In early June, when fighters loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria mounted a blitz across Iraq, taking key cities and forcing the far more numerous and better trained Iraqi Security Forces to flee or surrender, the Obama administration appeared to be as shocked as anyone.
We now know based on testimony that the administration had been following the rise of ISIS at least 2012, and knew that the city of Mosul – where horrific violence and human tragedy has been ongoing for weeks – would fall to the Sunni fundamentalist group as early as three days before it did.
Nevertheless, the administration projected concern over the troubling developments in Iraq and Syria, and President Barack Obama soon informed the public that the situation was so dire that he was contemplating manned and unmanned airstrikes in Iraq in order to stem the group’s advance.
“We have already taken some immediate steps, including providing enhanced aerial surveillance support to assist the Iraqis in this fight,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London on Friday, June 13. “We have also ramped up shipments of military aid to Iraq since the beginning of the year.”
Reports indicated that the president was reviewing his military options and the order to execute military strikes inside Iraq could come as early as that weekend. “President Barack Obama has the authority to wage war in Iraq without going to Congress, because the original use of force authorization remains in effect,” Roll Call’s Steven Dennis reported on June 12.
While the administration has always supported the repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq, passed by Congress in 2002, they never pursued its repeal with much enthusiasm and it appeared as though they never would. After all, the AUMF might come in handy now that a threat to American national security was being incubated there.
“The Obama administration is calling on Congress to fully repeal the war authorization in Iraq to ensure that no U.S. troops return to the country, which is under siege by the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reported on Friday.
White House national security adviser Susan Rice petitioned Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio) in a letter Friday to completely repeal the war authorization, officially known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, or AUMF.
“We believe a more appropriate and timely action for Congress to take is the repeal of the outdated 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq,” Rice wrote, according to a copy of her letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
“Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq,” Rice’s letter read.
Sending ground troops to Iraq, you might recall, is unpopular with the American people even though it still may be necessary as a fleet of American naval vessels remain positioned in the Persian Gulf in order to facilitate potential contingency operations should Americans need to be evacuated from Iraq on an emergency basis.
That would be, of course, the strategic consideration. But this is not a strategic move. It is, as has been this administration’s approach to virtually every Iraqi security issue, a political concern first and foremost.