FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Mission Accomplished for Obama in Iraq
One of the areas of consistency in the Obama regime has been its utter hostility to broadening American power. This has taken the form of what can easily be called a conscious weakening of our economic situation and in the feckless nature of his foreign policy that has terrified our friends and allies while giving our enemies a good laugh at our expense. This has never been more apparent than our criminally negligent actions in Iraq.
To review the bidding, after the surge of 2006 the David Petraeus created a working coalition of Shia and Sunni power centers who saw a future in a strong and unified Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq was largely decimated by the Anbar Uprising and rendered impotent. Moqtada al Sadr and his Iran-centric organization were likewise marginalized. In short, Barack Obama was handed a victory that only needed to be proclaimed.
If Obama proceeded to a victory he had a problem. First, he would have to eat crow for all his moronic pronouncements before he was elected president. This guy doesn’t do humility all that well and he certainly wasn’t going to create a situation of having proved himself wrong and George Bush right. Second, he’d promised a pull out date during the election. It became very clear, early in the life of the regime, that this pull out date would be honored. Third, if he’d set about to deliberately sabotage the security negotiations with the Iraq government he would have selected a egomaniac like Brett McGurk.
Today Frederick and Kimberly Kagan detail in National Review how Obama has managed to throw the game in Iraq.
This failure may have resulted from a lack of desire on the part of the Obama administration to keep sufficient troops in Iraq, from its inability to make a deal, from its unreasonable demands, from Iraqi intransigence, or from all of the above. From a strategic and national-security standpoint, the only thing that matters is that by failing to secure a new agreement, the U.S. failed profoundly to secure its hard-won gains. Even more important, it failed to secure its interests.
It is most important of all to recognize the price of that failure. Iraq has become a major strategic vulnerability for the United States. It is an outlet for Iranian goods skirting sanctions. It is a launching pad for Iranian-backed terrorist groups looking for “plausible deniability.” It is a critical line of communication between Tehran and its once-solid proxy in Damascus. It is again becoming a safe haven for one of the most lethal and determined al-Qaeda franchises in the world. That franchise, in fact, is now projecting terrorist operations into Syria in a way it was never before able to do. And Iraq is in danger once again of becoming a failed state.
There are no easy solutions to these problems at this point. We cannot go back in time and undo any of the mistakes that the current president or his predecessor made. We cannot return the situation to what it was on January 20, 2009, or December 15, 2011, and start over from there. We are not going to redeploy American military forces into Iraq. We must recognize the situation as it is and develop a new strategy for achieving vital American goals despite the challenges.
In particular, it is essential for the U.S. to prevent al-Qaeda in Iraq from establishing a firm base from which to conduct and support terrorist activities throughout the region. It is equally important to prevent Iran from using Iraq as a staging area from which its militias can attack American interests and those of our regional allies. It is impossible to develop a strategy to contain Iran if Iraq is committed to a policy of supporting Tehran. And Iraq bestrides the Sunni–Shiite sectarian fault line in the Middle East that the civil war in Syria is inflaming once again. Maliki’s Iraq today drives increasing sectarianism within its borders and beyond them.
It is far from clear how to develop a new strategy to meet these challenges, but any attempt must begin with the recognition of the realities in Iraq and the region as they are, rather than as we wish them to be.
As a result, we’ve abandoned Iraq. We have no influence over them in foreign or domestic affairs. Al Qaeda is resurgent. Iran is gaining influence. Civil war looms as the Sunni and Kurds are seeing their hard won security guarantees abandoned. Barack Obama has assured that the sacrifice our troops made there was in vain.