It argues that, to prevent a military coup, Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki engaged in extensive ‘coup-proofing’ methods such as purging rivals, ethnic staking, creating a parallel security force, and increasing intra-government surveillance. These measures were highly effective in preventing a possible military putsch but did greatly reduce the Iraqi troops’ capacity and willingness to fight. Ethnic stacking in particular resulted in mass troop desertions when the Islamic State advanced in 2014. In advancing this argument, this article not only helps us better understand the dramatic fall of Mosul, but may also assist states to strengthen other international assistance programmes for governments fighting domestic insurgencies.

Keywords

Iraq Coup-proofing Nouri al-Maliki Counterinsurgency Islamic State 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Reinoud Leenders, Martin Coward, and one anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this article, which first started as the author’s MA thesis submitted to the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.

Funding

The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, or publication of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declare that there is no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Abbas, Y., and D. Trombly. 2014. Inside the Collapse of the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Division. War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2014/07/inside-the-collapse-of-the-iraqi-armys-2nd-division/. Accessed 7 Feb 2019.
  2. Abdulrazaq, T., and G. Stansfield. 2016. The Enemy Within: ISIS and the Conquest of Mosul. The Middle East Journal 70(4): 525–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adnan, S., and A. Reese. 2014. Beyond the Islamic State: Iraq’s Sunni Insurgency. Washington: Institute for the Study of War.Google Scholar
  4. Al-Ali, Z. 2014. How Maliki Ruined Iraq: Foreign Policy. http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/06/19/how-maliki-ruined-iraq/. Accessed 5 Feb 2019.
  5. Albrecht, H. 2015a. Does Coup-Proofing Work? Political-Military Relations in Authoritarian Regimes amid the Arab Uprisings. Mediterranean Politics 20(1): 36–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Albrecht, H. 2015b. The Myth of Coup-Proofing: Risk and Instances of Military Coups D’état in the Middle East and North Africa, 1950–2013. Armed Forces & Society 41(4): 659–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Albrecht, H., and F. Eibl. 2018. How to Keep Officers in the Barracks: Causes, Agents, and Types of Military Coups. International Studies Quarterly 62(2): 315–328.Google Scholar
  8. Bausch, A.W. 2018. Coup-Proofing and Military Inefficiencies: An Experiment. International Interactions 44(1): 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. BBC. 2006. Iraqi Government May Face “Coup” as US Patience Wearing Thin—Editorial. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 27 October.Google Scholar
  10. BBC. 2007. Iraqi PM Views Security Conditions, Militias, US Attitude, Iran. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 15 April.Google Scholar
  11. BBC. 2010. Iraqi Commander Says Ba’thist Coup Attempt Foiled in November. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 11 December.Google Scholar
  12. BBC. 2011. “Hundreds” of Iraqi Ba’thists, Former Officers Said Arrested for Planning Coup. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 29 October.Google Scholar
  13. BBC. 2013a. Iraqi Premier “Cancelled” Army Parade over Coup FearsSenior Officers. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 11 January.Google Scholar
  14. BBC. 2013b. Iraqi Premier Reportedly uses Shi’i Force for Protection From Assassination. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 28 February.Google Scholar
  15. Belkin, A., and E. Schofer. 2003. Toward a Structural Understanding of Coup Risk. Journal of Conflict Resolution 47(5): 594–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Belkin, A., and E. Schofer. 2005. Coup Risk, Counterbalancing, and International Conflict. Security Studies 14(1): 140–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bell, C., and J.K. Sudduth. 2017. The Causes and Outcomes of Coup during Civil War. Journal of Conflict Resolution 61(7): 1432–1455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Biddle, S., J.A. Friedman, and J.N. Shapiro. 2012. Testing the Surge: Why Did Violence Decline in Iraq in 2007? International Security 37(1): 7–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Biddle, S., and S. Long. 2004. Democracy and Military Effectiveness: A Deeper Look. Journal of Conflict Resolution 48(4): 535–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Biddle, S., and R. Zirkle. 1996. Technology, Civil-Military Relations, and Warfare in the Developing World. Journal of Strategic Studies 19(2): 171–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Böhmelt, T., A. Escribà-Folch, and U. Pilster. 2019. Pitfalls of Professionalism? Military Academies and Coup Risk. Journal of Conflict Resolution 63(5): 1111–1139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Bohmelt, T., and U. Pilster. 2015. The Impact of Institutional Coup-Proofing on Coup Attempts and Coup Outcomes. International Interactions 41(1): 158–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Boutton, A. 2019. Coup-Proofing in the Shadow of Intervention: Alliances, Moral Hazard, and Violence in Authoritarian Regimes. International Studies Quarterly 63(1): 43–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Brennan, R.R., C.P. Ries, L. Hanauer, B. Connable, T.K. Kelly, M.J. McNerney, S. Young, J. Campbell, and K.S. McMahon. 2014. Ending the US War in Iraq: The Final Transition, Operational Maneuver, and Disestablishment of United States Forces-Iraq. Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  25. Brown, C.S., C.J. Fariss, and R.B. McMahon. 2016. Recouping after Coup-Proofing: Compromised Military Effectiveness and Strategic Substitution. International Interactions 42(1): 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Byman, D. 2006. Friends Like These: Counterinsurgency and the War on Terrorism. International Security 31(2): 79–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Byman, D., and J. Lind. 2010. Pyongyang’s Survival Strategy. International Security 35(1): 44–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Cockburn, P. 2015. The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  29. Cordesman, A.H., and S. Khazai. 2014. Iraq in Crisis. Center for Strategic & International Studies. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  30. De Bruin, E. 2014. Coup-Proofing for Dummies: The Benefits of Following the Maliki Playbook. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iraq/2014-07-27/coup-proofing-dummies. Accessed 14 Feb 2019.
