Sum of all fears: Obama may have to approve airstrikes in Iraq

posted at 9:31 am on June 12, 2014 by Noah Rothman

For a president who owes his 2008 primary and general election victories to his politically beneficial opposition to the conflict in Iraq, it is difficult to think of a more frustrating development than the renewal of that conflict.

For Obama, who campaigned on and successfully achieved a near complete American withdrawal from Iraq, even over the objections of policy makers who warned of the potential for that chronically unstable nation to again erupt in violence, being forced to contemplate revived military action in that country represents a political Sophie’s Choice. Abstain, and risk being haunted by the impression that he presided over the loss of the Middle East having surrendered the tenuous gains in Iraq and allowed conflicts in Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to metastasize. Accept, and the Obama presidency’s raison d’être – a mandate for retrenchment and a renewed reliance on smart power – collapses.

It’s a tough call, but it wasn’t so difficult a decision when the escalating violence in Iraq was not front page, above the fold material. According to a New York Times report on Tuesday, the United States was approached by the Iraqi government on multiple occasions with request that they carry out airstrikes against targets where extremists were basing. They were refused.

“By March,” the Times reports, “American experts who visited Baghdad were being told that Iraq’s top leaders were hoping that American air power could be used to strike the militants staging and training areas inside Iraq, and help Iraq’s beleaguered forces stop them from crossing into Iraq from Syria.” A report by Eli Lake in The Daily Beast indicates that Iraqi officials have been requesting renewed U.S. air support since November, 2013.

The Times report adds that the same appeal was made in a May 16 phone call between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Vice President Joe Biden. That was followed by a formal, written request. It was rebuffed, but the United States did provide the Iraqi military with $14 billion in lethal military aid – some of which is turning up in ISIS propaganda videos as the militants celebrate its capture from retreating Iraqi forces.

The most recent reports indicate that the fighting has now nearing Karbala, a holy city for Shiite Muslims and strategically located just 100 kilometers to the southwest of Baghdad. The city of Kirkuk in the Kurdish north has already been surrendered by the Iraqi government, and is reportedly in control of independent Kurdish forces.

The opportunity to strangle, or at least contain, the ISIS baby in its Levant crib having passed, Iraq is now the battlefield of necessity. This threat, too, would be ignored but for the fact that the ISIS threat to Iraq is now an A1 story. American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters on Tuesday that they were strongly considering the resumption of airstrikes (or “kinetic support”) inside Iraq.

Operationally, some reports indicate, strikes against ISIS fighters and staging areas inside Iraq would not differ dramatically from maned and unmanned airstrikes in other Asian and North African theaters – American counterterror operations which already enjoy broad, bipartisan support and have been a pillar of Obama’s defense strategy.

Americans would, however, view the authorization of force in Iraq quite differently. It represents the collapse of yet another of Obama’s promises. It would cement for his supporters the awareness that Obama can no more reverse the tides of history than he could reverse the tides of the ocean. It would also cede to Republicans a political talking point of immense value. Following those strikes, Republicans could rightfully say that the Iraq War, which was authorized in a bipartisan manner, would also have been executed in a bipartisan manner.

Airstrikes in Iraq would be the politically unpalatable thing to do, but it is unclear whether the president has much of a choice. By avoiding the political headache associated with authorizing limited intervention in Syria, he has invited the throbbing political migraine coupled with the resumption of military operations in Iraq.


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We need a true leader as much as any time in our nation’s history. What we have is a community organizer. If we needed someone to gather everyone up and shepherd them to the welfare office, Barack would be the man.

bw222 on June 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM

We should have never been in Iraq in the first place. Unless you support spending billions of dollars on Muslims who hate us to keep an artificial peace going..this was always going to be the end result.
Ron Paul goes into great detail in his book regarding this matter.
The ‘peace in Iraq’ is artificial. It’s unsustainable with the amount of money we are pouring in!!! –
weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Weedy, all peace is artificial. According to the sage Plato, the dead have seen the last of war. And, I am as war weary as everyone else.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Weedy, all peace is artificial. According to the sage Plato, the dead have seen the last of war. And, I am as war weary as everyone else. – SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Correction: Only the dead have seen the last of war.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 12:23 PM

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Very true. Iraq, particularly non-Muslims in Iraq, were better off under Saddam, murderer that he was.

