ISIS Rising: Obama Says It's Iraq's Problem

As ISIS continues to storm its way through Iraq, President Obama today ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq. (Transcript here.) Sounding like a stern parent, he said whatever other aid we provide will depend on the Iraqi Government getting its act together, and the U.S. will not be making any hasty decisions.

Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis and opportunity to claim their own future. Unfortunately, Iraqi leaders have been unable to overcome, too often, the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there. And that's created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government, as well as their security forces.


So any action that we make take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq's leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq's communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force. We can't do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action -- including any assistance we might provide -- won't succeed.

....the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it's up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.

Obama said the U.S. will rely heavily on diplomacy:

We're also going to pursue intensive diplomacy throughout this period, both inside of Iraq and across the region, because there's never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully, without resorting to war or relying on the United States military.

He said the top priority of the U.S. is threats to our personnel serving overseas.

He said the U.S. sacrificed a lot "in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny. But ultimately, they're going to have to seize it. As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.

He was harsh about the Iraqi military who fled their posts when ISIS arrived:

Look, the United States has poured a lot of money into these Iraqi security forces, and we devoted a lot of training to Iraqi security forces. The fact that they are not willing to stand and fight and defend their posts against admittedly hardened terrorists, but not terrorists who are overwhelming in numbers, indicates that there's a problem with morale, there's a problem in terms of commitment, and ultimately that's rooted in the political problems that have plagued the country for a very long time.

He did not rule out an air strike, and his choice of words suggests it may be under consideration:

We want to make sure that we gathered all the intelligence that's necessary so that if in fact I do direct and order any actions there, that they're targeted, they're precise and they're going to have an effect.

But overall, he said he wants everyone to understand "this message":

The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they're prepared to work together. We're not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we're there we're keeping a lid on things and, after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we're not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conductive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.

As to what the U.S. reaction would be if ISIS gains control of the Iraqi refineries, he was less clear. He said that would be of great concern, but the goal should be that "some of the other producers in the Gulf are able to pick up the slack."

Good for Obama. Let Iran, Jordan, Israel and other countries closer to Iraq step up to help Iraq battle ISIS. ISIS is a nightmare, but it's not our nightmare. We should never have gone in the first place, and that mistake cost us an enormous amount, from the lives of our soldiers, to financial aid, military equipment and expensive training of their security and police forces.

We are not the world's police force. We should not let others cast us in the role of global holy warriors. ISIS is neither a present nor imminent threat to Americans in the U.S. Al Qaida saw us as their primary enemy, but ISIS has different fish to fry.

On a lighter note (meaning yes, this is sarcasm): If Obama changes his mind about boots on the ground, I think instead of soldiers, he should send our very own Global Holy Warriors -- the DEA. Move the agency from DOJ to the Department of Defense, change their mission, send them and their intelligence analysts from the Special Operations Division for some quick basic training, and then deploy them to Iraq.

The DEA already has 93 overseas offices, a huge intelligence operation, and lots of informants and infiltrators. Since they believe there's a terror threat behind every foreign drug organization, they'd be a perfect fit. Maybe they could catch a few ISIS recruits and kidnap them, bringing them to the U.S. to stand trial, like we do with the Somali Pirates. Or maybe they'd prefer to drop them off at Guantanamo.

Wouldn't it be better for us if the DEA helped keep us safe from fanatical global terrorists instead of running around the world creating elaborate drug stings and promising to sell traffickers make-believe missiles and weapons of mass destruction? Just a thought.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Great (5.00 / 6) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 02:47:50 PM EST
    I agree with every word.  Thank god Bush/McCain/Cheney are not running the show.

    I would not change a word of his statement (5.00 / 4) (#12)
    by ruffian on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:31:42 PM EST
    The invasion of Iraq (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:45:11 PM EST
    in 2003 destroyed the government and destabilized the country and region.  If the Bush administration did not make any serious errors or blunders in the aftermath of "shock and awe" they have escaped history's attention.

    The sales pitch for the war, WMD and creating a democratic model for Iraq,  resulted in coming up empty -handed with the former, and ham- handed with the latter.   Saddam's secular government  unleashed sectarian and ethnic conflicts held at bay with Saddam's authoritarian rule.  

    A modicum of order was replaced by US troops and US dollars. And, the bloodshed of US troops and Iraqi citizens.  However, by 2006-2007, despite more than 150,000 US troops in Iraq and the expenditure of $billions, the  country was in chaos, on the cusp of wide-spread civil war.

    President Bush reacted by adding about 30,000 additional troops in a surge strategy coupled with a new nation-building gambit with cash gifts to buy tribal loyalties (perhaps, the most effective).   The Sunnis liked the idea, expecting a reconciliation and power-sharing with the Shia, probably recognizing the odds of winning a civil war against the larger Shia population.  Unfortunately, Maliki did not entirely agree and had other ideas.  Of course, $billions continued to go into re-building the Iraqi army--so that they could stand up and we could stand down, in the words of President Bush.    

    So, it seems to me, that Iraq has not suffered from inadequate  military intervention or not enough US cash, but from an Iraqi will for political reconciliation.  Building up an artificial Iraq army, one that requires cash and bribes to politicians gave us local "boots on the ground", but not they way we thought.

    The Iraq army in Mosul, in the face of insurgents, left not only boots on the ground, but the rest of their uniforms and high-tailed it.  And, also, left  military equipment for the taking.

    To re-enter with US troops, we know from our sad experience, will take surge levels on an indefinite, or infinite, basis.    While McCain and Miss Lindsey may think that is the only way, saner and more deliberate thinkers will see the futility of more of the same.  