  31. De Bruin, E. 2018. Preventing Coups D’état: How Counterbalancing Works. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(7): 1433–1458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Dodge, T. 2012a. Iraq’s Road Back to Dictatorship. Survival 54(3): 147–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Dodge, T. 2012b. Iraq: From War to A New Authoritarianism. London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies.Google Scholar
  34. Dodge, T. 2013. State and Society in Iraq Ten Years after Regime Change: The Rise of a New Authoritarianism. International Affairs 89(2): 241–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Dodge, T. 2014. Can Iraq Be Saved? Survival 56(5): 7–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Farwell, J.P. 2014. The Media Strategy of ISIS. Survival 56(6): 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fearon, J.D. 2007. Iraq’s Civil War. Foreign Affairs 86(2): 2–15.Google Scholar
  38. Feaver, P.D. 1999. Civil-Military Relations. Annual Review of Political Science 2: 211–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gaub, F. 2013. The Libyan Armed Forces between Coup-proofing and Repression. Journal of Strategic Studies 36(2): 221–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hashim, A.S. 2012. The Egyptian Military, Part Two: From Mubarak Onward. Middle East Policy 28(4): 106–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Human Rights Watch. 2013. Iraq: Abusive Commander Linked to Mosul Killings. https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/06/11/iraq-abusive-commander-linked-mosul-killings. Accessed 7 Feb 2019.
  42. Huntington, S.P. 1957. The Soldier and the State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  43. International Crisis Group. 2010. Loose Ends: Iraq’s Security Forces Between U.S. Drawdown and Withdrawal. Middle East Report No. 99. Brussels: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  44. International Crisis Group. 2011. Failing Oversight: Iraq’s Unchecked Government. Middle East Report No. 113. Brussels: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  45. International Crisis Group. 2014a. Iraq: Falluja’s Faustian Bargain. Middle East Report No. 150. Brussels: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  46. International Crisis Group. 2014b. Iraq’s Jihadi Jack-in-the-Box. Middle East Briefing No. 38. Brussels: International Crisis Group.Google Scholar
  47. Iraq Body Count. 2019. Number of indidents from 2003 to 2019 by month. London. https://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/. Accessed 15 Sept 2019.
  48. Isakhan, B. 2015. The De-Baathification of Post-2003 Iraq: Purging the Past for Political Power. In The Legacy of Iraq: From the 2003 War to the ‘Islamic State’, ed. B. Isakhan, 21–35. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Janowitz, M. 1971. The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  50. Katzman, K. 2015. Iraq: Politics, Security, and U.S. Policy. Washington: Congressional Research Service.Google Scholar
  51. Khedery, A. 2014. Why We Stuck With MalikiAnd Lost Iraq. Washington: The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-we-stuck-with-maliki–and-lost-iraq/2014/07/03/0dd6a8a4-f7ec-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html?utm_term=.27c54be91d12. Accessed 5 Feb 2019.
  52. Krieg, A. 2017. Socio-Political Order and Security in the Arab World: From Regime Security to Public Security. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Louër, L. 2013. Sectarianism and Coup-Proofing Strategies in Bahrain. Journal of Strategic Studies 36(2): 245–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Luttwak, E. 1969. Coup D’Etat: A Practical Handbook. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  55. Mabon, S. 2012. Kingdom in Crisis? The Arab Spring and Instability in Saudi Arabia. Contemporary Security Policy 33(3): 530–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Makara, M. 2013. Coup-Proofing, Military Defection, and the Arab Spring. Democracy and Security 9(4): 334–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Marr, P. 2011. The Modern History of Iraq. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  58. McCants, W. 2016. The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  59. McClatchy. 2010. WikiLeaks: Maliki Filled Iraqi Security Services With Shiites. Washington. https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/special-reports/article24602926.html. Accessed 13 Feb 2019.
