In last Monday night’s (10/22/12) presidential debate at Lynn College in Boca Raton, FL, foreign policy was the topic, and as in previous debates and numerous speeches, President Barack Hussein Obama hailed as a victory his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Republican challenger Mitt Romney, for his part, failed to capitalize (intentionally or not) on the disaster that has become American policy in Iraq.
Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003. An agreement signed by Iraq and the U.S. during the Bush administration called for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops by Dec. 31, 2011, however, the document left the door open for further talks that could have postponed the end date. The Iraq war cost the American taxpayer $806 billion according to the Congressional Research Service, and 4287 American lives (as of December 2009). President Obama withdrew the last of our U.S. troops from Iraq in December 2011. (The only U.S. military presence left in Iraq were 157 soldiers responsible for training at the U.S. embassy, as well as a small contingent of marines protecting the diplomatic mission.)
President George W. Bush, who inaugurated the war, was able to remove the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power and restore Iraq to its people. The government of the majority-Shiite Muslims, led by Shiite Muslim Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has gravitated towards Iran, in effect, making Iraq a satellite of Tehran – during President Obama’s term in office. When viewing the world through Al-Maliki’s lenses, one sees that he preferred to follow the “strong horse,” his fellow Shiite neighbor Iran, rather than the “weak horse” and indecisive “infidel” and distant U.S. under Obama.
President George W. Bush has been vilified by the liberal media in the U.S. and Western Europe and blamed by Obama for all of America’s economic strife, along with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was Bush – the “Texas Cowboy,” however, that Iran feared rather than “the appeaser Barack Obama.” In the Middle East one does not want to be “loved” but rather “feared.” And, in the Middle East, power exercised in the interests of a nation is respected, and no apologies need be made to gain respectability.
In the spring of 2003, Iran was sandwiched between U.S. military forces to its east (Afghanistan) and west (Iraq), and an American threat appeared credible and imminent. Iran sought to negotiate with the U.S. and offered full transparency to show the U.S. that it was not endeavoring to develop a nuclear program nor did it possess Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s). Iran even proposed joint action against terrorists, as well as coordination with the U.S. to insure a stable Iraq, and clarity on nuclear matters. Tehran even went so far as to suggest that it would stop material support to the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, and the Palestinian terrorist groups of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and seek normalization of its relationship with the U.S. The Iranian document suggesting the above was delivered to the U.S. by the Swiss ambassador.
Iran made no such attempt to reach any kind of an agreement with the U.S. under Obama, who has been rebuffed by the Islamic Republic of Iran time and again. In his June 2009 Cairo speech, Obama pleaded with the Muslim world and Iran, saying: “In Ankara, I made clear that America is not, and never will be at war with Islam…Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build. I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.”
The “negotiations” with Iran of the P5+1 recently held in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow, and endorsed by Obama, failed to achieve any breakthrough; in fact they provided Iran with what they wanted most – more time to complete its nuclear program. Moreover, the western powers “led” by the U.S. conceded Iran’s right to enrich uranium – which shattered a decade long consensus and numerous Security Council resolutions demanding cessation of uranium enrichment.
The Iranian rebuff of Obama notwithstanding, Nuri Al-Maliki’s rejection of Obama’s Status of Forces Agreement was a “slap in America’s face.” The New York Times reported on September 23, 2012, that the American goal in Iraq was “to leave a stable and representative government, avoid a power vacuum that neighboring states and terrorists could exploit and maintain sufficient influence so that Iraq would be a partner or, at a minimum, not an opponent in the Middle East.” The article, in the liberal and generally pro-Obama NY Times, however, goes on to say: “But the Obama administration has fallen frustratingly short of some of those objectives. The attempt by Mr. Obama and his senior aides to fashion an extraordinary power-sharing arrangement between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Alawi never materialized. Neither did an agreement that would have kept a small American force in Iraq (of less than 10,000 as Obama wished) to train the Iraqi military and patrol the country’s skies. A plan to use American civilians to train the Iraqi police has been severely cut back. The result is an Iraq that is less stable domestically and less reliable internationally than the United States had envisioned.”
In the debate Monday night Obama denied that he had wanted to leave any U.S. troops in Iraq. An admission to this effect would have exposed the humiliating rebuff he suffered at the hands of Iraq’s PM Al-Maliki. Yet, according to a Sept. 7, 2011 NY Times article Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “is supporting a plan that would keep 3,000 to 4,000 American troops in Iraq after a deadline for their withdrawal at year’s end.” At the same time, Anthony Blinken, National Security Adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden stated that “Recent news coverage of Iraq would suggest that as our troops departed, American influence went with them…”
After the huge U.S. investments Iraq; Iran, Russia and China have now beaten the U.S. in trade with Iraq. Al-Jazeera reported on October 10, 2012 that Iraq and Russia have concluded an arms deal during Al-Maliki’s visit to Moscow that is potentially worth $5 Billion. The visit, however, was more than just a business deal. Maliki and Putin, according to Al-Jazeera, concur regarding their position on the conflict in Syria – in support of the Assad regime – a regime that has killed over 30,000 Syrians, and one which the Obama administration is opposed to.
As a result of his inability to understand the Middle East, Obama has failed to secure the one potential Arab democracy – Iraq – the country for which the U.S. has sacrificed so dearly. In his haste to withdraw American troops from Iraq before the December 31, 2011 deadline, he failed to achieve the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, albeit, he had more than three years to prepare for it. In the process, he rejected recommendations of the U.S. military to maintain approximately 20,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq – not unlike what we did in South Korea with 28,500 American troops, Japan with 40,000, and Germany with 54,000. As a consequence Iran, not the U.S., will dominate Iraqi affairs.