The big news to emerge from President Obama’s Thursday afternoon press conference on Iraq was that 300 American “military advisers” would be deployed into Iraq. Since Obama’s advice appears to be “there is no military solution,” maybe the American forces should be sent to advise ISIS, which appears to be under the strong impression that there is a military solution.
There was also a call for the Shiite government of Iraq, and Sunni leaders, to “rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.” That’s good advice, but not really what you want to hear when an al-Qaeda fanatic is trying to chop your head off.
President Obama also declared that Iran could play a “constructive role” in stabilizing Iraq, which does not rest easily in the ears of anyone who remembers how hard they worked to destabilize it, killing and maiming a fair number of American troops in the process. Iran is the big winner in everything that has happened so far, basking in the legitimacy conveyed by the American government implicitly accepting them as partners. (Or explicitly, in the case of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was openly talking about teaming up with Tehran until the White House smacked him in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.)
So Iran is welcome to play on Obama’s team, provided they work toward an Iraq that “only holds together if it’s inclusive and if the interests of Sunny, Shia, and Kurd are all respected.” However, the President warned, “if Iran is coming in simply as an armed force on behalf of the Shiia, then that probably worsens the situation, and the prospect of a government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term.”
Well, I can’t imagine Iran would be interested in anything other than the most constructive, inclusive, Sunni-hugging, Kurd-smooching, constructive government for Iraq! While Obama is trying to improv a high-school term paper about “creating space” for people to form “partnerships” and work out their differences, Iran is telling the Shiites of Iraq, “We’ll kill your enemies.”
Also, the Iranians probably aren’t going to demand Maliki step down, which Obama is said to be pushing for behind the scenes, although he didn’t call for it during his press conference. Maliki hasn’t been a great leader, but I’m not sure “we’ll give you no direct military assistance, and furthermore we demand you ditch your loser of a Prime Minister” is what the demoralized Iraqis needed to hear at this juncture, especially since Maliki has been making an effort to rally his troops, and mend fences with the Sunnis and Kurds, over the past few days.
You can always tell when this imperial President doesn’t have his heart in something, because he starts talking about the importance of forming “partnerships” with the people he plans to blame when it all goes to hell.
So even as ISIS fills mass graves with the mutilated corpses of its prisoners, President Obama talks about creating “joint operations centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq, to share intelligence and coordinate planning,” and send those three hundred Americans to “assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward.”
Also, Secretary of State Kerry will be sent to Europe and the Middle East, to “give us a better understanding of what ISIL is doing.” The idea of dispatching John Kerry on such a mission is hilarious in all the wrong ways. Fox News aimed for New York Post levels of cheek with its graphic for the Obama speech:
(As an aside, we’ve really got to get on the same page about what to call the new terrorist super-state. Listening to Obama clumsily intone “Eye Ess Eye Ell” a few dozen times makes me more convinced than ever ISIS is the way to go.)
The President added some low-calorie Blame Bush spread by mourning how awful the whole Iraq War was – an interlude I suspect was designed to provide cover for all the Democrats facing the discovery of uncomfortable vintage video showing how strongly they claimed to support the war, back in the day – and invested considerable effort in explaining how the failure to secure an American presence that could have stopped ISIS in its tracks was all Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s fault. No one who remembers how Obama walked away from the status-of-forces negotiations is going to swallow that one, but it should be good enough to get the Low Information Voters off his back. It’s not like anyone’s going to pay much attention to Maliki’s objections.
Obama said American that air surveillance over Iraq would be increased, which could ultimately be a prelude to more aggressive U.S. air support – but at the moment, enhanced reconnaissance doesn’t seem to be the most urgent item on the Iraqi military’s wish list. Building up degraded American intelligence in the theater would be crucial before airstrikes could get under way, however.
There’s a severe disconnect between the way the Administration is treating the Iraq crisis, and the urgency of events on the ground. Even today’s press conference, which divulged very little newsworthy information, was more about domestic political positioning than keeping the American people in the loop, or shoring up the spirits of the besieged Iraqis. There’s a vacuum of leadership that other patrons of Iraq can step into, which might leave us with a situation not much better than ISIS getting their trans-national caliphate up and running. That truly is the worst-case scenario, as even President Obama acknowledged at some length in his remarks today… before refusing to announce any serious measures to stop it, or admitting that it was a mistake to let things get this bad.