Monday, August 11, 2014

The Iraq Shuffle - Showdown In Baghdad

The rumors early this morning about a suspected coup appear to be partly true, as political factions in the Iraqi government engage as Washington attempts to force Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki out of power.

Maliki had launched into an angry tirade yesterday against new Iraqi president Fuad Masum, who had refused to intervene with parliament to give Maliki a third term after he 'won' a dubious election back in April, threatening to 'take him (Masum) to court.He backed it up by placing army and Shi'ite militia units loyal to him in key areas of Baghdad, at one point surrounding the president's residence.

Meanwhile President Masum, a Kurd has declared Haidar al-Abadi, a former Maliki lieutenant the new Prime Minister and the Obama State Department issued formal congratulations. Meanwhile Maliki's Dawa Party announced al=Abadi's appointment illegal and Maliki's son-in-law, Hussein al-Maliki said they would overturn it in court...while Washington sent a stern warning to Maliki to bow out gracefully and not try using force to stay to power.

The White House said Vice President Joe Biden personally relayed President Barack Obama's congratulations to Abadi in a phone call, which is actually a pretty nasty insult although Abadi probably doesn't know that.

"The prime minister-designate expressed his intent to form a broad-based, inclusive government capable of countering the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the White House said in a statement, using the former name ISIS for the Islamic State.

Even worse in terms for any prospect of success, Reuters reported that John Kerry weighed in:

"There should be no use of force, no introduction of troops or militias in this moment of democracy for Iraq," Kerry said. "The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq and our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.

"There will be little international support of any kind whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate constitution process that is in place and being worked on now."

You tell 'em, Mr. Secretary! I'm sure that will cause all of Maliki's Shi'ite troops and militiamen to throw their guns down and flee in terror.

That, you see, is the problem. Once we pulled out of Iraq, al-Maliki promptly put that $25 billion Iraqi Army the American tax payers  provided him with and put it under his control, like any sensible Middle Eastern autocrat would. He  purged of most of the Sunnis and Kurds and any Shi'tes not loyal to him from the army and the security forces, disarmed them when he could and made sure they were excluded from most positions of power.

At  this point, it's al Maliki who has the boots on the ground, and I'm not sure what leverage the Obama team actually has on him. They can withhold spare parts for his military, but that means Islamic State takes over, so that's self defeating..especially since this president does not want to send American troops back to Iraq. It will be interesting to watch how this standoff develops.

Speaking of developments, an excellent one is that the Kurdish Pesh Merga are now receiving weapons and ammo from our CIA. Apparently this was Obama's fall back position. Since that 'inclusive Iraqi government' appears to be a long way off if it's even possible, the Kurds are the next best thing. Or it might simply be that the president doesn't want another overrun consulate and a dead ambassador on his watch. Unlike Maliki's troops who simply dropped their weapons and ran, the Kurds fought hard with inadequate weaponry and low ammo before being forced back by Islamic State. The air strikes and the beginning shipments of arms have re-invigorated them , the Pesh Merga's morale  is superb and they forced Islamic State out of  two towns yesterday.

If the Kurds are armed and they can defend their territory from Islamic State,  this could be the start of an independent Kurdistan.


B.Poster said...

It would seem the Kurds were doing a bit more than making a "last stand." Apparently we got played yet again by yet another foreign entity. There's no way limited air strikes of the strikes discussed could have made that much difference so quickly. If the Kurds were already about to take these towns, then this could speed up the process but could not actually turn the tide.

While it is clearly in our best interests to support the Kurds in any way we can, they need to understand our abilities are very, very limited right now. Their leaders do NOT need to make references to America having some sort of "moral obligation" to support them. Such things are unhelpful to say the least.

As a Shi'ite Iraqi government official said to roughly paraphrase, "the air strikes are good for Kurds not good for Iraq as a whole. The Americans only act in their interests." My first thought to this statement is "duh, all nation states do this. It would be unrealistic to expect America to behave any differently."

As for making Kurdistan the "51st state", no thanks that'd be just something else we'd need to administer. Given that we are hardly able to administer what we currently have for the US government to take on yet another project would be unwise and downright foolish.

As for "we will defend you," does this mean the Pesh Merga is coming to America to fight shoulder to shoulder along side us when we are invaded? No, didn't think so. Kurdish officials need to refrain from insulting the intelligence of Americans.

As for policy prescription going forward, 1.)it'd be wise to give up on any notion of Iraq ever being some type of unified entity in the short to mid term. Even if it can be, we have no way to influence this. It'd be better to support whomever we can that may somewhat have our interests at heart such as the Kurds but again our abilities are very limited at this time. 2.)Actually it seems quite clear how much influence team Obama has over Al Maliki. This is zero influence. Given that we were barely able to escape from Iraq with a face saving defeat the last time we were there, we should not weigh in at all on the Iraqi political situation. Keeping the country together is futile anyway and trying to do so and trying to influence the Iraqi political situation will only lead to further humiliation for us. For some reason US leaders seem to have an almost pathological need to humiliate themselves and our country on a global stage. Truly pathetic.

