Blowback. That was the term the left, Ron Paul fans, and conspiracy theorists (to the extent these are different groups) used to explain 9-11. The idea that the attack on the Twin Towers as a direct result of US actions.
While this is pretty much a fantasy in the case of 9-11, we are seeing a textbook case of blowback underway in Iraq.
Since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, the al-Qaeda affiliate they spent years battling to vanquish has expanded its reach to the extent that it now controls what amounts to a state of its own across vast areas of Syria and Iraq.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) effectively governs a nation-size tract of territory that stretches from the eastern edge of the Syrian city of Aleppo to Fallujah in western Iraq – and now also includes the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
The fall of Mosul to the extremists on Tuesday, after the apparent collapse of Iraqi security forces there, offers only the latest example of the extraordinary resurgence of the militant organization in the past 2½ years, aided to a large extent by the vacuum of authority in neighboring Syria.
Barack Obama took office hostile to US accomplishments there during the surge and had a vested interest in ensuring that an expedited withdrawal from Iraq took precedence over a secure and stable Iraq. He bungled the negotiation of a Status of Forces Agreement by giving that task to a man more interested in getting his pipes cleaned by any willing female than in doing his job. Add to this the open disdain Obama had shown for Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, our precipitous withdrawal from Iraq was guaranteed, the blood, sweat, and treasure we expended there tossed away and what could have been a signal accomplishment in moving the Islamic world out of the 12th century abandoned.
We’ve written at length about the Arab Spring and how Obama used the events of 2010 and 2011, including the toppling of the toothless Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, as a proving ground for the pet theory of Hillary Clinton’s State Department that the US could shape events using only diplomacy or only minor use of military force. Part of this strategy involved arming opposition groups first in Libya and then in Syria.
The downside here was that the people Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ended up arming were largely al Qaeda and they had a different agenda than proving some academic theory correct. They actively pursued their goal of a radical Islamic craphole that encompassed much of the Arab world.
The lack of US forces in Iraq combined with the lack of capabilities of the new Iraqi Army gave al Qaeda affiliated groups fighting in Syria sanctuary and strategic depth. From the New York Times Syrian War Fueling Attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq, Officials Say:
The spiraling conflict in Syria has provided a sanctuary for leaders of Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate who are orchestrating attacks in Baghdad and other cities, posing a fresh challenge for efforts to maintain security there, American officials said Thursday.
“They are flush with jihadi recruits, which are coming into Syria, and we think they are sending a number of them into Iraq,” a senior administration official told reporters.
In 2011 and 2012, suicide bombings in Iraq averaged 5 to 10 a month. But over the past 90 days, the number has approached about 30 a month, the official added.
Concerns that the chaos in Syria may destabilize Iraq were at the top of the agenda on Thursday when Secretary of State John Kerry met with Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, for consultations on security, political and economic issues.
The Iraqi government if reeling under the attacks:
Islamist insurgents in Iraq have seized the city of Tikrit, their second major gain after capturing Mosul on Tuesday, security officials say.
Tikrit, the hometown of former leader Saddam Hussein, lies just 150km (95 miles) north of the capital Baghdad.
Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has vowed to fight back against the jihadists and punish those in the security forces who have deserted.
The insurgents are from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
ISIS, which is also known as ISIL, is an offshoot of al-Qaeda.
It controls considerable territory in eastern Syria and western and central Iraq, in a campaign to set up a Sunni militant enclave straddling the border.
There were also reports on Wednesday of fighting further south, in Samarra, 110km north of Baghdad.
(Be sure to follow the Institute for the Study of War in Iraq for updates.)
This offensive is a dangerous development. The Iraqi Army and associated militias are probably too weak to dislodge the ISIS and we will see an Islamist sanctuary area, like that created by the Obama/Clinton policy in Syria, take root in northern Iraq. The violence seems to be on the verge of undoing any political progress made since 2003.
The ISIS took root because of US indifference to the security environment in Iraq after Obama’s election. The US either armed them or allowed them to be armed in service of its benighted policy objectives in Syria.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton bear total responsibility for this development.