Does Obama Have a Plan for Iraq?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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Let’s be fair here. Obama didn’t even have a plan for Iraq when he was in Iraq… he certainly doesn’t have one now. His plan then was to rename the war, fake withdraw and ignore it otherwise, until finally withdrawing on the Bush timeline.

That’s the extent of his involvement in Iraq, not counting an attempt at getting the Iraqi Prime Minister, who as a Shiite is aligned with the Iran-Syria axis, to stop Iranian shipment of weapons to Syria.

Al Qaeda in Iraq got bigger and bolder under Obama. It got much bigger and bolder after he withdrew. It may end up taking over Syria.

Obama never had an answer to the problem or even engaged with it. Instead he lied to the American people and said that everything was fine, Al Qaeda was on the path to defeat, Iraq had worked out and there was nothing for anyone to worry about.

Max Boot at Commentary has some proposals that wouldn’t involve putting anyone in harm’s way.

 As the Edward Snowden revelations have made plain, the U.S. has unrivaled intelligence capabilities, especially in the sphere of electronic snooping, which could be shared with the Iraqis. So, too, we have drones and Special Operations Forces that once helped to unravel al-Qaeda in Iraq’s networks. If sent back into Iraq, they could probably do it again.

Obama should offer Maliki the use of these forces and capabilities, but only on certain conditions: namely that Maliki start accommodating and stop persecuting the Sunnis. Specifically, he should re-start the Sons of Iraq program, which between 2007 and 2008 enrolled some 100,000 Sunni men to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. This pro-government militia was critical to the success of “the surge” in Iraq, and it could help to catalyze a new, smaller surge—one that would not involve any conventional American ground troops but that would send more Special Operations and intelligence personnel to work with their Iraqi counterparts.

Re-establishing relationships which once existed between the U.S. and Iraqi military could pay further dividends by giving the U.S. side greater “situational awareness” of events in Iraq. This would allow American personnel to help their Iraqi partners in the security forces to resist Maliki’s attempts to misuse them for political purposes.

It would also give the U.S. greater insight into Iranian machinations in Iraq: Iran has been gaining power ever since the departure of U.S. troops. Not having the U.S. support to fall back on, Maliki has turned to the Iranians for advice and support in fighting back against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Unfortunately, the Iranians are Shiite hardliners whose involvement only further radicalizes the Sunnis and makes the situation more toxic.

Boot is as usual being optimistic. Maliki didn’t fall back on Iranian support. This is a region where ethnicity, religion and race is destiny. Maliki was always going to turn to Iran. It was only a question of timing. That doesn’t mean Maliki trusts Iran. No one in the region, no matter how close, trusts the other.

Maliki would keep on playing the US and Iran against each other, but we could still slow down ISIS. It might even be worth doing, but it’s not Obama’s feature set.

Obama is not a counter-terrorism guy. If he were, we would be droning Al Qaeda in Syria already, instead of indirectly arming them. Obama is a Hearts and Minds guy.

He never knew what to do with Iraq. If he were pushed to do something, it would be a conciliation program along the lines that Boot suggested, but without any teeth or any reason for Maliki to implement it.

  • A Z

    Hearts and Mind campaign works. It can’t work alone.

    In Ramadi Al Qaeda took over a hospital and put strong points around it. They used it for their fighters and not for the locals.

    When Al Qaeda blew up the souk (open air shopping market), the victims were taken to the American camp at Ramadi for triage and surgery.

    We consistently treated the people well whereas Al Qaeda did not.

    But again a Hearts and Mind campaign without military backing is a farce. It is simply an NGO that gets robbed at gunpoints with its’ workers kidnapped. Such a farce happened once upon a time in Somalia in 1991.

    • A Z

      The Marines went out on joint patrol in Anbar with Iraqis. They were embedded in small combat outposts. It kind of belies the left’s narratives that our combat troops were running amok among the population. An American corporal cannot turn around to Cpl Ahmed & say let’s run into town and rape some local women. But the left would have us believe just that.

      Joint patrols like we had in Iraq show that we are not occupiers and there isn’t some killing and raping spree going on as alleged by the left.

      When you are jointly patrolling it is very hard for some group (or Kerry) like the NYT (NY Slimes) to accusing you of killing and raping women and children in a manner of Genghis Khan.

      I looked at the the number of people convicted and executed for rape or murder in the wake of D Day and it is staggering. While we should have no murders or rapes committed by our troops the numbers committed by today’s troops were not much different or less than in previous wars.

      ***

      The Habr Gidr clan hated us for rocketing their clan meeting where we though Aidid and some of his Lieutenants would be. I am not sorry. This is the same bunch that purposefully caused the starvation killing hundreds of not thousands of people of other clans unless they bowed to the will of the Habr Gidr. When you do things like that violence results.
      Drakken

      Not saying that if we had not hit the Habr Gidr clan meeting that they would not have gone after us anyway.

      ***

      I do believe that without a show of force and willingness to use force that a Hearts and minds campaign will not work in the Arab or Muslim world.

      Clinton pulling out and Tanks not being provided in the 1st place were very bad decision on the part of Washington. I’ll include general;s in the term Washington because when they reach that rank general become very political.

      I would just as soon as stay out of the Middle east after we get our own energy sources. Let them be like rats in a pit. But to do that we need to contain them. That is no immigration.

  • Veracious_one

    Unfortunately, the Iranians are Shiite hardliners whose involvement only further radicalizes the Sunnis and makes the situation more toxic.
    further proof that it is Islam that creates the violence not any Infidel activity…Colonialism worked great for the Middle East…prosperity ended when the Muslims booted the Colonialists out…the good life always ends when Muslims step in…

  • Veracious_one

    Just because Obama ‘has a plan’ doesn’t mean it’s a good plan…

    • Gee

      I take you mean good for America or the West – because his plans are really good for Islamofascism

  • Gee

    The Iraqis (Sunni and Shia) hate Americans period. Aiding them is a huge mistake – as big as Bush’s thinking that he could reform Arab thugs.

    Islamofascism must be isolated and anytime it attempts to expand – DESTROYED.

    Nothing short of that will work