Rob said...

With all respect Poster, you have no idea of what you're talking about here.The Kurds were in their last extremity.

As for what some unnamed Shi'ite official said, that translates as 'We want to keep the Kurds under our thumb and continue to steal their oil'.

And you know what Poster? Kurdistan could have been our ally and based redoubt in the ME. I realize that you're a total isolationist, but it isn't 1798 anymore.Whether you like it or not, Islamic State isn't going to stop with gobbling up Iraq and Syria.

And BTW, who do you expect to 'invade America', aside from the illegal aliens Obama is letting in?

Simply amazing...

B.Poster said...

If the Kurds really were in their last extremity, it seems unlikely that the limited airstrikes of the type mentioned could have made this much difference for them to have captured two towns from ISIS. With all due respect, it stretches credibility practically to the breaking point.

I actually agree with your take on what the Iraqi official said. Unfortunately US leadership is under the misguided assumption that Iraq can be held together in some type of coherent single nation. This delusion should be dropped. The Kurds and us seem to have aligning interests in many respects. As such, we should support them to whatever extent possible. I don't think we are going to find anything even remotely resembling a "friend" among the Sunnis or the Shi'tes. There do seem some commonalities between us and the Kurds however or at the very least some aligning interests.

"Kurdistan could have been our ally and redoubt in the ME." This might have made sense at one point in time. Unfortunately a variety of decisions have been made down through the years that make this generally unfeasible today. 1.)Much effort has been wasted in trying to hold Iraq together when it should have been allowed to break up into its components long ago. 2.)We've depleted our military in a series of fruitless operations around the world to the point that such things are less feasible now than they would have been at one time. 3.)Due to a series of bad moves made on our part and a general mistreatment of the Kurds on our part it seems highly unlikely that they'd want any part of it now or in the short to mid term.

If being a "total isolationist" means I support actions that advance American security and economic interests then I wear the label with pride. I think most Americans would agree with me. If the policies I've suggested were implemented, we'd actually be less "isolated" than we are now and would be more respected, more secure, and economically much better off. As such, to call me "isolationist" by a literal definition of the word is not even accurate!!

"Islamic State isn't going to stop without gobbling up Syria." Pat Buchannan at WND has an informative article on this. While he does understand there's a threat he does correctly point out that the nations in the region such as Turkey could handle this problem. Essentially it's not going to suit us to go back into Iraq militarily. Middle Easterners will have to the heavy lifting on this one militarily for the benefit of their countries. I've already pointed out elsewhere a much more effective approach for our national security interests for us. We CANNOT slay every monster nor is it ethical for anyone to expect us to.

B.Poster said...

"...who do you expect to invade America..." I think you probably know that I believe BHO's immigration policies to be misguided on a number of levels. I would expect invaders to use the same pathways that the cartels use to smuggle drugs in, as a number of reports have alluded to.

Also, these people are not being properly vetted. I'd think it highly likely that any invader would use this to their advantage. Essentially no sane country has an immigration policy like ours that I'm aware of!!

The greatest national security threats to our country are as follows: 1.)an all out nuclear attack against us by Russia, 2.)multiple suitcase nuclear weapons and/or "dirty bombs" being detonated in our cities, and 3.)an invasion of the US mainland by Russia, China, both of them, or them along with some combination of their allies.

While threat 2 is more likely, threat 1 is much more serious. As such, our top national security priority should be ensuring we, at a minimum, are able to respond adequately to deter this and working to actually prevent this type of attack. While threat 3 is less likely, the current policies including our immigration policies mean the possibility of threat 3 is increasing.

With any military engagement, actual or proposed, we need to ask if they help us or hinder us in deterring the three main threats our national security. Additional military operations in Iraq at this time likely only make all three threats more likely, not less likely.

As pointed out in the previous post, the type of alliance with the Kurds may have been possible at one time but not now. We certainly should try and help them where and when we can in ways that are mutually beneficial to us but we cannot be expected to engage in sustained military actions on their behalf. It's unethical for anyone to expect America to fulfill such a role and it's misguided on the part of American leaders to think such a role is feasible.

Even if certain things were, in fact, doable for us, the current crop of US leadership cannot be trusted either in terms of competence or intentions. As such, it'd be inadvisable on many levels for us be involved in Iraq right now. Since our leadership has chosen this course, I suppose at this point we can only pray and hope for the best.