Disaster in Iraq

Disaster in Iraq

Once-stable Iraq appears to be disintegrating before our eyes.

All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has as difficult a job trying to address the ongoing disintegration of Iraq.

Last week, he sent 300 members of the U.S. military to provide advice and assistance to the beleaguered nation, a country that faces the threat of being divided into three. Rarely have so few been asked to do so much.

It's hard to imagine that the kind of resources necessary to stave off the collapse of Iraq could be gathered in time to make a difference or, if so, whether doing so makes sense.

The sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites, the desire of the Kurds to establish their own province within the country, and the ongoing military campaign led by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have created so much chaos that our policy choices are extremely limited.

Former U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus has warned that if the American military is seen aiding the corrupt and ineffectual Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is supported by the Shiites, the United States will be perceived as the enemy by the rebellious Sunnis. That the Sunnis have formed a military alliance with ISIS further complicates the situation.

Given the circumstances, the best possible result may be a loose national government that includes three geographic areas of influence — Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. That, of course, excludes ISIS, and it intends to be included.

So if there's another solution to the mess of Iraq and the greater Middle East (including Egypt, Syria and Lebanon), it's pretty well hidden.

Naturally, the finger-pointing already has begun. Democrats blame Republicans, and Republicans blame Democrats. They both have a point.

Given the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq, it's clear that this country's reason for invading and toppling Saddam Hussein was based on a false premise.

At the same time, it's pretty clear that whatever President George W. Bush did wrong in Iraq, he was correct to order the surge that stabilized the country and rid the people there of the al-Qaida threat. Unfortunately, President Obama's precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces combined with Prime Minister al-Maliki's shameless pro-Shiite, anti-Sunni governance paved the way for the ongoing revolt.

What's next? A good solution is a long shot. Perhaps the best that can be expected is an arrangement that would draw the Sunnis and Shiites together against ISIS. But that would require showing al-Maliki the door, and ushering in a new government might also involve ushering in more U.S. involvement in a borderline hopeless situation.

No one should envy President Obama's predicament. He tried to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan by unilaterally declaring the end of both wars. The opposition, however, has declined to retire to the sidelines, and the result is a geopolitical mess of still-incalculable proportions.

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Politicalchemy wrote on June 25, 2014 at 10:06 am

The statement that began "Unfortunately, President Obama's precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces..." prompted this reply but I would also like to refer readers to an extremely thoughtful recent analysis by George Friedman of Stratfor Global Intelligence. Its summary reads, "The United States is left with a single viable strategy: to accept what exists -- a tripartite Iraq -- and allow internal hostilities to focus the factions on each other rather than on the United States. In other words, allow an internal balance of power to emerge."

Returning to the statement about President Obama's "precipitous withdrawal", I remind you that the President was honoring the terms of the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement authorized by George W. Bush in November 2008. It specified that all U.S. forces would withdraw from Iraq no later than December 31, 2011.