Obama Reveals Shocking Ignorance Concerning Shia-Sunni-Kurd Makeup Of Iraq

Obama, as is his habit, spent a lot of time in the "60 Minutes" interview looking down and away. Whether he was trying to think of what to say, or he was trying to think of how to lie while saying it, most people find a person who cannot look them in the eye when he's answering a direct question about important matters to be shady. Add this to the fact that Obama's knowledge of what seems Iraq 101 was appallingly deficient—like who is the majority, Shia or Sunnis—and this interview may have been some kind of new nadir of Obama's presidency. The good news for Barry is that most Americans are even more ignorant about Iraq (and Syria) than he is, and so will never question all the dubious and contradictory things he claimed about his new war and its strategy.
In one of the more disturbing interviews in his presidency, Barack Obama attempted to make his case last night on “60 Minutes” for his strategy in the new American war in the Middle East.

Obama repeatedly made assertions that he later contradicted. For example, at one point Obama argued, as he has done a number of times that America is not fighting in a war against Islamic State, but is instead engaged in an extended (apparently open-ended) counterterrorism operation against any number of bad actors.

Then later, when asked by CBS interviewer Steve Kroft about the 1600 American boots already on the ground in Iraq (Obama repeatedly says there will be no American boots on the ground in this new war), Obama said that he was aware some of these troops, embedded in Iraqi operational combat units, were “in harm’s way” in “a war environment”.

Kroft of course did not catch this contradiction, and nor did he catch the most glaring and troubling Obama blunder of all, when the President answered a question about how Iraq’s national army performed so poorly after the US spent a fortune and many years training and equipping it to be able to fight against just the kind of threat Islamic State poses.

Obama was quick to deny that the United States had any responsibility for this outcome, claiming instead that Islamic State was able to roll over the Iraqi national army because the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had failed to build an inclusive government and make Sunnis and Kurds feel they were part of one unified Iraq:
“Well, here’s what happened in Iraq. When we left, we had left them a democracy that was intact, a military that was well-equipped, and the ability then to chart their own course. And that opportunity was squandered over the course of five years or so, because the Prime Minister, Maliki, was much more interested in consolidating his Shia base, and very suspicious of the Sunnis and the Kurds, who make up the other ⅔ of the country. So, what you did not see was a government that had built a sense of national unity.”
Certainly, if that version of the facts is correct, and the minority Shia were abusing their position to deny representative government to the Sunnis and the Kurds, this suggests the Shia-led Iraqi government might be to blame.

But there is a fundamental problem in that analysis—the Shia religious sect are not, as Obama claimed in the interview, a minority of the population in Iraq. And the Sunnis and the Kurds do not “make up the other ⅔” of Iraq.

Rather, the demographics and the history of Iraq suggest a very different situation in Iraq—one the United States has ignored during most of its involvement in its bloody wars in the Middle East nation.

Here is the actual breakdown:

Arab Shia—65-70%
Arab Sunni—20%
Kurdish Sunni—10%

Some Kurds are actually Shia, and there are other groups that make up small parts of the population as well. But as you can see, the Shia in Iraq are the sizable majority of the country, representing about ⅔ of the entire population of the country.

And you must appreciate this in understanding the Shia position versus the Sunnis and the Kurds—both of which groups are essentially separatist movements in Iraq. During decades of Sunni rule under Saddam Hussein, the Sunni minority brutally repressed the Shia majority and the Kurdish minority in the north. When the United States removed Saddam from power and enabled a democratic process in Iraq, which naturally produced a large Shia majority in the government, the Americans pushed for a reconciliation between all the former enemies.

A semblance of this arrangement was easier to enforce when the US maintained a large combat troop presence in Iraq. Even though the Iraqi Sunnis had fought a vicious civil war against the Shia and against the US occupation, the Americans had resorted to large-scale bribery of Sunni tribal leaders to convince them to stop killing “good guys” and to instead turn on al-Qaeda insurgents (their former allies).

As I have noted before, the failure of the Iraqi Shia government to continue paying bribes to these Sunni leaders, a decision that followed from the reasonable belief by the Shia that these Sunnis should not have to be bribed to be peaceful citizens, led to the Iraqi government instead cracking down on the former Sunni insurgents. That pushed the Sunni tribes back into an alliance with new, very improved, al-Qaeda-affiliated ISIL. Eventually ISIL would break its affiliation with al-Qaeda, and would rename itself Islamic State.

This reborn Sunni insurgency crushed the Iraqi government troops sent out to stop their invasion, and has dominated the landscape in northern Syria in the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops. In Syria, unlike in Iraq, the Sunnis do actually represent a majority of the population.

But Syria was not the country Obama was discussing when he made his blunder.

Obviously, if the USA has a Commander-in-Chief who isn’t even informed on the most important and fundamental demographics of the nation he is depending upon to bounce back from its defeat against Islamic State to be the main proxy boots on the ground for the USA, the American people are being led by an ill-prepared President.

But, as the interview proceeded another possibility was suggested. While Obama’s mistake was truly disturbing, it was reinforced a little later in the interview when Kroft made the following statement:
“OK. [Iraqis] have a new Prime Minister. They have a new administration. What it’s not produced is any sort of an enthusiasm, or much enthusiasm on the part of the disaffected Sunni majority.”
Again, the Sunnis in Iraq, disaffected or otherwise, are not the majority, but represent about 1 in 5 Iraqis.

Was Kroft making a thoughtless error, or was this reinforcement of misinformation meant to give Obama cover on his “it’s all Maliki’s fault” talking point?

Even that story did not hold up as Obama went along. Right after claiming everything was just great in Iraq when the USA left, and it was the Shia dissing the Sunnis that messed everything up, Obama lectured (basically the whole region) about its failure to follow Obama’s view of “political accommodation” and “tolerance” towards enemies.

Kroft then asked Obama a most pertinent question:
“And you think we can teach them that?”
And all of a sudden, realizing that only the most brazenly chauvinistic jerk of a US President—say like George W. Bush—would say that yes he thinks we can teach them that, Obama backtracked, pointing out that getting over bad feelings towards different ethnic groups might take a very long time:
“Well, I think this is going to be a generational challenge. I don’t think that this is something that is going to happen overnight.”
Yet, when Obama wanted to blame Maliki for the failure of the Iraqi army and the entire American Iraqi enterprise, he completely ignored this very reasonable point, that maybe it was utterly unrealistic to expect the ⅔-majority Shia to just get over, basically overnight, their intense anger at the Sunnis. That was especially the case when the Shia had good reason to think a large portion of Sunnis were plotting to recapture their dominant position in Iraq. Trust between these groups was very unlikely to come about in any short term.

Meanwhile, the role of the Kurds was, if anything, even more discordant in Obama’s scheme, since the Kurdish northern region of Iraq has essentially all but declared itself independent and sought in the early days of the Islamic State invasion of Iraq to take advantage of the Iraqi government’s losses, capturing territory—from Iraq! Again, there is no trust between Kurds and the Shia majority either.

Failing to come to grips with these basic facts—on the ground—especially after so many years of American involvement in the nation and the region is simply an inexcusable deficiency in an American President, especially one who has just taken the nation to war (or whatever Obama calls it) on the basis of his misunderstanding of the political and military dynamics at play.

Obama needs a cultural geography lesson—or at least a CIA briefing on Iraqi demographics. And the American people need to contact their Congressional representatives and demand that they debate and vote on the authorization for this most dubious ObamaWar.

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