Rebels have unifying force of loyalty that the army lacks
The disintegration of the Iraqi army in the face of the ISIS advance should not have taken us by surprise.
If we are to understand events in Iraq, we need to look at the Arab culture, of which we show repeated ignorance.
"[The challenge] is not about equipment or about training, it's all about loyalty", I was told in 2007 by a police general who had just survived his third assassination attempt.
Iraq is the creation of lines on a map imposed by the French and British after World War I. The challenge ever since has been to bring together the varied interests and loyalties of a people divided by religion, ethnicity and locality.
In the hierarchy of internal loyalties, the weakest loyalty is to institutions. The Iraqi army lacks the historical and cultural foundations that create selfless loyalty and sustain fighting spirit.
The ISIS forces that routed Mosul are imbued with a unifying loyalty.
This weak moral component was throughout the Achilles' heel of the mission to rebuild Iraq's army.
The culture of Iraq has not always been fertile ground for extremism. In 2007, the civil war was ended by the majority of Sunnis rejecting al-Qa'ida and siding with the Shia-run Iraqi state. Together they threw al-Qa'ida out of Anbar province.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's rule has been characterised by paranoia and sectarianism, alienating both the Sunnis and the Kurds.
It is unlikely the Sunni majority in Anbar can be persuaded to reject ISIS/al-Qa'ida again.
The future success of ISIS is not assured, especially if it continues to push on to Baghdad, entering Shia territory.
If ISIS tries to invade Kurdish lands it will come up against the Peshmerga who have all the loyalty and experience the Iraqi army lacks. And if the Iraqi Shia state is really threatened, then Iranian assistance might be expected.
This incursion has a long way to run, with ISIS victory far from assured. (© Daily Telegraph, London)