Friday, June 13, 2014

As Iraq Spirals Out Of Control, Another Bush Mess Lands In Obama's Lap

Jihadists celebrate capture of U.S. vehicle from Iraqi Army
I would like to personally thank George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.  I would like to thank them for creating the conditions that have led to the probability that militants will successfully establish an Islamist ministate straddling Syria and Iraq, which will further destabilize the most unstable region in the world.  And that President Obama will be forced, for political and not necessarily humanitarian reasons, to order air strikes against the militants to halt their advance toward Baghdad.

Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld worked hard to bring on this dire state of affairs:

They launched an invasion of Iraq in 2003 under false pretenses.  They starved the invasion of boots while draining the vital post-9/11 war in Afghanistan of resources.  They created the conditions for a protracted Iraqi civil war by propping up Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an autocratic Shiite thug, while looking the other way as his "government" marginalized and persecuted the Sunni minority.  They tried to buy off Sunni militants by showering them with cash, weapons, pickup trucks and televisions rather than demanding that Al-Maliki establish a coalition government that reflected Iraq's historic sectarian and ethnic diversity.

They helped crash the American economy, driving it toward the worst recession since the Great Depression, by giving the rich tax cuts while simultaneously fighting two wars.  Then, after nearly 5,000 Americans died and tens of thousand more were injured (flooding the VA hospitals system and precipitating its current travails), as well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties and an immense refugee crisis, the Obama administration washed its hands of the whole self-created mess.
But not until after Obama tried but failed to get Al-Maliki to accede to a residual U.S. force that would remain as a backstop against exactly what is now happening.  That, of course, predictably has been overlooked by John "A Hundred Years of War" McCain and other hawks who lust for war -- anytime and anywhere -- who have been quick to condemn the commander in chief and falsely accuse him of being unprepared. 
Come on, guys, it was the Iraqis who were caught flat footed although the advance led by fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a breakaway group of Al Qaeda, has been under way for more than a year, with the major city of Falluja falling in January.
Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and once a symbol of how Iraqis of all sectarian stripes could co-exist, also has now fallen.  Militants have occupied facilities in the strategic oil-refining town of Baiji, and having taken Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, are driving toward Baghdad.  Their only setback seems to have been in Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad, which has a Sunni majority but is home to a major Shiite shrine and is being defended by Shiite militias.
While the militants' offensive has been tactically sophisticated and thus far unstoppable, there is little likelihood of them taking the capital of four million people.  Still, they have scored a huge coup even if forced back by airstrikes, while it will only be a matter of time before they will be on the march again since history reminds us that jihadists can always outlast military powers.
The militants, who number no more than 5,000 in all, many of them foreign fighters, seem to have been emboldened by the capture of all the U.S.-supplied military equipment left behind by government forces as they fled.  The U.S. had spent about $25 billion to train and equip the Iraqi Army, while Iraq has spent billions more to buy fighter jets, helicopter gunships, battle tanks, missiles and other weapons.
Although the Iraqi Army vastly outnumbers the insurgents, entire divisions have collapsed without a semblance of a fight.

Desertions are rife as troops shed their uniforms and vanish.  A new refugee crisis is at hand.  Only Kurdish pesh merga forces, which took over control of oil-rich Kirkuk in the north as the Iraqi Army faded away, are hanging tough.  But while the Kurds were America's most trustworthy Iraqi partners during the war, their allegiance to the central government is limited and the current conflict is sure to accelerate their drive for independence from Baghdad.
Oil prices, of course, are spiking over concerns about the fighting.
Meanwhile, in a sign of desperation, senior Shiite leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior cleric in Iraq, issued a call to arms on Friday, urging his countrymen to assist the government in its halting fight against the Sunni militants.
Having broken Iraq, the U.S. is now being asked to fix it.  And so another consequence of a Bush Era mess -- an all-out sectarian war that could result in more American blood being shed -- is dumped in President Obama's lap.  Meanwhile, Al Qaeda seems to have Yemen in its grip, the Pakistani Taliban are newly resurgent and Syrian moderates are all but vanquished.  And all this is Obama's fault?

One sure result of the chaos in Iraq is that Al-Maliki will have yet another excuse to again put off making policy concessions that might begin to stabilize the country.  Then there is the wild card: Iran coming to the aid of its ally Al-Maliki. There already are said to be two battalions of crack Quds Forces, the overseas branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, on the ground in Iraq. 
Picture the U.S., Iran and Syrian strongman Bashar Al-Assad's forces fighting on the same side.  Are you ready for that John McCain?
Photograph from Reuters

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