Regardless of the rhetoric animating the relaxed posture of team Obama, we are at war again in Iraq for the third time in 25 years. Maybe this time, he’ll finish the job!
Least we forget, he was handed a ‘win’ on a war he characterized as ‘lost’.
Will he execute, fight it vigorously enough to defeat the jihadists who threaten both human rights, the region and American interests?
The sad part is this: we can’t tell.
That’s the larger political storyline missing from the emerging chaos inside Iraq.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is refusing to accept the political decision from Iraq’s newly elected Prime Minister, one elected from al-Maliki’s own Dawa Party, that he be replaced by Haider Al Abadi.
How will this play out? Its possible that the Iraqi Army will split into warring factions. The best Al Abadi can do is to guarantee immunity and protection for Maliki. Regardless of how Iraq transitions politically, it is NOT the nations main challenge. Defeating an emering Sunni Caliphate is. The Islamic State in Iraq & al-Sham now controls western Iraq and regional border with Syria & Jordan. It holds territory and the Iraqi Central Bank!! Something Lenin could only dream of.
Although the U.S. has bombed to stop ISIS, its advance against Kurdish territory north of Bagdad must be stopped. Both the White House & the Pentagon have badly misjudged the strength and political ambitions of ISIS, only ‘boots on the ground’ can stop it.
The twin oil producing cities inside Kurdish territory, Kirkuk and Erbil and now besieged. Obama’s ‘JV Team’ is winning on the ground. A bad mischaracterization has now morphed into a regional foreign policy crisis. American progressives can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that this JV team is a ruthless jihadi army on the move.
Our major interest and strategic priority should be engaging and defeating ISIS so that it cannot establish a Caliphate in Bagdad. If we fail here, we should expect the entire Iraqi state to become a mecca for global jihadi’s who will train and export terror.
A strategy of contaiment is insufficient.
Just as Clauswitz taught that war is politics by other means, US strategy to defeat ISIS will also make it easier to solve Iraqi political disputes. Sunni sheiks in western Iraq don’t trust nor cooperate with an emering Shia in Baghdad. If they anticipate a continuation of non-accommodation, Iraq will splinter into regional groups. Just ask the Kurds.
Can team Obama learn what C.O.I.N. teaches? Namely that any enduring political solution must be preceeded by a definitive military defeat.
Team USA has no regional influence given how we’ve treated the Iraqi ‘problem’ under team Obama. Since the withdrawl of troops in 2012, we’ve reduceed our capacity and institutional posture rendering us impotent. The WSJ reported that we pledged to rebuild the military airfield at Baldad but failed to do so. We’ve delivered only one F-16, its in Arizona for Iraqi training!! A third of Iraqi 150 M1 tanks aren’t in local service because U.S. contractors aren’t present in Iraq.
The more we’ve neglected our regional influence, the more the Iraqi’s turned to Russia, China and IRAN.
We’ve refused to arm the Kurds. We’re inundated with the ideological prerequisite that Iraq discover and field political solutions first.
The result: an emerging ISIS on the ground with assets and an IMPOTENT US.
None of this is lost in Tehran.
A policy of rollback would include the following: immediate bombing of regional ISIS outposts, arming Kurdish leadership with US forward moving air power moving south, maintaining a defensive wall around Kurdish territory, New US political commitments to gain and field a confident Iraqi military. Then assist the Iraqi’s in retaking lost territory. Invite regional players like Turkey and smaller Sunni neighbors to assist.
The political and strategic myopia that procured this regional mess must be uncovered. A blunder of US withdrawal invites defeat.