  60. McGurk, B. 2014a. House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing: Terrorist March in Iraq: The U.S. Response, 23 July. Washington: U.S. Congress.Google Scholar
  61. McGurk, B. 2014b. Testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing: Iraq, 5 February. Washington: U.S. Congress.Google Scholar
  62. Narang, V., and C. Talmadge. 2018. Civil-military Pathologies and Defeat in War: Tests Using New Data. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(7): 1379–1405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Nassif, H.B. 2015. Generals and Autocrats: How Coup-Proofing Predetermined the Military Elite’s Behaviour in the Arab Spring. Political Science Quarterly 130(2): 245–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Nepstad, S.E. 2013. Mutiny and Nonviolence in the Arab Spring: Exploring Military Defections and Loyalty in Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria. Journal of Peace Research 50(3): 337–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. 2013. Learning from Iraq: A Final Report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Google Scholar
  66. Ohl, D.S. 2016. The Soldier’s Dilemma: Military Responses to Uprisings in Jordan, Iraq, Bahrain, and Syria. PhD: The George Washington University, Washington.Google Scholar
  67. Parker, N. 2012. The Iraq We Left Behind: Welcome to the World’s Next Failed State. Foreign Affairs 91(2): 94–110.Google Scholar
  68. Pilster, U., and T. Böhmelt. 2011. Coup-Proofing and Military Effectiveness in Interstate Wars, 1967–99. Conflict Management and Peace Science 28(4): 331–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Pilster, U., and T. Bohmelt. 2012. Do Democracies Engage Less in Coup-Proofing? On the Relationship between Regime Type and Civil-Military Relations. Foreign Policy Analysis 8(4): 355–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Powell, J. 2012. Determinants of the Attempting and Outcome of Coups D’état. Journal of Conflict Resolution 56(6): 1017–1040.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Powell, J. 2019. Leader Survival Strategies and the Onset of Civil Conflict: A Coup-Proofing Paradox. Armed Forces & Society 45(1): 27–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Powell, J.M., and C.L. Thyne. 2011. Global Instances of Coups From 1950 to 2010: A New Dataset. Journal of Peace Research 48(2): 249–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Quinlivan, J.T. 1999. Coup-Proofing: Its Practice and Consequences in the Middle East. International Security 24(2): 131–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Rayburn, J.D. 2012. Rise of the Maliki Regime. The Journal of International Security Affairs 22(2): 45–54.Google Scholar
  75. Rayburn, J.D. 2014. Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press.Google Scholar
  76. Reuters. 2012. Erdogan Warns Iraqi PM Against Stirring Sectarian, Ethnic Tensions. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-iraq/erdogan-warns-iraqi-pm-against-stirring-sectarian-ethnic-tensions-idUSBRE83I1M820120419. Accessed 6 Feb 2019.
  77. Reuters. 2014a. Iraq Says It Found 50,000 ‘Ghost Soldiers’ On Payroll. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-soldiers/iraq-says-it-found-50000-ghost-soldiers-on-payroll-idUSKCN0JF2RZ20141201. Accessed 5 Feb 2019.
  78. Reuters. 2014b. Special Report: How Mosul FellAn Iraqi General Disputes Baghdad’s Story. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-gharawi-special-report-idUSKCN0I30Z820141014. Accessed 19 Feb 2019.
  79. Reuters. 2015. Iraqi Panel Finds Maliki, Others Responsible for Fall of Mosul. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-mosul-idUSKCN0QL0F420150816. Accessed 15 Feb 2019.
  80. Ricks, T.E. 2010. The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the American Surge in Iraq. New York: Penguin Group.Google Scholar
  81. Roessler, P. 2011. The Enemy Within: Personal Rule, Coups, and Civil War in Africa. World Politics 63(2): 300–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Romano, D. 2014. Iraq’s Descent into Civil War: A Constitutional Explanation. Middle East Journal 68(4): 547–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Rwengabo, S. 2012. Regime Stability in Post-1986 Uganda: Counting the Benefits of Coup-Proofing. Armed Forces & Society 39(3): 531–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Salmoni, B.A. 2011. Responsible Partnership: The Iraqi National Security Sector After 2011. Washington: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.Google Scholar
  85. Stern, J., and J.M. Berger. 2015. ISIS: The State of Terror. London: William Collins.Google Scholar
  86. Sudduth, J.K. 2016. Coup-Proofing and Civil War. In Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Politics, ed. W.R. Thompson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Sudduth, J.K. 2017. Coup Risk, Coup-Proofing and Leader Survival. Journal of Peace Research 54(1): 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Sullivan, M. 2013. Maliki’s Authoritarian Regime. Middle East Security Report 10. Washington: Institute for the Study of War.Google Scholar
  89. Svolik, M.W. 2012. The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Talmadge, C. 2015. The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Talmadge, C. 2016. Different Threats, Different Militaries: Explaining Organizational Practices in Authoritarian Armies. Security Studies 25(1): 111–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. The Global Coalition. 2019. Partners. http://theglobalcoalition.org/en/partners/. Accessed 19 Feb 2019.
