Yesterday saw the latest version of what has become an annual traditional since 2004—a game of Iraq Risk, our game of intrigue and political conflict in post-2003 Iraq, pitting Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish political actors and militias against each other in a battle for territory, resources, and to shape the new Iraqi constitution. Once again, the conflict was sustained by a delivery of delicious pizza from Angela Pizzeria.
It started, of course, with bloody-thirsty threats by the jihadists. In the video below their leader Merouan “al-Mughrabi” can be seen reviewing his troops and threatening death to America. His deputy, the elusive Tommy “al-Kirklandi,” was likely off plotting something with or against someone. In last game we played (when the two led rival Kurdish groups) the competition between them had been intense. Could they cooperate this time playing as the jihadists and bring all Iraq under the sway of a new Sunni Caliphate?
As usual, the prime ministership started off in the hands of the Shiite mainstream. However, at the end of the first turn they lost a vote of non-confidence, and Sean and Hillary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan nominated “Shillary” for the position. With the support of the Sadrists, jihadists, Kurdish Democratic Party, and half the Sunni moderates (who spilt on the issue) their bid was successful.
Almost immediately, however, the new government faced demands from the jihadists that it call for a withdrawal of US troops. The Shiite mainstream warned loudly of the treachery of the jihadists, while the new prime minister resisted their demands.
This led to a punitive jihadist campaign against the KUP, successfully overrunning Diyala province. The Sunni moderates also decided to flex their limited military muscles, and were surprisingly effective, probably due to good dice-rolling by their former Ba’thist military officers.
The Sunni advance was only halted by the Iraqi security forces, in their first sustained combat operations since the overthrow of Saddam. The Sunni moderates also made the mistake of looking far too pleased with themselves when several constitutional votes went their way, earning the suspicion and enmity of several other teams.
In other constitutional maneuvering, the KDP used their connections with Ahmed Chalabi (alliance card) to bribe large numbers of deputies to support the Kurdish position on a key vote.
Shortly thereafter, the US and Israel (via random event card) bombed Iran’s nuclear reactor, leading Tehran to place a bounty on US troops in Iraq. The Sadrists took up the challenge.
Despite the arrival of General Petreaus (extolling the virtues of population-centric counterinsurgency doctrine and clutching a copy of Field Manual FM 3-24 , in another random event card), the Sadrist attacks were surprisingly effective. They also began a build-up in and around Karbala and Najaf, hoping to assert control there.
With the Shiite mainstream/ISCI still controlling more population and resources than anyone else, a build up of their forces in the south provoked alarm. The PUK, after having diverted European Union aid monies into their own war chest, launched a major offensive that reached deep into Shiite areas of the south.
These areas, the Kurds, proclaimed, were “historically Kurdish regions.”
ISCI was unconvinced, and unleashed its Badr Brigade in a massive Shiite counterattack. This not only reclaimed the south, but pushed deep into PUK-held areas of Kurdistan.
ISCI also south to wrest control of the city of Karbala from the Sadrists. It was touch-and-go for a minute, but inspired by their leader the Sadrists held their ground. They also used parliamentary maneuvers to postpone a scheduled vote on oil-sharing arrangements which was not likely to go their way.
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And thus, after six hours, the game ended. When the victory points were totalled the KDP had won. Both ISCI and the Sadrists were only a few points behind, however, and could have won if things had gone differently on the final turn. The Jihadists and Sunni moderates had also done well.
Only the PUK—ironically, despite leading the government—was out of conention. However, it had been their offensive against ISCI which had allowed the KDP to claim victory (and had prevented the Sadrists from being overrun).