WaPo: How we lost Iraq

posted at 4:01 pm on July 5, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

We’ve been writing plenty about the long dissolution of US policy in Iraq and how the total withdrawal of 2011 played such a large part in it, but we’re not alone in that regard. On Thursday, former special assistant to the US embassy in Baghdad Ali Khedery wrote a lengthy essay for the Washington Post detailing what happened behind the scenes. There’s not much to add, except that the decision to pull out apparently came as a surprise to Vice President Joe Biden, who assumed we’d be sticking around. Iran had other ideas:

In conversations with visiting White House senior staff members, the ambassador, the generals and other colleagues, I suggested Vice PresidentAdel Abdul Mahdi as a successor. A former Baathist, moderate Shiite Islamist and French-educated economist who had served as finance minister, Abdul Mahdi maintained excellent relations with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as well as with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

On Sept. 1, 2010, Vice President Biden was in Baghdad for the change-of-command ceremony that would see the departure of Gen. Ray Odierno and the arrival of Gen. Lloyd Austin as commander of U.S. forces. That night, at a dinner at the ambassador’s residence that included Biden, his staff, the generals and senior embassy officials, I made a brief but impassioned argument against Maliki and for the need to respect the constitutional process. But the vice president said Maliki was the only option. Indeed, the following month he would tell top U.S. officials, “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” referring to the status-of-forces agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011.

I was not the only official who made a case against Abu Isra. Even before my return to Baghdad, officials including Deputy U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford, Odierno, British Ambassador Sir John Jenkins and Turkish Ambassador Murat Özçelik each lobbied strenuously against Maliki, locking horns with the White House, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and Maliki’s most ardent supporter, future deputy assistant secretary of state Brett McGurk. Now, with Austin in the Maliki camp as well, we remained at an impasse, principally because the Iraqi leaders were divided, unable to agree on Maliki or, maddeningly, on an alternative.

Our debates mattered little, however, because the most powerful man in Iraq and the Middle East, Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, was about to resolve the crisis for us. Within days of Biden’s visit to Baghdad, Soleimani summoned Iraq’s leaders to Tehran. Beholden to him after decades of receiving Iran’s cash and support, the Iraqis recognized that U.S. influence in Iraq was waning as Iranian influence was surging. The Americans will leave you one day, but we will always remain your neighbors, Soleimani said, according to a former Iraqi official briefed on the meeting.

After admonishing the feuding Iraqis to work together, Soleimani dictated the outcome on behalf of Iran’s supreme leader: Maliki would remain premier; Jalal Talabani, a legendary Kurdish guerilla with decades-long ties to Iran, would remain president; and, most important, the American military would be made to leave at the end of 2011. Those Iraqi leaders who cooperated, Soleimani said, would continue to benefit from Iran’s political cover and cash payments, but those who defied the will of the Islamic Republic would suffer the most dire of consequences.

The Obama administration insisted on sticking with Maliki, Khedery writes, and disaster followed just as he’d predicted. The US tried pushing out Talabani in order to toss the Sunnis a bone, which pushed Talabani even further into Iran’s orbit. His success enraged the same tribal leaders who’d aligned with the US to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS, who ended up on the outside of Maliki’s Shi’ite cronyocracy — or worse:

America’s Iraq policy was soon in tatters. Outraged by what it perceived as American betrayal, the Iraqiya bloc fractured along ethno-sectarian lines, with leaders scrambling for government positions, lest they be frozen out of Iraq’s lucrative patronage system. Rather than taking 30 days to try to form a government, per the Iraqi constitution, the Sunni Arab leaders settled for impressive-sounding posts with little authority. Within a short span, Maliki’s police state effectively purged most of them from politics, parking American-supplied M1A1 tanks outside the Sunni leaders’ homes before arresting them. Within hours of the withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011, Maliki sought the arrest of his longtime rival Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, eventually sentencing him to death in absentia. The purge of Finance Minister Rafea al-Essawi followed a year later.

