Obama Talks ISIS: No Caliphate For You

President Obama gave a lengthy interview to Tom Friedman at the New York Times. On ISIS and their goal of a Caliphate state:

We do have a strategic interest in pushing back ISIL. We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq, but we can only do that if we know that we’ve got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void. So if we’re going to reach out to Sunni tribes, if we’re going to reach out to local governors and leaders, they’ve got to have some sense that they’re fighting for something.” Otherwise, Obama said, “We can run [ISIL] off for a certain period of time, but as soon as our planes are gone, they’re coming right back in.”

He's not saying we're going to bring troops into Iraq to stop them. It's really a continuation of his answer to a previous question about why the the U.S. didn't go after ISIS when they first started their hyped up tour of destruction: [More...]

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.” That only would have encouraged, he said, Maliki and other Shiites to think: " ‘We don’t actually have to make compromises. We don’t have to make any decisions. We don’t have to go through the difficult process of figuring out what we’ve done wrong in the past. All we have to do is let the Americans bail us out again. And we can go about business as usual.’ ”

The president said that what he is telling every faction in Iraq is: “We will be your partners, but we are not going to do it for you. We’re not sending a bunch of U.S. troops back on the ground to keep a lid on things. You’re going to have to show us that you are willing and ready to try and maintain a unified Iraqi government that is based on compromise. That you are willing to continue to build a nonsectarian, functional security force that is answerable to a civilian government.

Obama discusses Israel, Syria, Libya and other topics in the interview.

< Oscar Pistorius: Closing Arguments End, Ruling 9/11 | ISIS View of Airstrikes and the Politics of Fear >
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    Excellent. (5.00 / 7) (#1)
    by Jack203 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 10:13:02 AM EST
    The reason, the president added, "that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki." That only would have encouraged, he said, Maliki and other Shiites to think: " `We don't actually have to make compromises. We don't have to make any decisions. We don't have to go through the difficult process of figuring out what we've done wrong in the past. All we have to do is let the Americans bail us out again. And we can go about business as usual.'

    We are fortunate to have Obama as president. It could be much much worse...as it has been in the past.

    Totally agree (none / 0) (#6)
    by ZtoA on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 01:41:23 PM EST
    I also found this interesting:

    Is Iran being helpful? "I think what the Iranians have done," said the president, "is to finally realize that a maximalist position by the Shias inside of Iraq is, over the long term, going to fail.

    Oh, the irony: (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by oculus on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 12:03:52 PM EST

    His [President Obama's] announcement prompted immediate criticism from Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who said in an interview by telephone from Vietnam that the president's vision for the campaign was insufficient to fight "the richest, most powerful terrorist organization in history."


    That Guy (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 12:10:58 PM EST
    Is just unreal anymore.  Can't believe I ever had a shred of respect for him.

    Libya comes up for (none / 0) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 12:04:10 PM EST
    discussion in the interview with Tom Friedman, with certain regrets and the lesson to be learned that the military intervention required follow-up on the ground to manage Libyan transition to more democratic politics.

    The president is quoted as saying about the coalition that overthrew Qaddafi   "...I absolutely believed that it was the right thing to do..Had we not intervened , it's likely that Libya would be Syria, right now.."  

    The day after Qaddafi was gone was the time for "a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies that did not have any civic traditions.  So that's a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, 'Should we intervene, militarily? Do we have an answer for the day after?"

    As for Libya, it should be recalled that the making Qaddafi be gone intervention was presaged  as a "humanitarian" rationale. UN Resolution 1973 saw resolution creep to regime change.  And, in my view, it's likely that if Assad is overthrown, Syria will be Libya.  

    As for Iraq, after Saddam was made to be gone, we did make a rather aggressive effort to rebuild that society, starting with Paul Brenner as Viceroy and developing the civic tradition of Maliki's government.  Those efforts only facilitated the civil war.

    As for the "day after" question to "Operation Humpty Dumpty II," it awaits an answer.  

    Pretty confusing. We advanced Maliki (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 01:37:28 PM EST
    to his current position of power but now we are dropping bombs to encourage the Iraqi power-brokers to dump him. Did our government not realize until quite recently Maliki ran a non-inclusive governmant?  Is that our problem b/c we pushed him to the top?