Islam and democracy are incompatible.

bw222 on June 12, 2014 at 12:23 PM

The notion that Iraq was ever in a ‘working conditioned’ is ludicrous.
Iraq was barely functional because we were pouring billions into it. Billions we cannot afford.
It was only a matter of time before it became like this. After cut backs on money and military personal this was bound to happen.
Ron Paul sounded a warning bell but no one wanted to listen.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Iraq is in the worst shape since the surge. And it was Obama who pulled out the military personnel (personal is not the word you wanted there).

This is inarguable.

Chuck Schick on June 12, 2014 at 12:31 PM

Iraq can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

libfreeordie on June 12, 2014 at 9:37 AM

I’ll bet I’m not the only one who bookmarked this one.

Chuck Schick on June 12, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Islam and democracy are incompatible.

bw222 on June 12, 2014 at 12:23 PM

Muslims are making that very clear here and other Western nations in which they have been welcomed in and their population grows. They continue to insist that democracy must make way for Sharia, and we have so many leftists sensitive to muslims cultural needs doing what they can in making that happen.

hawkeye54 on June 12, 2014 at 12:35 PM

Weedy, all peace is artificial. According to the sage Plato, the dead have seen the last of war. And, I am as war weary as everyone else.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Whose money should be used to sustain the artificial Iraqi peace?

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Bush and neocons are the ones who should own this.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Just like Johnson and Kennedy “owned” Vietnam…

Odie1941 on June 12, 2014 at 12:43 PM

Whose money should be used to sustain the artificial Iraqi peace?

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Haha. So now you guys care about deficits?

Chuck Schick on June 12, 2014 at 12:44 PM

When the cat’s away, the mice shall play.

What nine year old DIDN’T see this coming?!

Tard on June 12, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Iraq can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

1914: Austrio-Hungary can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

1933: Germany can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

1949: China can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

1955: Vietnam can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

1959: Cuba can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

1970: Cambodia can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

1980: Yugoslavia can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

The list goes on…

If libchainedanddie is indeed a “professor”, one can only hope it is only at a clown college.

F X Muldoon on June 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Whose money should be used to sustain the artificial Iraqi peace? – weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Make the ungrateful Iraqis pay for it this time.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Haha. So now you guys care about deficits?

Chuck Schick on June 12, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Conservatives and libertarians don’t care about deficits?

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Wrong, wrong and wrong. Iraq’s descent into Al Qaeda’s hands is precisely what this POTUS has wanted all along.

Believe it.

Also, believe the lamentable fact that low-fo’s will not give an ess aitch eye tee that this is happening.

If for some odd reason any random low-fo does care that it’s occurring, he or she will clamor to blame Dubya.

Why? It’s the conclusion that requires the least depth of thinking. It’s the conclusion that takes the least amount of time to make. It’s the conclusion that enables them to avoid contemplating the uncomfortable notion that their decision to vote for 0BowMao was ill-advised, perhaps even idiotic. It’s the conclusion that spares them all these “triggers.” It’s the conclusion that enables them, instead, to go on fiddling — each and every one of them — as the Western World burns.

brentspolemics on June 12, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Ron Paul sounded a warning bell but no one wanted to listen.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 11:55 AM

So did Neville Chamberlain. What’s your point stoner?

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:05 PM

Conservatives and libertarians don’t care about deficits?

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:02 PM

When Congress went to you guys in 2006 the deficit was $150B with 2 wars in full swing and all the Bush tax cuts in place.

So if I’m going to get scolded on deficits, it sure isn’t going to be from you.

Chuck Schick on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

So did Neville Chamberlain. What’s your point stoner?

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:05 PM

You support spending millions of dollars on people who hate us. I don’t.
Let them rule themselves. I think most Americans will agree we have sacrificed enough.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Bush and neocons are the ones who should own this.

Dave’sStillNotHere on June 12, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Oh, please, Kid. Stop using the “N” word, it’s so 9/10.

The Democrat Pants you will be voting for in 2016 voted to authorize that war. She said when she did so that she based her vote not on the intel Bush and his people gave her, but on the intel her (Democrat) husband’s intel people gave her.

So using your own “logic”, the Clintons own Iraq just as much as Bush, if not more. So does the current (Democrat) Secretary of State, who had been saying Iraq had WMDs since the 1990s.