Without troops in the country, we lost all ability to constrain Maliki and force him to work with the other stakeholders in Iraq. That led to what we see today, thanks to the US policy of withdrawal above all other considerations. For that, the American electorate shares at least some of the blame, because Barack Obama made it very clear that complete withdrawal was his policy, and his opponent John McCain made long-term engagement in Iraq the alternative that lost.

That short-sighted, checkers-over-chess approach to foreign policy extends far beyond Iraq. On Thursday, I appeared on Newsmax’s Stevel Malzberg Show to discuss Syria and the entirely reactive foreign policy of the Obama administration. The trial balloon reported by Josh Rogin at the Daily Beast about teaming up with Bashar al-Assad and Iran to fight ISIS is just another example of it:

“This is such a frustrating example of what happens when you have a rudderless foreign policy,” Morrissey told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV on Thursday. …

“The problem is we’ve been bouncing back and forth ever since about what to do in that region,” he said.

“We started off [saying] Bashar Assad was a reformer even though he was crushing rebellion … shooting unarmed civilians in the streets who were protesting his regime back in 2011.

“And then last year, we were going to bomb his regime because he was using chemical weapons and now we’re coming back around to figuring out how we can at least ally in a de facto alliance against ISIS while still trying to get rid of Assad by giving weapons and training to the so-called moderate rebels.”

Steve and I also get into a couple of other topics, so be sure to watch it all.


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Could write at least a trilogy on it. The short of it – send obama a thank you note, world.

I hope a few Utopian heads will come off…fictitiously, dummies.

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 4:08 PM

WE lost nothing.

The Choom Gang threw it away.

formwiz on July 5, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Al Baghdadi sends his greetings.

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 4:11 PM

That short-sighted, checkers-over-chess approach to foreign policy extends far beyond Iraq. On Thursday, I appeared on Newsmax’s Stevel Malzberg Show to discuss Syria and the entirely reactive foreign policy of the Obama administration. The trial balloon reported by Josh Rogin at the Daily Beast about teaming up with Bashar al-Assad and Iran to fight ISIS is just another example of it.

As is the idea that presenting Russia a mislabeled novelty item was going to change our relationship. It only affirmed that Russia had the opportunity to regain their empire- which they are slowly doing.

As a military retiree, it pains me that the real opportunities we had in Iraq and Afghanistan to foment fundamental change have been squandered. How many Americans had to die because Obama is a lazy stupid coward. I’d love to put one of his worthless brats on the front line looking for IEDs in Afghanistan so that he could understand that these issues were far more than mere academic exercises.

I’m also guessing that HA would like to retract the paean to Obama they issued on January 20th 2009- along with the assumption that the filthy rat-eared wonder wanted to be post-partisan and had the best interests of the nation in mind.

Happy Nomad on July 5, 2014 at 4:14 PM

“This is such a frustrating example of what happens when you have a rudderless foreign policy.”

Ed Morrissey on “The Steve Malzberg Show”, Newsmax TV, July 3, 2014

.
Yup … it sure is: (

listens2glenn on July 5, 2014 at 4:16 PM

It my be a chess game, but 0 keeps shouting “king me”. After all, it works domestically

clnurnberg on July 5, 2014 at 4:19 PM

We didn’t lose it. Obama gave it away.

Oldnuke on July 5, 2014 at 4:20 PM

BTW, that WaPo OpEd by Ali Khedery is a good read, if you have the time.

listens2glenn on July 5, 2014 at 4:21 PM

” “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” ”

So who’s our new VP?

rbj on July 5, 2014 at 4:22 PM

So who’s our new VP?

rbj on July 5, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Pelosi

clnurnberg on July 5, 2014 at 4:23 PM

So who’s our new VP?

rbj on July 5, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Pelosi

clnurnberg on July 5, 2014 at 4:23 PM

Our VP has been Valarie Jarrett from the beginning. An old white idiot has been the face but, you might have noticed, nobody but Biden is suggesting he is a contender for the Dems in 2016.

Happy Nomad on July 5, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Does anyone besides me get tired of Liberals being stupider than a pile of elephant dung? Are their any intelligent liberals?

oscarwilde on July 5, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Ayers is not in JAIL because daddy was a multimillionaire and couldn’t spend enough to keep little Billy and bride out of jail.