    Maliki is part of the (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by KeysDan on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:24:22 PM EST
    Bush legacy of mistakes.   Maliki came to the parliament in 2005 at the time the country plummeted into sectarian violence and, then, civil war.  The crackdown on Baathist civil servants left the country with few able to run government.  And, the out of work Baathists resorted to insurgency.  The Prime Minister al Jaafari needed to leave and the parliament turned to Maliki in 2006.  

    Maliki had good anti-Sadaam credentials.  Having been a dissident under threat of death from Saddam, Maliki fled in 1974 to Jordan, Syria and Iran, returning to Iraq after the US invasion in 2003. Maliki was made vice president for de-Baathification and seemed a good bet for prime minister.  Bush saw Maliki's lack of experience in government as an indication that he lacked political ambition and that he would be compliant with the Administrations' wishes.   Another bad call by Bush.   Maliki had other ideas. He sent troops to Basra to put down a rebellion by his competing Shias (Muqtada al Sadr) and was adamant that the Status of Forces Agreement mandate that American forces leave the cities by June 2009.  This helped solidify his position.  

    At first, he had support of the Kurds but was always intent upon eliminating  Sunnis from power.  The arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President al-Hashimi did not endear Maliki to the Sunnis, or the Kurds (he ran into Kurdish arms for safety).  

    It has been difficult, it seems, to unload Maliki.  He has done much damage not only by working effectively against power-sharing, but also, by wholesale corruption.  Maybe, retail.   Apparently, there are negotiations for his abdication in progress.   His requirements include immunity from prosecution and a boat-load of security trained to prevent assassination.  I would throw in a Swiss Chalet or a villa in France just to get him to leave today. A bargain.  Any replacement would be an improvement.  Even replacement with a fireplug.


    Maliki was from an organization (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 04:57:34 PM EST
    That before Bush/Cheney took over was classified by the State Department as a terrorist organization.  And we gave them Saddam too, I still don't understand any of that....other than DAWA might have the oil rights so they are our friend.

    Sort of like how Gaddafi suddenly was our friend :)


    Yes, a Bush legacy (none / 0) (#9)
    by Green26 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 05:01:40 PM EST
    However, Maliki, while okay or at least better in early years, became a big problem and liability while Obama was in office and, despite advice not to support him any longer, the US continued to support him. Then, Obama pulled out of Iraq completely--a mistake in my view--which allowed Maliki to start going after Sunnis and to avoid following the Iraqi constitution. Almost immediately after the US pulled out, like within days, Maliki arrested a Sunni vice president in the government, and I believe executed his bodyguard. At some point--don't recall the exact timing--Maliki stopped paying the Sunni sheiks who had started helping the US and Iraq defeat al Qaeda of Iraq. Things soured in Iraq. In my view, Obama's mistakes have contributed significantly to the current situation. Yes, the Iraq invasion started all or most of this, but things were much better in Iraq at the end of Bush's years and the beginning of Obama's first turn--and, again in my view, Obama allowed the situation in Iraq to get bad again and created a void and fertile ground for ISIS to develop. Obama has been in office for approaching 6 years. At some point (and I believe that point has already come), Obama needs to be held responsible for what is happening.

    When is a good time to leave, (none / 0) (#10)
    by KeysDan on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 06:41:04 PM EST
    you note that things were "much better" at the end of Bush's years and the beginning of Obama's first term. And,  the agreement to leave was negotiated by Bush prior to the end of his term.  Your position, apparently, is that Obama should have worked harder to over-ride the Bush/Maliki arrangement.  Maliki and his government wanted the US out.

     And, it should be underscored that although the US combat troops withdrew, we maintained a strong military presence in the area, such as in Kuwait. And, rather than direct US aid, the Iraqi government purchased billions in warfare materials. And secured the services of thousands of paid mercenaries.  They were not abandoned, the training wheels were hardly taken off.

    It should be noted, too, that as recently as July 25 of this year, the Congress passed Resolution 105 that would bar combat operations in Iraq without congressional approval.  The vote was 370 to 40, with almost 200 of those votes from Republicans.  And,, of course, you are correct, the invasion started all or most of this.  I would say all.


    The best time to leave a war is when (none / 0) (#11)
    by Green26 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 08:50:42 PM EST
    the mission is accomplished, there is relative stability, the country's military seems able to handle remaining problems, and there is trust in the remaining leadership. It is also important to listen to military and executive branch advisors. It is not a good idea to depart for domestic political reasons.

