The United States has reported that it recently eliminated the #2 of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL – also known as ISIS, IS, or Daesh), Fadhil Ahmed al-Hayali. Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, was the senior deputy to ISIL leader Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi.
Similar to many of the high-level officials in ISIL, Hayali was a senior Ba’athist official in the regime of Saddam Hussein. After losing his post as lieutenant colonel during the American invasion, Hayali joined Al Qaeda in Iraq and its successor organization ISIL.
Hayali was responsible for overseeing and coordinating the movement of weapons, explosives, vehicles, people, and other resources across the border between Syria and Iraq. As such, many observers believe that his death will significantly undermine ISIL’s operations, logistical capability, and organizational structure.
In a statement on August 21, U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price said, “Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics.”
A Regional and Political Solution
While Hayali’s death is an important milestone in the military fight against ISIL, the only way to fully defeat and degrade the group in Iraq is through addressing the conditions that led to its rise: flawed, exclusionary political systems and malign intervention into Iraq’s affairs by foreign parties.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Joshua Walker, a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and a former Senior Adviser to the U.S. State Department states, “The issue here is to have a regional solution” and “The question is whether [the air campaign] will be able to bring in new coalition partners who will be able to defeat [ISIL] on the ground.”
However, Walker notes the difficulty of forming a regional solution in the midst of so many distinct actors who have differing priorities. Instead of supporting a lasting peace for the people of Iraq, outside parties are taking advantage of the situation for their own benefit and obstructing a genuine solution.
Following the first Iraqi elections, under the influence of Tehran, the central government in Baghdad marginalized the Sunnis from the country’s institutions and national life. One of the principal reasons for the strength of the anti-Sunni policies, both before and after the ISIL invasion of Anbar, is the strong influence that Iran maintains over the Baghdad government’s key officials and other senior leaders in Iraq’s east and southern provinces.
Policies toward ISIL must address this enduring legacy. Reform of Iraq’s political system and placing constraints on malign interference in Iraq’s national affairs are integral to ending the ongoing violence. Until there is progress on these fronts, groups such as ISIL will continue to survive, attract support, and spread throughout the region.