KenInIL on July 5, 2014 at 4:40 PM

From a transcript of an interview between Hugh Hewitt and Victor Davis Hanson on 3 July…

HH: Victor, earlier this week, I had on the senior political economy reporter for the Huffington Post, a man named Zach Carter, 31 years old, a graduate of the University of Virginia. In the course of an interview, it came out that he hadn’t read The Looming Tower. He hadn’t read anything on my necessary bookshelf, including your own, The Soul Of Battle. He was unaware that Bill Clinton had bombed Iraq in 1998. He didn’t know who AQ Khan was. He had never known that Qaddafi had weapons of mass destruction that were given up in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. In short, he doesn’t know anything, and he’s the senior political economy reporter. And I brought him on, because he had been commenting on Dick Cheney. And I’m afraid our country is just making itself so dumb that it doesn’t know what’s going on out there.

VDH: Well, when you look at people who served the Roosevelt or Truman administrations, or Eisenhower, diplomats, and then you look at Ben Rhodes or the people that are surrounding Obama in the National Security Council, or Susan Rice or John Kerry, it is frightening. But if we didn’t have Obama, we’d have to invent him. He’s a symptom of a pathology in our higher education and our public school system, and the society in general And it’s almost that we had a rendezvous with somebody named Obama. It could have been named somebody else, but somebody like him, and now I’m really worried about it, because we’re either going to gut check time and we’re going to wake up and we’re going to react against what we have, or we’re going to have a slow insidious decline. I hope not.

VDH: Well, they have to go back and be honest, and don’t say that we intervened all over the world. We had two interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two. That was it. And they were supported by Congress. They both would have been successful had we just kept residual troops in Iraq. And they were controversial, but we didn’t go all over the world trying to overthrow dictators, as Rand Paul says. We didn’t go into Iraq because Dick Cheney wanted to make money on Halliburton. So what needs to be said is take a deep breath, go back and look at the record, yes, Iraq was vicious and it was dirty and it was costly, but that was not a policy where we were going to intervene everywhere in the world. And that’s the first thing we need to do. And then we’re going to say what do you want an Iran-led Middle East, or a Russia-led Eastern Europe, or a China-led Asia in the Pacific, what do you want that to be? What do you think it’s going to be as far as we’re concerned? When is it going to affect us? And Rand Paul, I agree with him on a lot of domestic issues. He’s very charismatic. But he says things that are completely irresponsible, and they’re not attuned to the reality. They’re make believe stuff.

Obama and his feckless, clueless, incompetent, selected based on ideological loyalty National Security / SecState / SecDef, are doing little more than repeating the same mistakes made in 1975 in SE Asia. This includes abandoning our allies, empowering and encouraging our enemies, and creating another bloodbath of innocents…all in the name for pulling out and appealing to the anti-American base in today’s Democrat Party.

The naive approach that a war ends when the US cuts and runs, and the enemy persists in fighting on, is as feckless and incompetent as the narcissistic sociopath who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.

Athos on July 5, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Just finished that WaPo OpEd by Ali Khedery
.
I conclude that President Barack Obama must be as jealous as a person could possibly be of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (Abu Isra).

Absolute dictatorial power . . . . . “Dammit, why can’t I have that ?”

listens2glenn on July 5, 2014 at 4:42 PM

So we owned Iraq, did we? We had the deed and everything? Well we certainly paid way more than enough for it that’s for sure – a trillion plus dollars, that we didn’t have and just put on the grandkids ever increasing tab, the lives of 4,500 American troops and probably even more limbs of American troops. It’s a toxic Shiite-Sunni waste dump and now you want to sink even more Blood and Treasure into it and while America’s own borders are basically wide open to tens of millions of third world invaders? Madness. Complete and utter madness. The Mad Hatter’s COIN/”Winning Muslim Hearts and Minds” Sociology Experiment from Hell, with our own Soldiers as Lab Rats makes ObamaCare look like utter genius by contrast.

