Politics preventing Obama from dealing with Iraq as experts recommend
posted at 1:21 pm on August 14, 2014 by Noah Rothman
The Associated Press suggested on Thursday what everyone knows to be true, but is impolitic for some to say outright: President Barack Obama is not engaging the threat posed by ISIS in Iraq in the aggressive manner it deserves because it is politically inconvenient.
The AP revealed on Thursday that the administration has no illusions about the nature of the ISIS threat, and is resigned to the fact remains that a military solution is the only solution to the increasingly dangerous situation in the Middle East. Moreover, despite assertions to the contrary from some administration officials, the threat to the American homeland is real.
While the strategic approach to dealing with ISIS is relatively obvious, confronting the political obstacles that Obama himself has erected which prevent him from doing so is less clear.
Smashing the Islamic State, military and intelligence analysts say, would require a sustained campaign of American airstrikes, combined with a U.S.-backed ground force of Sunni tribesmen – the same approach that rooted al-Qaida in Iraq out of the Sunni tribal areas in 2008.
But such a campaign would be “orders of magnitudes more difficult” than Yemen because of how well-armed and well-trained Islamic State fighters are, said Peter Mansoor, a retired army colonel who helped oversee a turnaround in Iraq in 2008.
“We have a mismatch between our goals and our strategy at the present time,” said Mansoor, now a professor at Ohio State. “The goal eventually is to eliminate (the Islamic State), but the president has laid out a very restrained military option which can’t accomplish that goal.”
“A strategy to destroy the Islamic State would not require large numbers of American ground troops, but it would amount to a significant escalation from the recent air operations, analysts say,” the AP reported. “It might also require military action in western Syria, where the group has its headquarters in the city of Ar-Raqqah.”
Obama’s critics rightly fear that the president will be unable to address the ISIS threat in Iraq because it would mean introducing a significant American troop presence back into that country. This would also herald the collapse of a favored White House talking point that president successfully ended the Iraq War. Almost no one believes the president will conduct strikes inside Syria, where Obama declined to engage in military action in 2013 following the negotiation of a Russian-brokered deal which allowed Bashar al-Assad’s forces to surrender some chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, ISIS continues to advance even in spite of American airstrikes on militant positions.
JUST IN: ISIS advancing to south and west of Kirkuk –@NPWcnn
— Vaughn Sterling (@vplus) August 14, 2014
In spite of this advance, media outlets are reporting that the United States is backing off a plan to conduct a rescue mission of the Yazidi minorities, saying that airstrikes on ISIS targets have forced the fundamentalist militants to retreat and abandon checkpoints surrounding Mt. Sinjar.
Moreover, based on the assessment of U.S. Marines and special forces on the ground on that mountain in western Iraq, the number of Yazidis who remain trapped are fewer than previously estimated. This, the Defense Department says, makes a rescue mission “far less likely.”
MSNBC’s Luke Russert reported on Thursday that, even though many of the Yazidis could evacuate from the mountain if they wished, many prefer to stay there because they continue to fear for their lives.
That makes perfect sense.
Call me conspiratorial, but the fact that multiple reports continue to indicate that the White House is at least as concerned with the political implications associated with taking “American involvement to another level” as they are with Iraqi security and the safety of this imperiled religious minority.