This is progress. Last August he said he didn’t have a strategy to stop ISIS in Syria. Ten months later, he merely lacks a “complete” strategy. He’s on track, hopefully, to have a strategy ready for beta testing by the end of his presidency. Then the next president can get down to the hard business of winning this war.
I’m not being cute there either. ISIS and Iran may be mortal enemies (for now), but Obama’s approach to the former’s expansionism and the latter’s nuclear program is the same: Punt.
State Department official and ISIS expert Brett McGurk laid that out on NPR: “It’s a three-year campaign to degrade the organization.”
Three years marked from mid-2014, of course, falls after Jan. 20, 2017, the date Obama leaves office.
Translation: The strategy is to avoid sending ground troops for the remainder of his term. So stop asking.
This is a legacy issue for Obama, an actual red line. Iraq is already in the win column and only becomes a loss if he listens to Republican advice and orders combat troops to return, the White House thinking goes.
His strategy against ISIS is half-baked but he’s got a carefully thought out plan to defeat his true enemy, the GOP. I wonder, though, if even O’s White House can be so deeply in denial as to think Iraq will count as some sort of “win” for him, Hillary, and the Democrats next year just because there are no American boots on the ground anymore. The Iraqi army effectively no longer exists, to the point where one former governor of Anbar province thinks it should be dissolved and rebuilt from the ground up. ISIS has now seized so many U.S.-made heavy weapons from the military by overrunning key positions like Ramadi that the Kurds fear they’ll be outgunned the next time the jihadis make a move on Kurdistan. Meanwhile, not only is the yearlong American air campaign not pushing ISIS back in Iraq, the crown jewel of Obama/Clinton interventionism, the war in Libya, has given the group a new base in Africa:
The Libyan affiliate does not occupy large amounts of territory as the Islamic State does in Syria and Iraq. But in the past few months, the local group has seized Sirte, the coastal city that was Gaddafi’s last redoubt, as well as neighborhoods in the eastern city of Derna…
Although the Islamic State claims allies in many countries, the Libya branch is especially close to the main organization. Its core fighters in Libya are veterans of the Syrian civil war.
Security experts estimate there are as many as 3,000 fighters loyal to the Islamic State in Libya. The country has become one of the primary locations to train with the group outside of Syria and Iraq. Volunteers from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other countries have flocked here to fight with the extremists and other jihadist organizations. The Islamic State also has succeeded in pulling away members of other Libyan extremist groups.
The other video getting buzz from the G-7 today is the second clip below, in which Iraq’s prime minister sits down next to Obama to chat and ends up completely ignored. I think Obama probably just didn’t see him, but it’s an apt metaphor for how little Abadi matters anymore. If the White House wants to huddle with the man responsible for pushing back ISIS in Iraq, they’ll have to call Tehran, not Baghdad. Which is another core failure of Obama’s that connects the two strategies mentioned above: No matter how antagonistic to Iran the next president is, he/she will be forced to weigh their usefulness as a counterweight to ISIS against America’s interest in restraining their nuclear program. If you’re Hillary Clinton and you receive credible intel that Tehran’s testing advanced centrifuges surreptitiously, how much of a fuss do you want to make over that publicly if the IRGC and Hezbollah are busy pulverizing ISIS in Syria at the time? Obama let a power vacuum develop — that’s the “win” described in the first excerpt up top — and now, in all likelihood, either ISIS or Iran will fill it. Choose your poison.