VorDaj on July 5, 2014 at 5:01 PM

Does anyone besides me get tired of Liberals being stupider than a pile of elephant dung? Are their any intelligent liberals?

oscarwilde on July 5, 2014 at 4:36 PM

If there were they would be conservatives.

crankyoldlady on July 5, 2014 at 5:05 PM

It was never ours.

DarkCurrent on July 5, 2014 at 5:14 PM

the American electorate shares at least some of the blame,

Wrong, Ed! Weasel-words.

A RESPONSIBLE “leader” would not have pandered to baser elements. And, had he done so, could have reneged on that promise. After all, it’s not like Obama has had any trouble lying and doing the exact opposite of what he has promised.

In other words, if Obama actually gave a (rap and had better advisers and actually spent time using his pea-brain for things other than campaigning, golf and ad hominems, we might not have squandered the blood and treasure. Nor would we have provided Iran greater prestige and safe haven to rabid terrorists.

Please don’t blame the American people for the actions of the Abdicator-in-Chief.

MistyLane on July 5, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Obama and his allies destroyed Iraq to win the 2012 election, that is reality.

rob verdi on July 5, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Maybe the chinee will put up something since they got nice contracts their despite the accusations saying that we were the for oil, not like that’s a bad thing

Doyle Hargrave on July 5, 2014 at 5:18 PM

Do you need a new keyboard?

DarkCurrent on July 5, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Please don’t blame the American people for the actions of the Abdicator-in-Chief.

MistyLane on July 5, 2014 at 5:22 PM

They can be blamed for his election, wouldn’t you agree?

DarkCurrent on July 5, 2014 at 5:29 PM

DarkCurrent 5:29pm

To a point. I really blame the treasonous 4th estate. Had just some of the vile truth about Obama been brought to light for the low info voters, then we would have had entirely different elections in 08 and 12

MistyLane on July 5, 2014 at 5:36 PM

To a point. I really blame the treasonous 4th estate. Had just some of the vile truth about Obama been brought to light for the low info voters, then we would have had entirely different elections in 08 and 12

MistyLane on July 5, 2014 at 5:36 PM

The majority of the American people are low-info voters and that’s their fault.

DarkCurrent on July 5, 2014 at 5:56 PM

I suggested … as a successor … A former Baathist, moderate Shiite Islamist and French-educated economist

WTF?

WhatSlushfund on July 5, 2014 at 5:59 PM

“A former Baathist, moderate Shiite Islamist and French-educated economist who had served…” There are no moderate Muslims, there are the believers and the non-believing survivors, there are the terrorists and the terrorized. The sooner we understand that the better.

We didn’t lose Iraq because we never had Iraq. Iraq is in the grip of a medieval Arabian death cult. Deal with the death cult and you can win. Not mentioning that there’s a death cult won’t get you anywhere.

Mojave Mark on July 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM

It was never ours.

DarkCurrent on July 5, 2014 at 5:14 PM

True, and it never will be…Chinese…wait, parts of it obama handed over to the Chinese.

Way to go, obama!

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Gotta love these despicable neocon revisionists.

Neocons are always begging for a few more years, a few more trillion dollars, a few more 1000′s of lives, and just maybe, juuuust maybe, at some point in time, some random Islamic he11ho1e will be back to where it started (a US-backed “evil” dictator keeping at least some form of order with the Muslim savages) before the occupation.

nottakingsides on July 5, 2014 at 6:27 PM

True, and it never will be…Chinese…wait, parts of it obama handed over to the Chinese.

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Nobody ever handed anything over to China!

Well except Mongolia

and Manchuria … but they did that themselves!

DarkCurrent on July 5, 2014 at 6:39 PM

The Obama administration insisted on sticking with Maliki,

You can count on Ed to follow the Left’s memes.

This is article # 5,678 on Obama blameshifting how he lost Iraq to Al Qaeda.

faraway on July 5, 2014 at 7:05 PM

The only time we ever “had” the region is when we backed tyrannical strong men who dominated their people and Islam, so we wouldn’t have to face it. That’s our choices, fight a religious war, or back tyrants.

