Obama's Iraq problem - Macleans.ca

Obama’s Iraq problem

When America pulled out of Iraq, the war wasn’t over. Why it may have no choice but to go back in.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama has often boasted about ending the war in Iraq and refocusing America’s security efforts on South Asia, where al-Qaeda’s core leadership still shelters.

The claim was always a bit disingenuous. Leaving a war isn’t the same as ending it. Obama’s preference was that a few thousand American troops remain in Iraq after 2011. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would not extend the Status of Forces Agreement that would have given those troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution. No American president would have agreed to a deal in which American troops did not have such immunity, so the U.S. soldiers came home.

Maliki might have made a mistake. That he has quietly asked Obama to bomb the Islamist fighters rampaging across his country suggests he may be feeling some regret. But it was a decision made by Iraq’s sovereign and democratic government, not Obama.

Still, Obama’s argument that America was right to shift its attention away from Iraq, coupled with his administration’s ongoing neglect of Syria, is looking increasingly misguided. In the last few days, radical Islamists have taken cities and towns across northern and western Iraq, including the country’s second-largest city, Mosul. They have looted millions of dollars from ransacked banks, and control some of Iraq’s oil fields. They are organized and well armed. Iraq’s armed forces have fled before them.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is an extreme Islamist militia that grew out of an al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq. It expanded into Syria, broke with al-Qaeda’s central leadership, and has now returned with force and fury to Iraq. It is arguably the most powerful and dangerous international jihadist outfit in the world. According to some estimates, its ranks include some 10,000 fighters, among them thousands of foreigners. A young Western Muslim with jihadist aspirations is now much more likely to head to Syria and join ISIS than to travel to Pakistan. Canadians have fought and died fighting with ISIS. At least one blew himself up in a deadly suicide bomb attack.

This should concern Western governments because of what these foreign volunteers may do once they return home. French national Mehdi Nemmouche, who is accused of murdering four at a Jewish museum in Brussels this year, spent more than a year in Syria and was arrested with a machine gun wrapped in an ISIS flag. While ISIS’s main goal is establishing a hardline Islamic state in the Middle East, Nemmouche’s actions suggest its members may pose a threat to the West as well.

This week Obama said America was considering “all options” to help Iraq deal with ISIS’s onslaught. He’d prefer to keep America out of the escalating conflict there. That may no longer be possible.

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Obama’s Iraq problem

  1. Dubya….the gift that keeps on giving.

    • Yep, and Obama be good, escallated the massive military debt-spend. Fact is US elections are lobby managed, Harvard back room won before the polls opened.

      USA debt-spends more on CIA/military than the top other 25 nations combined, as if at constant war with the world. Obama has in fact going to shortly have debt spent more than all presidents before him combined.

      “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
      — Abraham Lincoln

      And USA is a failing nation.

      • Lincoln was the worst actually! … He suspended habeas corpus, killed elected officials and plummeted the USA into a Civil War that had over 100,000+ dead within 3 years. He of all people knows how dark things can get.

        Iraq was engaged in open war long before the US invasion, and it will be long after. … This current ISIS activity is funded by the ISI… Don’t know what it is? Google it! … The long term plan is to make an MU – Mideast Union, but before they can do that, they need to destabilize the entire region. … Just follow that name… Isis to unwravel who will be in control.

  2. There’s a particular definition of insanity and prediction that might be apt here. Over a decade after the first failure, are we going to do it again?

  3. I doubt Obama will go back in in a meaningful way unless he is politically forced to. Typically, except for Osama, Obama has sided with Sunni Islam.

    Osama was only an exception as with Libya assassination attempts gone wrong killing nonparticipating families and kids to get Kadaffi, Osama became a legitimate target to justify the practice. Obama knew where Osama was for 8 months was a hot potato too.

    Terrorism is so ingrained into their society that to remove terrorism would require the mass killing of 30% of the population. Its a war that can’t be won, as the families are the war cells. If they believe in radical Sunni Islam, radical Islam you will have.

    Either stay out of these culturally backwater places or exterminate all terrorism with prejudice. But sitting on the fence with occupation is plain up insanity.

    • Obama, as President of the US does what every other national leader, including Stephen Harper, does. He acts in the interests of his own country.

      The populations of the Middle East countries are far more diverse ethnically, religiously, tribally and culturally than your pathetic, overly simplistic Sunni/Shia division. Of course, if you recognized the complexity, you wouldn’t be able to spout the mindless meanderings of Donald Trump and his birthers.

      BTW No doubt the military was watching Bin Laden’s compound and would have apprehended him if he had tried to leave. As no one had seen him, 8 months to confirm that Bin Laden was there which they did through a doctor who collected DNA from his children when they were given a vaccine. The military would make the final decision as to when it carried out the operation to ensure optimal circumstances for success. News Flash Military special ops are not 2 hour Rambo movies.

    • Sober up, kook.

  4. How very convenient for the author to ignore not only the history of Iraq but also that of the Middle East in pinning this insurgency and failure of the Iraqi military to respond, on Obama.

    Apparently he takes his lead from the simple minded like Pierre Poilevere for cause/effect explanations.

    Is it any wonder that war has become the first and only option to solving problems?

  5. Part of me says, stay out of it, and just let the Muslim nations “duke” it out amongst themselves.

    • We said that in Rwanda.

  6. Obama’s foreign policy is a mess. On one hand, he is being pressured to deal with Iraq ISIS Sunni radicals, yet he supports Sunni radicals in Syria. This is blatant broken logic and shows Obama has mixed values, or certainly isn’t telling the truths.

    Only thing I see is Obama is reluctant to go after any radical Islam, be it Sunni radicals in Syria, Iraq to Boko Haram. As if Obama supports radical Islam….