George W. Bush is intervening in Iraq -- again

On the record, Anbar’s delegates said they were pleased by Biden’s visit. (“We’re honored that vice president took the time to see us,” Abu Risha told me.) But off the record they were bitterly disappointed. “We’re interested in fighting ISIL [Islamic State] and the administration is interested in restructuring the Iraqi government,” a delegation member said. “In the meantime, ISIL is killing our people.” (The vice president’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the meeting.)

That view was reinforced when delegation members met at the Pentagon with Elissa Slotkin, the Defense Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. The delegation had hoped to press their case with officers of the U.S. Central Command, but had been told to meet with Slotkin instead. While Slotkin had spent 20 months in Iraq, she has consistently raised the ire of Sen. John McCain for her testimony on U.S. policy in the Middle East, which included a nasty exchange in December, when Slotkin told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the administration’s “strategy” in Iraq and Syria was to “defeat ISIL.” McCain couldn’t believe it. “That’s a goal, not a strategy,” he sputtered. “I want to know what the strategy is.”

Slotkin fared no better with Abu Risha’s Anbar delegation. “She basically reiterated Biden’s point,” a delegation member said in describing the meeting, “and seemed to have a lot of faith in Abadi. She knows Iraq, and we were pleased with that. But we were hoping to get someone in uniform—someone who can make a decision.”