    US military advisors, Gates, Clinton, Panetta and others were asking for 24,000, 20,000, 10,000 troops to remain. Remaining troops had been contemplated when Bush negotiated the withdrawal agreement. The administration starting negotiating in about June for an agreement to keep some troops in Iraq, but the Obama administration was slow in providing a number and then eventually the number was very low, like 3,000 or 5,000, which wasn't enough and probably wasn't worth the political hassle for Maliki. Obama did not even talk to Maliki directly during this time, until October. Further evidence that he put only minimum effort into trying to get the agreement with Iraq.

    Maintaining forces in the Middle East is not the same as maintaining forces in Iraq (and providing real assistance) and keeping a close eye on Maliki. Maliki was not a leader to be trusted and left alone. In fact, the US should have helped push him out years ago.

    Now the US, Iraq and the World are in this tough situation, and Obama is having to come back to Iraq to try to head off ISIS and help with major humanitarian problems. Obama has been show to react. In my view, he should have acted sooner, in June. The mess is just getting bigger. The US and West can't allow a group like ISIS to control huge territory and become a breeding ground for terrorism. Even Obama is saying that there is concern about ISIS and its future friends turning on US and Western interests.


    Do you anticipate ISIS & friends (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by oculus on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 10:04:05 PM EST
    will be friendly or at least not hostile to us if we re-take Iraq?

    ISIS and friends need to be (none / 0) (#13)
    by Green26 on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 01:50:37 AM EST
    crushed. Would you like ISIS beheading your friends and family?

    But ISIS and friends are never crushed (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 09:49:35 AM EST
    Because Sunni affiliated are constantly dragged into the Iraq strife.  The President is positively correct when he said that going to war with ISIS only breeds more Sunni fighters.

    It was also thus when my husband flew the Syrian/Iraq border daily in 2003/2004 attempting to discourage Sunnis crossing and joining what eventually became known as Al Qaeda in Iraq.  If you attack Sunnis, oddly, Sunnis from other countries get really pissed and decide to fight and attack you.  Very strange :)


    IPS (none / 0) (#18)
    by BackFromOhio on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 01:15:02 PM EST
    According to Bennis at the Institute for Policy Studies, the only reason the non-ISIS Sunnis have not opposed ISIS to date is that they want Maliki out; our presence in Iraq right now through bombing is keeping Maliki in power.  

    You don't know how joint special operations (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 01:53:16 PM EST
    Has chosen the targets.

    They probably even know at this point which ISIS leaders encourage and run troops that seek out to commit genocide.  They are hunting them, they will deplete those resources being used to commit genocide too.

    I just watched a rep of Maliki government on Fareed's show criticize Obama's response because it the response as it stands right now will not destroy ISIS and is not committed to destroying ISIS.  The President is only committed to ending large scale genocide.


    Completely disagree (none / 0) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 01:49:18 PM EST
    We are only drawing a line with ISIS on genocide, nothing more.  

    ISIS and friends (none / 0) (#14)
    by MKS on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 02:20:16 AM EST
    will not be beheading friends and family unless they are in Iraq.

    Iran will stop ISIS at some point.


    Please answer my question. (none / 0) (#16)
    by oculus on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 09:51:53 AM EST
    How many troops are in Kuwait? (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 09:59:14 AM EST
    And why I wonder?

    Another theory (none / 0) (#21)
    by Slado on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:27:12 AM EST
    First off let me say the man most responsible for the mess in Iraq is Bush.

    The man second most responsible is Tony Blair.

    Obama is responsible for the mess that came out of the mess but it's frankly irrelevant according to my new theory.

    What would have happened in Iraq if we'd never invaded?  

    Would Saddam have a stranglehold on stability and security in Iraq today?

    I doubt it seriously.  

    Isn't it more likely that it would a mess like Syria or Libya?  

    Isn't it more likely Iraq just like the rest of the Middle East would have been overrun by the Arab Spring and a non religious dictator like Saddam would have been confronted by students in the square, a military coup or out right civil war?  

    Iraq was being held together with shoe strings and the same religious war we see today throughout the middle east would just like today be centered in the place where Sunni meets Shea.

    The one thing you can say and I do say is we could have saved a lot of American lives and money to get to the same place we are now.

    Eve (none / 0) (#22)
    by squeaky on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:33:45 AM EST
    Had Eve not taken a bite of the apple...