F-

Del Dolemonte on June 12, 2014 at 1:12 PM

So did Neville Chamberlain. What’s your point stoner? – Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:05 PM

Weedy doesn’t even know who Neville Chamberlain was or what he is infamous for doing? After the war was over in Europe the grateful British voted Churchill out of office, before the surrender of the Japanese. Then they put in their great National Healthcare System.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

You support spending millions of dollars on people who hate us. I don’t.
Let them rule themselves. I think most Americans will agree we have sacrificed enough.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

I support pulling out of the middle east entirely. Unfortunately there are still plenty of countries that buy Middle Eastern oil. The US has the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world. We could supply not only ourselves but other western countries … leaving the Middle East to slowly shrivel up due to lack of money. Once the money dries up radical Islam does as well.

There’s only one thing stopping that … the left. And by left I mean democrats, liberals, progressives, socialists, communists, environmentalists or whatever the American haters call themselves today.

darwin on June 12, 2014 at 1:16 PM

You support spending millions of dollars on people who hate us. I don’t.
Let them rule themselves. I think most Americans will agree we have sacrificed enough.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Dude. Change your bong water.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:22 PM

You support spending millions of dollars on people who hate us. I don’t.
Let them rule themselves. I think most Americans will agree we have sacrificed enough. – weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

I am as war weary as every American is these days. Let’s charge them this time if we commit to assisting with bombing the Al Qaeda. They are an ungrateful bunch of Muslims. Make them pay us in oil.

By the way, I seem to remember that Obama said that Al Qaeda is on the run. Well, it looks like the run is to capture Baghdad.

Strike up another joint, weedy.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 1:23 PM

…leaving the Middle East to slowly shrivel up due to lack of money. Once the money dries up radical Islam does as well.

Unfortunately, no. Even though Islam was invented in the mid-East, the greatest population is in Southeast Asia, and they are sitting on some pretty generous oil fields.

F X Muldoon on June 12, 2014 at 1:27 PM

I support pulling out of the middle east entirely. Unfortunately there are still plenty of countries that buy Middle Eastern oil. The US has the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world. We could supply not only ourselves but other western countries … leaving the Middle East to slowly shrivel up due to lack of money. Once the money dries up radical Islam does as well.

There’s only one thing stopping that … the left. And by left I mean democrats, liberals, progressives, socialists, communists, environmentalists or whatever the American haters call themselves today. – darwin on June 12, 2014 at 1:16 PM

What are you smoking? The world economy would come to a screeching halt without middle east oil. I too am tired of war, Muslims and everyone else who dials up the United States for help when it hits the fan. Then they kick us in the shin for doing what they ask.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 1:29 PM

On Drudge. Can you say strafe?

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:29 PM

From the UK Telegraph:

Oil has spiked to a three-year high of $111 a barrel on growing fears of a supply shock triggered by escalating tensions in Iraq as al-Qaeda forces seized control of Mosul, Tikrit and Samarra.

Benchmark Brent crude rose to $111.19 in morning trading in London, a level last seen during the Arab Spring, amid concerns that 3.5m barrels per day of Iraqi exports could be knocked out of the market by the violence.

Good thing our economy has recovered. /

Alien on June 12, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Let them rule themselves. I think most Americans will agree we have sacrificed enough. – weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

That is what you “progressive” lot said about Southeast Asia in the ’70s. The left loves them some mountains of dead people.

F X Muldoon on June 12, 2014 at 1:33 PM

On Drudge. Can you say strafe?

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Obama just said “no.”

Alien on June 12, 2014 at 1:33 PM

So did Neville Chamberlain. What’s your point stoner?

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:05 PM

You support spending millions of dollars on people who hate us. I don’t.
Let them rule themselves. I think most Americans will agree we have sacrificed enough.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

weedisgood is half right. But many like him/her then argue — laughably, inexplicably (oh, wait…must be the bong hits) — that we ought to cut defense spending.

No, no, and NO.

Sure, let the Middle East immolate. But don’t be an idiot and think nothing will come of this that just might endanger us.

brentspolemics on June 12, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Obama is unlikely to take any action that would confirm he screwed up previously.

