Iraq is now on the brink of civil war as this week insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group has seized Mosel in northern Iraq.
Fresh from seizing Mosel, the ISIS on Thursday seized Tikrit, which was the home town of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The al-Qaeda linked group is now just 70 miles from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
To prevent Kirkuk from falling into al-Qaeda hand the semiautonomous Kurdish government had its pesh merga forces seize the city after Iraqi security forces fled the city. For all practical purposes Northern Iraq is now either controlled by al-Qaeda or Kurdish forces.
A spokesman for the ISIS, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, posted an audio address on the internet, taunting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “What have you done to your people, o foolish one,” he said. “You lost a historic opportunity for your people to control Iraq, and the Shiites will always curse you for as long as you live.”
The administration has expressed concern over the crisis in Iraq with White House spokesman Josh Earnest commenting, “The situation in Iraq is grave.”
Earnest continued the U.S. is “deeply concerned,” over the instability in Iraq which could create a humanitarian crisis, as Iraqi security forces have fled both cities, resulting in thousands of civilians fleeing the area.
At the beginning of the week Earnest, commented on the situation in Mosul, “all Iraqi leader’s including Prime Minister Maliki have to do more to address unresolved issues to better meet the needs of all the Iraqi people”.
The situation has steadily worsened over the past couple days and only will get worse with Adnani vowing ISIS would take Karbala and Najaf, the site of two of the most holiest shrines in Shia Islam, which are located in Southern Iraq.
The question is how would President Obama respond to this ongoing crisis?
As of now the Obama administration is considering numerous options but has not made a decision on what course of action he is willing to take.
The New York Times on Wednesday reported when the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials.
The White House rejected military appeals by Maliki, as the president did not want to reengage in Iraq as the war was over when the United States withdrew at the end of 2011.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, would not comment on Maliki’s request, but stated, “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions,” she said in a statement. “The current focus of our discussions with the government of Iraq and our policy considerations is to build the capacity of the Iraqis to successfully confront the Islamic extremists.”
The Wall Street Journal reported, “Iraq has privately signaled to the Obama administration that it would allow the U.S. to conduct airstrikes with drones or manned aircraft against al Qaeda militant targets on Iraqi territory, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday. The Obama administration is considering a number of options, including the possibility of providing ‘kinetic support’ for the Iraqi military fighting al Qaeda rebels… according to a senior U.S. official who added that no decisions have been made. Officials declined to say whether the U.S. would consider conducting airstrikes with drones or manned aircraft. Iraq has long asked the U.S. to provide it with drones that could be used in such strikes, but Washington has balked at supplying them, officials said.”
Military analyst, retired Lt Col Ralph Peters commented, “In the Middle East, the United States is now in its weakest position since 1945 and the birth of the modern Middle East. Jihadis are winning because they are willing to die for their fanatical cause. The Iraqi soldiers, Syrians and others aren’t willing to die for their dictators. We are facing a problem, if not caused as I believe, at least exacerbated by Obama’s dilatory incompetence. We’re facing a problem which is going to plague us for many years to come.”
Both Republicans, Democrats, and President Obama need to stop trying to score political points by blaming each other on how we got into Iraq in the first place, as both political parties supported the Iraq war at the onset.
What we need is a strategic strategy for the region as the United States has not had one, and the time has now come for strategic leadership.