    President Obama seems, at this point, to be on the a track of prudence and caution.  I hope that this continues so that Maliki and experts with disastrous track records do not drag us into the midst of a new civil war.

    Holy He11 (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:02:16 PM EST
    I with John McCain would STFU

    Bill Maher (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 11:15:44 AM EST
    Said that he knew McCain would finally get here.  We were supposed to Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran, and we are supposed to be at war with anyone who aids or assists Iran.  If we bomb Sunnis to aid Quds forces, John McCain has now managed to advocate that the United States should bomb the United States :)

    Not responding to u know who (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:06:44 PM EST
    But from what I am reading today air strikes are unlikely.  Reason being there is not enough reliable on the ground intell.  And the hostiles are not advancing in a group.  They are mixed in with the civilian population to the point that the civilian deaths would be horrific.  
    This seems to be the accepted truth for everyone but Johnny, Lindsey and ppj

    Before we send the DEA... (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by unitron on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 09:27:02 PM EST
    ...we need to send Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the NeoCons and their cheerleaders and hangers-on and all of their family members above shooting age.

    I haven't decided if I trust them enough to let them carry weapons or not yet, though.

    Oh, come on, we can always trust ... (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Erehwon on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 12:07:28 PM EST
    ... Cheney with weapons, can't we?

    Who said we were going to give them weapons.... (5.00 / 4) (#37)
    by Molly Bloom on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 12:52:24 PM EST
    perhaps so, (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by cpinva on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 01:50:37 AM EST
    "He said the U.S. sacrificed a lot "in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny."

    however, if I recall correctly (and I do), no one in a position of authority in Iraq ever asked the US to invade and destroy their country. you know the old saying in stores: "you break it, you bought it."

    lol; Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 10:52:28 AM EST
    If we are talking barns (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 10:56:25 AM EST
    The one about closing the door after the cows have left might be a better analogy.

    lol; or the one about no bombing the barn (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 12:27:13 PM EST
    to save the barn.

    NOT. not bombing the barn... (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 12:27:46 PM EST
    If we are going to do anything from the air (1.00 / 2) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 06:40:28 PM EST
    Now is the to be doing it.

    Pretty obvious that Obama wants to do nothing.

    Anyone wanna start a pool when the 'copters leave the embassy's roof??

    The biggest irony (none / 0) (#2)
    by christinep on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:17:27 PM EST
    The role of Iran.  The shifting sands of time and fortune ... throughout history.  What will be something to observe is how the old or refashioned neo-cons will twist beyond a pretzel to call for a purposeful togetherness with Iran to protect Iraq.  Will McCain get a new song; or maybe he should ponder his words of advice first.

    Was just reading someplace (none / 0) (#4)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:49:28 PM EST
    That Iran is so desperate they are ready to cooperate with us.

    We are so lucky.


    Where will the media go??? (none / 0) (#6)
    by christinep on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 06:47:09 PM EST
    Mildly & pleasantly surprised as I type this listening to the CBS nightly news: The characterization recognizes the sectarian nature of the situation.  The phrase "sectarian civil war" is used multiple times.  

    If the other media (which I'll check out) is perceptive & honest enough to call it what it is, there is hope that it will be obvious to most that the President correctly described the situation as the destructive inability of the Shi'a and Sunnis to work together in any way to govern, etc.  I am so glad that President Obama is grounded enough to avoid re-entry other than in a very limited capacity.  And, given the Iran irony, maybe the rightwing bunch will hush a bit.

    A sadness, obviously: How do those good, brave men and women who served in Bush's Iraq War realize that they did the right thing by their service, and that no one questions that, and that they did everything they were asked to do and could do!  I hope that they do not feel it was for naught ... they set the conditions for a new government, but that new Iraq government could not/would not meet their own responsibility and do what was handed to them ... the Iraqi government (of Maliki) could not govern.

    The truth of (none / 0) (#7)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 06:55:15 PM EST
    the matter is probably no government we "set up" was going to last simply because it was going to be seen as "ours" instead of "theirs".

    A friend of mine who has a brother that was a middle east person at the pentagon said that asking Iraqis if they want a democracy is like asking them if they want an crepe suzette. They don't even know what you're talking about. They have no history of democracy so don't understand it and people who don't understand it can't make it work.


    Upon our leaving (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:47:19 PM EST
    Maliki attempted to have his Sunni Vice President arrested, he escaped.  The military was picked through too to extract Sunni influence.  This is Maliki's fault, and he knew he was creating strife and a civil war situation.

    it's our fault (none / 0) (#11)
    by thomas rogan on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:26:29 PM EST
    "Good for Obama. Let Iran, Jordan, Israel and other countries closer to Iraq step up to help Iraq battle ISIS. ISIS is a nightmare"

    Maybe Israel and the US should have taken out Assad when he first started butchering his people.  Then the moderates would still be in the country rather than Syria becoming radicalized and there would not be this funnel of ISIS moving from Syria to destabilize Iraq.
    And maybe we should have let Israel step up to take care of the Iranian nuclear bomb as well.

    Why should we go around (none / 0) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:32:36 PM EST
    Policing the world?

    Because (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 09:08:37 PM EST
    Everything is our fault.  A thousand years ago when they were slaughtering each other, that was our fault too.  The US should have been founded in time to stop it.
    It unforgivable.

    Finally President Obama says (none / 0) (#17)
    by Wile ECoyote on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 05:45:53 AM EST
    something I can agree with.