He’ll let Iraq burn and become a terrorist controlled state before he will lift a finger to stop the advance of the Islamist terrorists.

novaculus on June 12, 2014 at 1:38 PM

No air strikes. Obama wants Iraq back in terrorists hands so he can blame Bush.

alanstern on June 12, 2014 at 1:39 PM

You support spending millions of dollars on people who hate us. I don’t.
Let them rule themselves. I think most Americans will agree we have sacrificed enough.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Dude. Change your bong water.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 1:22 PM

Methinks he’s been drinking that bong water. Nasty stuff, that.

Del Dolemonte on June 12, 2014 at 1:39 PM

What are you smoking? The world economy would come to a screeching halt without middle east oil. I too am tired of war, Muslims and everyone else who dials up the United States for help when it hits the fan. Then they kick us in the shin for doing what they ask.

SC.Charlie on June 12, 2014 at 1:29 PM

The Middle East is not the end all of oil. There are massive reserves all around the world. The Middle East is a fraction of that. All ME oil could be replaced gradually from other sources. The US itself could be self sustaining. Sure the ME would still have some buyers, but we could cut their profits substantially.

darwin on June 12, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Regardless of how u feel about the Iraq war, the fact is Bush handed Obama victory. All he had to do was not screw up the peace. And Obama blew it. Obama and Obama alone owns this mess. And I for one find it heart-wrenching that our troops sacrificed so much only to have it all thrown away.

Jack_Burton on June 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM

Ye, King Putt own this, but the Iraqis themselves are not without responsibility.

If a people want a nation they need to step up and fight for it. When I see 500,000 flee a few thousand I shake my head and curse.

dogsoldier on June 12, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Unfortunately, no. Even though Islam was invented in the mid-East, the greatest population is in Southeast Asia, and they are sitting on some pretty generous oil fields.

F X Muldoon on June 12, 2014 at 1:27 PM

If no one except may China and few other buy it won’t be the windfall and supplier of cash to radicals that the ME is.

darwin on June 12, 2014 at 1:42 PM

novaculus on June 12, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Obama and his team are in the situation room as we type, working hard to come up with the right scapegoat and a plausible BS story.

dogsoldier on June 12, 2014 at 1:43 PM

If no one except may China and few other buy it won’t be the windfall and supplier of cash to radicals that the ME is.

Darwin, a couple of books: Militant Islam in Southeast Asia: Crucible of Terror (avalable from Amazon), and Radical Islamic Ideology In Southeast Asia which is downloadable at the link.

The so radicals are far more entrenched than one would realize if only looking at the MSM (big surprise).

So, if there is nothing to replace the SE Asia oil, like what we are sitting on in North America, the rest of the world besides China will be buyers, and the radicals still running amock.

F X Muldoon on June 12, 2014 at 1:56 PM

I voted for Bush but I tell it like it is.
He owns Iraq.

weedisgood on June 12, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Which means you own it.

Alien on June 12, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Alien on June 12, 2014 at 2:26 PM

I see what you are doing. Stump the stoner, right?

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Seriously though, weedisgood, if I ever want to know the difference between Sativa and Indica. I’ll come to you. FP, not likely.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 2:53 PM

I wonder how many of the ISIS terrorists now fighting in Syria and Iraq Obama trained, financed and equipped during his (Obama’s) triumphant over-through of Libya.

OxyCon on June 12, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Iraq can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

libfreeordie on June 12, 2014 at 9:37 AM

But, but, but the Iraqi children…

jimver on June 12, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Moral of the story:

don’t trust the United States.

itsspideyman on June 12, 2014 at 9:36 AM

Is this the third or fourth time the Iraqi people have been taught that lesson? I’ve lost count.

ElectricPhase on June 12, 2014 at 10:15 AM

I know Phase. And it sickens me. How can our friends trust us?

If libs want the world to know about the U.S. is that is as feckless and untrustworthy as they are.

itsspideyman on June 12, 2014 at 9:10 PM

Iraq can govern itself. Couldn’t care less what’s happening internally there.

libfreeordie on June 12, 2014 at 9:37 AM

Great. Then ship all those children back to Central America NOW.

itsspideyman on June 12, 2014 at 9:11 PM

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

― Leon Trotsky

Brush up on old Communists, Barak

schmuck281 on June 13, 2014 at 12:34 AM

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