  93. The Independent. 2016. Isis in Iraq: The Fall of Mosul to the Jihadists Was Less of a Surprise to Baghdad Than Many Were Led to Believe. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-iraq-the-fall-of-mosul-to-the-jihadists-was-less-of-a-surprise-to-baghdad-than-many-were-led-a6895896.html. Accessed 18 Feb 2019.
  94. The New York Times. 2008. Ex-Premier Is Expelled From Governing Party in Iraq, 8 June, p. A16.Google Scholar
  95. The New York Times. 2010. U.S.-Allied Sunnis Quitting in Iraq to Rejoin Rebels, 17 October, p. A1.Google Scholar
  96. The New York Times. 2011a. Arrest Warrant for Sunni Leader Spurs Iraq Crisis, 20 December.Google Scholar
  97. The New York Times. 2011b. Iraq Arrests More in Wake of Tip About Coup, 1 November, p. A11.Google Scholar
  98. The New York Times. 2012. Tensions Rise In Baghdad With Raid On Official, 21 December, p. A16.Google Scholar
  99. The New York Times. 2013a. Baath Leader in Iraq Urges Sunnis To Protest Until Maliki Is Ousted, 6 January, p. A10.Google Scholar
  100. The New York Times. 2013b. Brazen Attacks at Prisons Raise Worries of Al Qaeda’s Strength in Iraq, 24 July, p. A4.Google Scholar
  101. The New York Times. 2013c. Deadly Turn in Protests Against Iraqi Leadership, 26 January, p. A7.Google Scholar
  102. The New York Times. 2013d. Iraqi Premier Urges Talks To Calm Sectarian Conflict, 26 April, p. A7.Google Scholar
  103. The New York Times. 2013e. Senators Warn Obama Before Iraq Leader’s Visit: Say Premier Contributes to Rise in Violence, 30 October, p. A8.Google Scholar
  104. The New York Times. 2014a. Choosing Rebels Over Army, Iraqis Head Home, 13 June, p. A1.Google Scholar
  105. The New York Times. 2014b. Exhausted and Bereft, Iraqi Soldiers Quit Fight, 11 June, p. A1.Google Scholar
  106. The New York Times. 2014c. Iraq Rebels Stall North of Baghdad as Residents Brace for a Siege, 15 June, p. A12.Google Scholar
  107. The New York Times. 2014d. Iraq Shiite Cleric Urges Followers to Fight Militants, 14 June, p. A1.Google Scholar
  108. The New York Times. 2014e. Iraqi Cabinet Approved, But Lawmakers Leave Door Open to Disputes, 9 September, p. A10.Google Scholar
  109. The New York Times. 2014f. Premier of Iraq Accedes to Calls to Give up Power, 15 August, p. A1.Google Scholar
  110. The New York Times. 2014g. Qaeda-Aligned Militants Threaten Key Iraqi Cities, 3 January, p. A1.Google Scholar
  111. The New York Times. 2014h. Qaeda-Linked Militants in Iraq Secure Nearly Full Control of Falluja, 5 January, p. A8.Google Scholar
  112. The Times. 2014. Citizens Flee After Islamist Rebels Take Iraq’s Second City, 11 June, p. 28.Google Scholar
  113. Time. 2014. Iraq’s Second Largest City Falls to Extremists. http://time.com/2852097/iraq-mosul-extremists/. Accessed 19 Feb 2019.
  114. Tollast, R. 2012. Maliki’s Private Army. The National Interest. https://nationalinterest.org/commentary/malikis-private-army-7915. Accessed 15 Feb 2019.
  115. Transparency International. 2014. Corruption Perception Index 2014: Results. https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results. Accessed 5 Feb 2019.
  116. Tripp, C. 2007. A History of Iraq. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  117. Wehrey, F., J.D. Green, B. Nichiporuk, A. Nader, L. Hansell, R. Nafisi, and S.R. Bohandy. 2009. The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.Google Scholar
  118. Witty, D. 2015. The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service. Washington: The Brookings Institution.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations