Only the NY Times editorial board knows the White House’s Iraq strategy

posted at 10:01 am on June 18, 2014 by Noah Rothman

If you subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, you awoke on Wednesday to the news that the White House has decided against further military involvement in Iraq and will not engage in airstrikes against ISIS militants. Instead, the Journal reports, the administration will prepare a comprehensive approach to the crisis in Iraq which includes creating a network of support from regional allies and providing Nouri al-Maliki’s government with intelligence.

The president wants to avoid airstrikes for now in part because U.S. military officials lack sufficient information to hit targets that would shift momentum on the battlefield. Officials say their approach also would help address underlying causes of the Sunni uprising and the collapse of Iraq’s military forces.

While strikes are, apparently “still actively under discussion,” the Journal definitively reported that the military option is off the table for the foreseeable future.

If, however, you don’t subscribe to the Journal and prefer to read The New York Times, you learned this morning that airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq are imminent.

“President Obama is considering a targeted, highly selective campaign of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq similar to counterterrorism operations in Yemen, rather than the widespread bombardment of an air war, a senior administration officials said on Tuesday,” the Times reported.

Such a campaign, most likely using drones, could last for a prolonged period, the official said. But it is not likely to begin for days or longer, and would hinge on the United States’ gathering adequate intelligence about the location of the militants, who are intermingled with the civilian population in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities north of Baghdad.

“Given all the hurdles to effective military action, Mr. Obama is continuing to emphasize a political solution to the crisis, the official said,” the report continued.

Confused? Well, you’re in good company. Even the normally self-assured and well-connected foreign affairs reporter Christiane Amanpour has no idea what the administration is thinking on Iraq. In fact, she suggested that the conflicting signals she is receiving indicate to her that the White House has been virtually paralyzed.

“I don’t think anybody’s made a decision in the White House,” Amanpour said of the early rumors that the administration may work with Iran to secure Iraq. “I’m beginning to get a reading that they may just let it go.”

“We are now more than a week into this relentless march by ISIS,” she cautioned. “They are practically banging on Baghdad’s door, and this is an incredibly, you know, terrifying prospect, frankly to all of us in this post- 9/11 world to see al-Qaeda or an offshoot get this amount of territory – territory! — in a sovereign country.”

Fortunately for the White House, there remains one group for whom they can still do no wrong, even if they’re doing nothing. “President Obama has, so far, struck the right note on Iraq,” The New York Times editorial board crowed on Tuesday.

“His opening to Iran has been the most controversial and potentially the most important move,” the editorial continued strangely. “The two counties cooperated on Afghanistan in 2001 against the Taliban, and, in theory, they should be able to find common ground in stabilizing Iraq.”

The White House has publicly ruled out cooperating with the Iranian government in the effort to secure Iraqi territory. While American and Iranian officials met “on the sidelines” of nuclear negotiations in Vienna on the Iraq issue, neither side is suggesting anything concrete was been achieved with that tête-à-tête.

“The disastrous situation in Iraq was discussed today,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters on Tuesday. “No specific outcome was achieved.”

The editorial goes on to paint a picture of a region exploding. The Times advised Turkey, which recently reversed course by signaling its interest in an independent Kurdistan, to “shut its border” to Syria and Iraq in order to stop the flow of militants and material to ISIS. The Times further requested that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf states end their financial support for the rampaging Sunni militant group.

These are the outlines of a volatile multipolarity arising in the already unstable Middle East which would be characterized by ethno-religious blocs of states vying for regional hegemony – a condition facilitated by America’s retreat and the vacuum it left behind.

While the Times closes by giving their consent to airstrikes in Iraq, so long as the president makes that case to both the American public, the editorial ends on an bizarre note.

After asserting that the Iraqi military has virtually melted away in the face of the ISIS threat, and that it is a “risky bet” for the U.S. to rely on these forces for much of anything, the editorial noted that more intractable problem in the region is not ISIS but rising sectarian violence.

They observed that the Sunni militants who have been slaughtering Shiites in the territories they capture are inviting Shiite reprisals which have already begun. In Baquba, a town 40 miles to the north of Baghdad, the Shiite-led government summarily executed 44 Sunni prisoners on Tuesday.

The end.

It was an ominous conclusion to the editorial. It reflected how the premise, a glowing praise of the president’s approach to Iraq, was steadily contradicted throughout the body of the piece. It was as though the editorial, much like the administration it set out to defend, simply ran out of steam.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Golf and Dither?

Fundraise and Awe?

Dither and Dither?

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 10:03 AM

They know the exact amount of Muslim money he received in 2012?

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 10:08 AM

In fact, she suggested that the conflicting signals she is receiving indicate to her that the White House has been virtually paralyzed.

Yep, pretty much paralyzed and they can’t blame this one on Bush. This is probably the first time in his life he has to actually make a real world decision and he is simply not capable of doing that.

If he does authorize any strikes, I hope they are big enough so he doesn’t get mocked though, that would be bad.

Johnnyreb on June 18, 2014 at 10:09 AM

Maybe this administration is just trying to keep the enemy guessing? I mean, this is a good strategy, right?

esr1951 on June 18, 2014 at 10:09 AM

Good lapdogs nyt

cmsinaz on June 18, 2014 at 10:09 AM

I’m confused. Isn’t the editorial board of NYT a cabinet post?

platypus on June 18, 2014 at 10:12 AM

“I’m not saying we know for sure, but couldn’t all this possibly just be the result of a controversial YouTube video about Mohammed? I don’t think it reflects a failure of the Obama strategy so much as the danger of internet videos.” –Susan Rice, some Sunday soon

SoRight on June 18, 2014 at 10:12 AM

The Gray Lady has become a prostitute. With advanced syphilis.

s1im on June 18, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Foreign policy by focus group.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Why does anyone give the f**ktards at the NY slimes the time of day? It’s not as if those idiots have any credibility.

bbinfl on June 18, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Wow, when you’ve lost Christianne…..

MistyLane on June 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM

What the heck is a “Winter solider”?

bbordwell on June 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM

In Baquba, a town 40 miles to the north of Baghdad, the Shiite-led government summarily executed 44 Sunni prisoners on Tuesday.

Full speed ahead with the sectarian killing. Islam, no matter which flavor can be no friend for the U.S. to deal with so the more Muslims that leave for their longed for paradise the better.

Annar on June 18, 2014 at 10:16 AM

The media tries to portray this Iraq situation as a bunch of ragtag terrorists from Syria trying to take over Iraq.

It is Sunni vs. Shia civil war.
The goal for the Sunnis is to rid Iraq and the rest of the Middle East from Shiite Muslims (or make them subservient, but they will settle (for now) in dividing Iraq up.

Since Obama is on the side of the Sunnis, any stalling or taking time to evaluate the situation just helps the Sunnis in the Sunni vs. Shia Muslim civil war.

albill on June 18, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Obama: Air strikes?
Kerry: JING-GUS KHAN!
Rice: Err…VIDEO! Err….Honor and Distinction?
Biden:
Media: OMG, this is making our Messiah look bad!
Obama: Pretty please, Val, can’t I hide my head at the golf links? Or with some bunch of idiots at a fundraiser?
Valerie: Say it again – Global Warming is the biggest threat!

Oh, what difference, at this point, does it make? We have a mid-term to worry about!

MistyLane on June 18, 2014 at 10:20 AM

Yes, it is true… In fact Obama follows the New York Times editorial board both on domestic and foreign policy issues… Remember that he changed his mind bombing the Assad regime just one day after he met with the New York Times editorial board who told him that you are the “anti-Bush” and you do not start a military action no matter how small it is…

mnjg on June 18, 2014 at 10:22 AM

The entire world is watching on this one.He can’t hide now.

docflash on June 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM

While strikes are, apparently “still actively under discussion,” the Journal definitively reported that the military option is off the table for the foreseeable future.

No lasers on the ground. We can drop dumb bombs all day, but the risk for ancillary casualties is too high.

BKeyser on June 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM

President Barack Obama’s top three achievements for the first six years of office (and very likely the top three after eight years):

1. Play golf.
2. Fund raise.
3. Go on ESPN every March and fill in his March Madness bracket.

parke on June 18, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Sectarian executions all around now, sweet, so when do all the peaceful Muslims rise up against the “minority” who are slaughtering everyone.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

The NYT editorial board is making Baghdad Bob look honest and trustworthy. Once Iraq completely implodes and the Iranians annex the country the NYT will tell us how this is the greatest achievement in all of human history.

Watch the leftist hive mind get going on this meme on the internet today. Also notice how the MSM says that ISIS is an “extremist” organization and not a “terrorist” one. You know because Obama has the terrorists on the run.

jukin3 on June 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Back to the post-mortem on Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, it goes back to the question of what his goal was.

W claimed a broad philosophy of support for spreading democracy in the 7th century kingdoms and theocracies of the Arab middle east — if they really believed that could work then either they were wrong in an epic way, or they used as an assumption that the U.S. would never be led by a libertarian or a liberal clown like O’Bozo, which would indicate a profound overestimation of the American electorate.

But it may be that the Bushies simply wanted to kill as many IslamoNazi terrorists as possible in a short time frame, and chose Iraq as the playing field. Mission accomplished.

Or maybe they were really, really pathological and viewed killing Saddam Hussein as a positive that outweighed all negatives, and that if the lawlessness which resulted re-ignited the thousand-year-old civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, all the better.

Jaibones on June 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Sectarian executions all around now, sweet, so when do all the peaceful Muslims rise up against the “minority” who are slaughtering everyone.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Any day now!

Jaibones on June 18, 2014 at 10:35 AM

This president is listening to advisers over the military…great. We could have actionable intel in a day or two. Drones could be hitting targets within that time. Just the action of starting the bombing campaign will halt the ISIS advance, and it may even start to push them back. No American lives would be at risk.

If he isn’t willing to take this limited approach, he won’t be willing to to much of anything to help.

Patriot Vet on June 18, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Sectarian executions all around now, sweet, so when do all the peaceful Muslims rise up against the “minority” who are slaughtering everyone.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

The beheaders and their collaborators are the mainstream of islam. The peaceful minority are the radicals.

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Hopefully a transparent transition is involved. Rights for Muslim chattel and stuff.

BL@KBIRD on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Watch the leftist hive mind get going on this meme on the internet today. Also notice how the MSM says that ISIS is an “extremist” organization and not a “terrorist” one. You know because Obama has the terrorists on the run.

jukin3 on June 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Don’t think for a moment they don’t choose the word “extremist” carefully. You know who else they consider extremest? TEA Party members who want a balanced budget and reduced debt. Connect the dots.

HumpBot Salvation on June 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Perhaps 0 seeks to have it collapse under its own weight. The same technique he is employing here at home.

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 10:38 AM

No action, but airstrikes are imminent.

Leading out of his behind has reached a new level.

formwiz on June 18, 2014 at 10:40 AM

and chose Iraq as the playing field.
Jaibones on June 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Early on in the war I thought certain this point played into the decision making. The mountainous sandbox is a much more difficult venue. Bring them to the wide open spaces of Iraq instead.

Bmore on June 18, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Their army ran away. That isn’t our problem.

Akzed on June 18, 2014 at 10:45 AM

The beheaders and their collaborators are the mainstream of islam. The peaceful minority are the radicals.

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 10:35 AM

I know, that’s why I put “minority” in quotations.

Now that the Iraqi government has decided to murder Sunni prisoners the gloves have come off, the government is officially Shiite. This is going to become a European bloodlands scenario.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM

“I’m beginning to get a reading that they may just let it go.”

Coolidge: The business of America is business
Truman: The buck stops here
JFK: We will go to the moon
G Bush: This will not stand
G W Bush: We’re at war
Obama: We may just let this go

LashRambo on June 18, 2014 at 10:52 AM

This shows you why you don’t bother reading the NY Times. What is said there in editorials is invariably complete nonsense.

In contrast, Dick and Liz Cheney’s piece in the Wall Street Journal today is outstanding.

Phil Byler on June 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

As I asked in a comment on a previous post, why not just stay on the sidelines and let all these jihadis kill each other? None of them are really our friends and the only state we should be committed to assisting is Israel.

All of the other states are corrupt, autocratic, fanatical or all of the above.

With all of the fighting raging across the middle east, the flow of petroleum will be affected, leading the rest of the world to North America’s door.

To hell with the jihadis. Let them burn.

Conservative Mischief on June 18, 2014 at 11:11 AM

I got a hunski that says Obama decides to start airstrikes on ISIS a couple of days after Baghdad falls.

jukin3 on June 18, 2014 at 11:13 AM

I’ll also note that these religious and ethnic conflicts have been going on for a thousand years. They’ve always been at each others’ throats.

They’re never going to settle into peace unless it’s at the business end of a gun barrel.

It’s analogous to the Balkans. Those people have always tried to kill each other and they didn’t stop until Marshall Tito had some of them taken out and shot in public.

Exit Tito, Kaboom.

Conservative Mischief on June 18, 2014 at 11:18 AM

“I don’t think anybody’s made a decision in the White House,” Amanpour said of the early rumors that the administration may work with Iran to secure Iraq. “I’m beginning to get a reading that they may just let it go.”

‘Let it go’ is definitely this Administration’s theme song.

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!” — Barack “Kingdom of Isolation” Obama

JeremiahJohnson on June 18, 2014 at 11:23 AM

I gather that everyone on Obama’s team, both political and national security, are calling for some military action. All that is but Valerie Jarrett (the Madame Dafarge of this White House) and Joe Biden (Vice President and Court Jester) and, of course, the King himself. They are rejecting this advice, because they fear a popular reaction against any action. That is where all the confusion comes from.

Esaus Message on June 18, 2014 at 11:27 AM

“Given all the hurdles to effective military action, Mr. Obama is continuing to emphasize a political solution to the crisis, the official said,”

Unfortunately, the dumbass in the White House is unaware that ISIS isn’t interested in a “political solution”.

GarandFan on June 18, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Saudi Arabia repeatedly warned us that the Obama administration policies in Iranian negotiations and vis a vis the Arab Spring would have the consequence of increasing pressure for a Sunni vs. Shiite regional war. It’s happening, and the Obama administration is 100% at fault for this. American foreign policy is putting world peace at risk and its absolutely incredible to me that the NYT editorialized in favor of it.

MTF on June 18, 2014 at 12:24 PM

As others have said. Exactly why should we care if one group of fanatics in Iraq wants to kill the other? It neither increases nor decreases the threat to the US.

doufree on June 18, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Winter solider.

Typo in the caption under the picture on the main page.

I’m just not sure if you misspelled ‘soldier’ or ‘solidarity.’

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 18, 2014 at 2:52 PM

As others have said. Exactly why should we care if one group of fanatics in Iraq wants to kill the other? It neither increases nor decreases the threat to the US.

doufree on June 18, 2014 at 1:26 PM

Which group of fanatics is more likely to launch terrorism against the US, and to destabilize the area?

Once you identify that group, then you want to make sure they lose.

THAT is looking out for US interests. Ignoring the whole situation is NOT.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 18, 2014 at 2:54 PM

I hate to be “that guy,” but the grammatical/spelling errors in Noah’s work are distracting and sometimes lead to incomplete information:

Winter solider.

Transposed letters.

While strikes are, apparently “still actively under

Either a missing comma or an extra one.

While the Times closes by giving their consent to airstrikes in Iraq, so long as the president makes that case to both the American public, the editorial ends on an bizarre note.

Both the American public…and who? Unless there are two American publics, in which case we’re missing a preposition and a plural. This error actually hurts the content of the article because the reader doesn’t know the other party to whom The Times thinks the President must make the case.

the editorial noted that more intractable problem in the region is not ISIS but rising sectarian violence.

Missing an article (probably “the”).

There are other things in this post that may be errors, but I’m not familiar enough with Chicago Style standards (not to be confused with the Chicago way) to know for sure.

Completely aside from the content of some of the newcomer’s articles, HA deserves better.

yaedon on June 18, 2014 at 3:25 PM

“His opening to Iran has been the most controversial and potentially the most important move,” the editorial continued strangely. “The two counties cooperated on Afghanistan in 2001 against the Taliban, and, in theory, they should be able to find common ground in stabilizing Iraq.”

You have typed counties here instead of countries. The original New York Times article has countries.

Theophile on June 18, 2014 at 4:20 PM