Obama Now Claims New US War In Iraq Could Last Months (Years?)

Barack Obama addresses reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, August 9, 2014. Just before taking off for a vacation at Martha's Vineyard, Obama explained that American military involvement in the new Iraq War—really just the next phase in the old Iraq War—might not end for "months". Obama also rejected any notion he should regret having failed to leave a residual military force in Iraq. Obama pointed out it was the Iraqis who wanted all Americans troops to leave the country, not Obama or the Pentagon. In fact, many Iraqis were hoping American troops would stay beyond 2011, precisely because there were expectations that if the US withdraw all its troops, Iraq would fall apart into sectarian violence and civil war. None of this pertains to the American people's view of the necessity for any continuing US commitment to Iraq. The vast majority of the American people agreed with Obama's decision (which was consistent with George W. Bush's decision in 2008) for a complete US troop pullout from Iraq by the end of 2011.
In the course of trying to explain (again) the US military policy in the newest American war in Iraq, Barack Obama this morning, in a South Lawn press update, added considerable fuel to the domestic debate about his actions, by saying the US military mission against the IS (Islamic State) could last for months, at least.

Asked by a reporter if Obama's "ambitions" in Iraq could really be achieved by a temporary military involvement, and would not instead require months or years, the President responded:
"I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks, if that’s what you mean. I think this is going to take some time." 
After initially refusing to give any timetable for the length of American operations in Iraq, Obama indicated that one timetable that could give people some indication of the length of the American commitment, was how quickly the Iraqi government could become "inconclusive" (in other words of major ethnic and religious minorities), and how quickly the Iraqi security forces, already trained and equipped by the United States, could learn to stop throwing down its arms and fleeing at the first sight of Islamic State fighters.

Since the American people have already spent thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars to enable Iraq to become fully functional and capable of defending itself from these very sorts of threats posed by the IS, and it is apparent those efforts have utterly failed, why Americans should draw anything but dread from the nature of Obama's timetable is difficult to see.

In addition, Obama also admitted that the current situation, with the United States having been caught flatfooted by the speed and effectiveness of the IS advance into Iraq, was the fault, once again, of inept US intelligence:
"Did we underestimate ISIL [now called IS]? I think that there is no doubt that their advance, their movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates and I think the expectations of policymakers both in and outside of Iraq."
Finally, it is worth noting that the Shia Iraqis have responded to this latest US intervention with skepticism and cynicism, as they point out the Shia-led Baghdad government had begged for a long time for US airstrikes and additional military aid to help stop the IS advances—and slaughtering of citizens in IS-controlled areas—and Barack Obama refused to offer help. Not until Americans and Christians were threatened in northern Iraq did Obama act to try to stop the IS.

This sentiment was expressed for example, by Sami al-Askari, a Shia political associate of Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, as quoted in the New York Times:
"[Obama] should have made this decision when hundreds of Shiites and Sunnis were being killed every day...[The Americans are] protecting the Kurdish regional government and Christians, not the rest of Iraq...Iraqis must rely on themselves and their genuine friends, like Iran and Russia, who have supported Iraq in its battle against ISIS."
There is a strong sentiment in Baghdad, in the Shia community, that the United States is acting purely in its own interest and that it will push for a much stronger participation in the Iraqi national government for the Sunni population—something the Shia instinctively, and understandably, have rejected since coming to power.

One of the key elements of the allegedly successful "Surge" strategy implemented by US General David Petraeus in Iraq, was the widespread payment of bribes to Sunni tribesmen, who agreed to stop being anti-US insurgents and to start fighting al-Qaeda. As soon as the Americans left, the Shia discontinued paying bribes to the Sunnis, and began excluding Sunni leaders from effective power. This pushed many of the old Sunni insurgents back into supporting a Sunni movement, the IS, that is considered even more ruthless and radical than al-Qaeda.

Therefore, the United States once again finds itself back at square one in Iraq, with an ethnic divide that cannot or will not be reconciled by the competing factions, with a dire security situation whose solution Obama nevertheless has linked to this reconciliation, and with the American people once again being told by a US president to be patient and to ask no questions (because he has no real answers) about the once again active US military involvement in the Iraq killing fields.

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