Monday, August 11, 2014

Obama's new "surge" in Iraq

Eli Lake has some background on the Obama Administration's push for regime change (lite?) in Baghdad, Inside Obama's Push for Regime Change in Iraq Daily Beast 08/11/2014. The timing is notable. Thursday Obama announced his humanitarian intervention. Sunday was the deadline for selecting a new prime minister in Iraq under the existing constitution:

No, Obama has not proposed toppling Iraq’s government by force like his predecessor once did. But the president has instructed his diplomats in Washington and Baghdad to find an alternative to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Since June those diplomats have quietly supported a member of Maliki’s own political party to be the next prime minister. On Sunday, the effort appeared to pay off, when a majority of Shi’ite politicians threw their weight behind Haidar al-Abadi, leading to Iraq’s president to instruct him to begin forming a new government.

"We have been working very quietly on the ground and sending messages to various parties that al-Abadi is a viable alternative," one U.S. official told The Daily Beast. ...

But al-Abadi has been the United States' preferred candidate since late June to replace Maliki, a man who Obama himself blamed over the weekend for creating the conditions for the current catastrophe that is engulfing Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials tell The Daily Beast that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Robert Beecroft and Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, have pushed Iraqi politicians behinds the scenes to consider al-Abadi as a new Iraqi head of state.
Juan Cole provides more context in Iraq: Is al-Maliki Preparing to Make a Coup? Informed Comment 08/11/2014. As of this writing, the power struggle with Maliki appears to be continuing. (Michael Georgy and Ahmed Rasheed, Power struggle on Baghdad streets as Maliki replaced but refuses to go Reuters 08/11/2014; Christoph Sydow, Maliki vs. Abadi: Irak droht Bruderkampf der Schiiten Spiegel Online 11.08.2014)

Obama has clearly signaled in his public statements that a friendly Iraqi government could count on more US military assistance, so we're not only a partisan against the Islamic Caliphate/ISIS/ISIL/Islammic State, we're at the moment a partisan in the political clash between Maliki supporters and al-Abadi supporters.

Jessica Mathews wrote a month ago about Iraq Illusions New York Review of Books 07/10/2014:

What is happening now - not its details, but its essentials - was clearly evident at the time of President Bush’s “surge” seven years ago. The premise for the added American troops then was that insecurity in Iraq blocked political reconciliation. If the violence could be reduced, the administration argued, reconciliation would follow—but it didn't. The important agreements on the eighteen political "benchmarks" specified by the US never were carried out and haven’t been to this day. (They included, for example, laws that were supposed to distribute oil revenue equitably and reverse the purge of Baathists from government.) When a government is wrenched apart, especially an authoritarian one, a struggle for political power immediately fills the vacuum. In Iraq the struggle has been, and continues to be, within sectarian groups almost as much as between them. Among the Shia, for example, Muqtada al-Sadr has openly opposed Maliki. The US presence forced the struggle into nonviolent channels for a while, but it could neither remove nor resolve the multiple contests for political power that continued to be fought. [my emphasis]
Her estimation is that the US might have stabilized Iraq more permanently, "if American forces had continued to occupy Iraq for another decade or two."

There is major-league potential for escalation and prolonged involvement in Obama's new Iraq War. Apparently with even less realistic prospect of a near-term favorable outcome than for the 2003 invasion.

In another pre-Obama-surge piece, No End of a Lesson - Unlearned 06/12/2014, historian William Polk warns:

America appears once again to be on the brink of a war. This time the war is likely to be in Syria and/or in Iraq. If we jump into one or both of these wars, they will join, by my count since our independence, about 200 significant military operations (not all of which were legally "wars") as well as countless "proactive" interventions, regime-change undertakings, covert action schemes and search-and-destroy missions. (p. 1)
And he writes of the Cheney-Bush Iraq War:

As a corollary of our hostility to Saddam Husain, we essentially turned Iraq over to his enemies, the Iraqi Shia Muslim. (I deal with this in my Understanding Iraq, New York: HarperCollins, 2005, 171 ff.) There was some justification for this policy. The Shia community has long been Iraq's majority and because they were Saddam's enemies, some "experts" naively thought they would become our friends. But immediately two negative aspects of our policy became evident: non-­‐specialists: first, the Shiis took vengeance on the Sunni Muslim community and so threw the country into a vicious civil war. What we called pacification amounted to ethnic cleansing. And, second, the Shia Iraqi leaders (the marjiaah) made common cause with coreligionist Iranians with whom we were nearly at war all during the second Bush administration. Had war with Iran eventuated, our troops in Iraq would have been more hostages than occupiers. At several points, we had the opportunity to form a more coherent, moral and safer policy. I don't see evidence that our government or our occupation civil and military authorities even grasped the problem; certainly they did not find ways to work toward a solution. Whatever else may be said about it, our policy was dysfunctional. (p. 5)
And I doubt that our policy will prove to be substantially better with Obama's new war.

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