Friday, June 13, 2014

Iraq: Message-Point for the Day: An Exit-Strategy At Any Cost Makes No Sense at All

According to Reuters, Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as he sees polarized Shi'ite-Sunni country crumbling around him, with insurgents taking over major cities, potentially including Baghdad, whether President Barack Obama, likes it or not, for once...he may have to make a prompt decision, perhaps for the first time. 

COMMENT: As US Senator John McCain said so eloquently days ago, "The President should replace his National Security team as they "are not serving him well."

Another reality that President Obama must face, albeit unpleasant, is that US "boots" on the ground in Iraq are also required. Air strikes alone will not "cut" it.

Admittedly,  insurgents of various ilks, including those fighting under the black flag of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) not to mention the Shi'ite majority, are facing the all-out reality if a civil war.

As we speak, ISIL is slowly converging on the capital of Baghdad, in what potentially could quickly emerge as a widespread civil war, thanks, in part, for US President Barack Obama's failure to push for a residual US-led security force to ensure Iraq's security, even though President Obama and al-Maliki may not have realized the importance of such a force in 2011.

Unfortunately, as tired as Iraqis are of war, they may now have no other alternative but to fight, providing they have the skills and commitment to do so. 

US President Barack Obama threatened military strikes against ISIL on Thursday (June 12), highlighting the gravity of the group's threat to redraw borders in an oil-rich region which is sending shock-waves throughout the Middle East.

That being said, President Obama must find it personally repugnant to order military strikes on Iraq to prevent the country to falling into the hands of ISIL, given his commitment to get out of both wars [Afghanistan and Iraq] at any cost.

Amidst the spreading chaos, Iraqi Kurdish forces seized control of Kirkuk, an oil hub just outside their autonomous enclave that they have long seen as their historical capital, just three days after ISIL fighters captured the major city of Mosul.

There are increasingly predictable concerns that sectarian and tribal conflict might dismember Iraq into Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish entities. 

In Baghdad, the streets were empty as residents stock-piled food and scrambled for firearms.

President Obama said military action alone was no panacea against ISIL and alluded to long-standing Western complaints that al-Maliki has done little to heal sectarian rifts that have left many of Iraq's minority Sunnis, cut out from power-sharing.

As Iraq is crumbling around him in the short-term, US Secretary of State should have said nothing, but in fact worsened his speech by saying that:

"Prime Minister al-Maliki and all of Iraqi leaders need to do more to put sectarian differences aside." 

I hate to rain on Secretary Kerry' parade, but long-standing politicians cannot help themselves: They speak and make a bad situation worse."

The ISIL advance has been joined by former Baathist officers who were loyal to Saddam as well as disaffected armed groups and tribes who want to oust al-Maliki. Cities and towns that have fallen to the militants so far have been mainly Sunni and the gains have largely been uncontested.

It had long been known that Mosul, a city of two million people, harbored not just ISIL but also the Baathist militant group the Naqshbandi Army, believed to be headed by Ezzat Ibrahim al Douri, a former close aide to Saddam.

"When ISIL entered Mosul and swept out government forces positions in hours ... Only then did we decide to join forces and fight with them as long as we had a sole objective to kick al-Maliki forces out of Mosul and remove injustice."

President Obama said on Thursday (June 12) that he was considering "all options" to support al-Maliki's central government, yet he shouldn't wait in making a decision as hours DO count.

Sadly, President Obama is known far more for placating "words," rather than decisive action.

Giving a hint of their vision of a caliphate, ISIL published sharia rules for the realm they have carved out in northern Iraq, including a ban on drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and an edict on women to wear only all-covering, shapeless clothing.

It should be noted that ISIL has battled rival rebel factions in Syria for months and occasionally taken on President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Further south, militant forces extended their advance to towns about an hour's drive from Baghdad, where Shi'ite militia were mobilizing for what could be a replay of the ethnic and sectarian bloodbath of 2006 and 2007.

ISIL and its allies took control of Falluja at the start of 2014. It lies just 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of al-Maliki's office.

The million-strong Iraqi army, trained by the United States at a cost of nearly $25 billion, is floundering amid poor morale and corruption. Its effectiveness is hurt by the perception in Sunni areas that it pursues the hostile interests of the Shi'ites.

President Obama: "Your serve"?