Iraq is in crisis, and the crisis is fatal. The administration, without any support at all from the American people, is privately asking the Iranians to help the Iraqi regime. The Iranians will extract a huge price, but in fact Iran cannot do anything much to help the rapidly collapsing situation. Iraq is no longer a single country –what it will actually become is still in doubt.
All of this has been brought about largely through the deliberate ignorance of the current administration. Thinking they somehow could defeat Saddam and, following that, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Obama pulled U.S. troops out of the country and declared victory.
From the start the post Saddam reconstituted Iraq state did not have a chance. To begin with there are massive sectarian hatreds that are still sorting out. U.S. training and equipment supply to Iraq’s army and police made it look like we were accomplishing something. But no one asked the obvious questions: are the Iraqi military and police coherent organizations and will they fight for the new government? The answer is now crystal clear. The military and police did not fight. The only fighting force willing to fight, outside of the Sunni al-Qaeda like insurgents, are the Kurdish forces. The Kurds, who have always been despised by Washington because their cause was not “convenient”, have a real territorial claim, a genuine sense of identity, and deep historical ties to the land. They are not, unlike all the other players, the pawn of some foreign regime (whether American, Saudi, Turkish, Syrian or Iranian).
The goal of the al-Qaeda-like insurgency is to create a Caliphate that will stretch across Syria, Iraq and Jordan for starters. If they are successful they will form a powerful and dangerous force. They are determined, very well equipped (and now helping themselves to stores of equipment and ammunition generously provided by the American taxpayer), rich, absolutely ruthless and inflexible in the extreme.
These are Islamic Jihadis. They are the same people the Obama administration has been playing footsie with for far too long, destabilizing the Middle East, alienating virtually all the allies we have in the region. Single handedly the Obama administration has destroyed America’s relationship with Egypt, made a total mess of their constant pounding on Israel, and showed themselves as both toothless and worthless at every turn. The constant hectoring by both former Secretary of State Clinton and her successor, the none-too-adept, John Kerry have just poured napalm onto the fire. The President, who has a strange romantic notion about Islam and Muslims, has made it far worse. By now he has lost the respect of the foreign leaders he needs to work with, such as Merkel in Germany and Putin in Russia. So too has his “team” been discredited. Senator John McCain has gone so far as to call for the resignation of the entire National Security Council. He should extend his argument to large parts of the State Department and CIA, who have proven themselves unsuitable to run U.S. national security policy.
Should the Jihadists get control of Baghdad, their next task will be to try and consolidate territorial gains. This may take some time and it will mean that the lower third of Iraq, which is Shi’ia, probably will form an independent breakaway state. The Kurds too will have virtual independence.
So what should the U.S. do. By all means there is no chance at this late moment to defend a failed government in Baghdad which is currently under practical Shi’ia control. The remnants of the Baghdad government will probably retreat to the south and try and reestablish itself in Basra (itself a key oil port). Whether it can do so, and get the backing of the various Shi’ia factions, some pro-Iranians, others not, is far from certain.
The Pentagon must vigorously resist any proposed suicide-type military missions to save and unsaveable Baghdad government.
The Kurds will probably, under these circumstances, declare their independence. If the U.S. was smart, which is in serious doubt, it would recognize a Kurdish state provided agreement can be reached on boundaries, especially the sensitive boundary with Turkey, which has a large, restless, Kurdish population.
Jordan and Israel also need to be more strongly supported. If Jordan comes under Jihadi attack, as seems highly probable, Jordan may need help. Israel has bailed out Jordan before, most notably in 1970 when the Syrians threatened King Hussein. They may need to help again by providing tactical support and real time intelligence.
It bears mentioning that Israel also has to be prepared for a Palestinian threat, from Hamas and from the now clearly compromised West Bank government.
The U.S. also has to significantly improve its tattered relationship with Egypt. Like it or not, Egypt is a big power. If it is cast adrift, as now seems the case, it will inevitably be another tinder box for the Jihadis.
America’s relationship to Saudi Arabia also is in a mess. The Saudis feel they were not really supported in the fight in Syria, which is true. But even worse has been the U.S. policy to Iran, which has left the Saudis totally exposed to nuclear extortion. Anyone who believes the nuclear deal in Iran is real probably also likes smoking dope. We need to realize that thanks to our machinations with the Iranians, Saudi Arabia’s stability and its future is now deeply in doubt.
Finally we have to realize that this is a massive defeat for the United States which put all its support into the Baghdad government. The U.S. defeat is well understood in the region, and will trigger trouble far and wide.