DFCtomm on July 5, 2014 at 7:17 PM

Actually, we didn’t “lose” in Iraq, we succeeded in spite of ourselves. Barack Obama was the one who insisted on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by going all Pontius Pilate on the Iraqis by washing his hands of the certainty of their fate in our absence. Folks like to get all analytical and stuff about “what happened in Iraq” but that’s it in a nutshell and there isn’t any version of this story to the contrary that makes it not so.

Dan_NV on July 5, 2014 at 7:18 PM

BOMBSHELL – OSAMA’S DREAM – ISLAMIC CALIPHATE ESTABLISHED IN IRAQ

al-Baghdadi, head of the group that now calls itself the Islamic State, issued the call to jihad – holy war – in an audio message lasting nearly 20 minutes that was posted online on Tuesday.

It was his first purported message since the group — previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — proclaimed a ‘caliphate’ on the territory it has captured.

Baghdadi named a string of countries, from Central African Republic to Myanmar (Burma), where he said violations were being committed against Muslims.

“Your brothers, on every piece of this earth, are waiting for you to rescue them

On Sunday ISIS claimed universal authority throughout the Muslim world, declaring Baghdadi its caliph

Obama let this happen. Obama intends to allow them to stay.

faraway on July 5, 2014 at 7:23 PM

To a point. I really blame the treasonous 4th estate. Had just some of the vile truth about Obama been brought to light for the low info voters, then we would have had entirely different elections in 08 and 12

MistyLane on July 5, 2014 at 5:36 PM

What would we have after six years of McCain? We would be occupying Egypt, Lybia, Syria, and possibly Iran, and don’t forget amnesty. Mr. “build that dang fence” wouldn’t have. There wouldn’t have been anything but a smoking crater where the GOP was.

DFCtomm on July 5, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Happy Nomad on July 5, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Well said.

rlwo2008 on July 5, 2014 at 7:47 PM

DFCtomm

Look McCain was and is a turd. But he would have stunk less than Obama. He also would have felt some restraint in the form of an attack-dog media (versus lap dog) and he likely harbors love of country and still maintains a smidgeon of principle, whereas Doofus has zero.

MistyLane on July 5, 2014 at 7:59 PM

And “smoking crater where GOP was” would have been his great gift to America.

MistyLane on July 5, 2014 at 8:00 PM

it pains me that the real opportunities we had in Iraq and Afghanistan to foment fundamental change have been squandered. How many Americans had to die because Obama is a lazy stupid coward.

Amen.

pc253 on July 5, 2014 at 9:33 PM

WE lost nothing.

The Choom Gang threw it away.

formwiz on July 5, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Yes.

We didn’t lose it. Obama gave it away.

Oldnuke on July 5, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Yes.

It was never ours.

DarkCurrent on July 5, 2014 at 5:14 PM

No.

Gotta love these despicable neocon revisionists

nottakingsides on July 5, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Hell no.

V7_Sport on July 6, 2014 at 12:18 AM

came as a surprise to Vice President Joe Biden,

…stand up Chuck!

JugEarsButtHurt on July 6, 2014 at 12:24 AM

The most important players in this saga was the American Far Left. Their wants came first.

southsideironworks on July 6, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Victor D Hanson stated what thinkers already knew and understood, but could not turn the tide of the LIVeral’s.
Dancing with the Stars or America’s Got Talent or People magazine have a measurable impact on the LIVeral’s and what they think about.
R E A L I T Y is not within their bandwidth so they don’t a crap.
As for Iraq … it was a partial success of the Bush administation and Obama’s sublimial aim would see that it became a total FAILURE.
Curious that that with facts before them the LIVeral’s fall for the idea that 8 yeas later (since 2006 remember?) ‘It is ALL Bushes fault’.
2016 is going to be a very busy and expensive legislative year.
King Putt will leave his successor 20 pounds of shiite in a 2 pound bag … that’ll be on fire.

Missilengr on July 6, 2014 at 11:51 AM