It has been a rough week in Iraq.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, has stormed into Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit in Iraq’s Sunni north, and is eager to strike at Baghdad.
In a historic move, Kurdish peshmerga militias, sensing growing instability but also opportunity, have seized Kirkuk – a city many Kurds see as their Jerusalem.
Iraqi Shi’ites, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are turning to Iran for military and political support.
Iran has sent 2000 troops to Iraq, and there are reports that Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, the Quds Force commander who orchestrated Assad’s military comeback in Syria, is in Baghdad with other top advisors.
It was only three years ago that Obama withdrew the last American troops from Iraq with no residual forces agreement and declared that, “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.”
If only it were so.
Today Iraq is in such bad shape that its democratically elected leaders are actually asking us to bomb parts of the country’s north.
But before we take any steps to prevent Iraq becoming the next Syria, John Kerry said on Monday, the administration would first wait to “see what Iran might or might not be willing to do.”
Put simply, Kerry is hoping that Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism including organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, will step in and take responsibility for Iraq.
This would be a disaster for the American interests, the Iraqi people, and the Middle East in general.
Indeed, even Obama’s allies in Congress are urging him to act assertively in Iraq, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. Whether action means missile strikes, special operations forces or perhaps more is a decision best left to the Pentagon.
The Iranians, for their part, are ecstatic that Obama has all but abandoned Iraq to them. General Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, declared that “By any meddling and military intervention in Iraq, the Americans are seeking to attain ungracious goals […] the crocodile tears of the Americans should not receive any attention.”
By leaving Iraq, a country where thousands of Americans have died and whose government owes its existence to the United States, Obama has sent a clear message to the rest of our allies: If America won’t lift a finger to stop Iraq being dismembered by Iran and ISIS, why would anyone count on us?
The Israelis, Saudis, Japanese, Taiwanese, Poles, and Baltic countries have surely received this message, loud and clear.