News / USA

Obama Faces Limited Options in Iraq

Obama Faces Limited Options in Iraqi
X
Meredith Buel
June 19, 2014 1:20 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama is considering a range of military options to help the Iraqi government break the momentum of Islamic militants determined to crush the government in Baghdad. The Iraqi army has partially disintegrated in the face of these attacks, despite years of training and funding by the United States. VOA’s Meredith Buel reports.
Meredith Buel
U.S. President Barack Obama is considering a range of military options to help the Iraqi government break the momentum of Islamic militants determined to crush the government in Baghdad.  The Iraqi army has partially disintegrated in the face of these attacks, despite years of training and funding by the United States.
 
Iraqi security forces are trying to retake ground lost to militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and prevent them from getting closer to Baghdad.
 
The radical group, inspired by al-Qaida, overran Mosul and then stormed toward Baghdad as Iraqi security forces collapsed.
 
President Obama says the fact the Iraqi military will not stand and fight reflects the fractured politics of the country.
 
“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,” says Obama.
 
After invading in 2003, the U.S. spent billions training Iraqi security forces.
 
Pentagon Spokesman Admiral John Kirby says the U.S. thought Iraqi forces had reached an adequate degree of preparedness.
 
“When we left Iraq in 2011, we left Iraqi security forces at a level of competency, particularly on counterterrorism that we believed was appropriate to the threats that they faced,” says Kirby.
 
But Sunni Muslims began protesting what they felt was unfair treatment by the predominantly Shi’ite government in Baghdad.
 
Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, says problems have been slowly fomenting.
 
“And in recent times, especially in the aftermath in the U.S. withdrawal, there has been increased ethnic and sectarian polarization,” says Khalilzad.
 
And those sectarian divisions, analysts say, prompted Iraqi security forces to flee rather than fight since few felt any loyalty to the government in Baghdad.
 
Rampant corruption, poor leadership and demoralized troops, experts say, led soldiers to shed their uniforms and retreat when threatened by the insurgents.
 
Now Obama administration officials are debating how to bolster the Iraqi army.
 
Senior analyst Michael Rubin with the American Enterprise Institute says it might require a substantial effort.
 
"We've got to support the Iraqis as they defeat al-Qaida whatever it takes.  That's probably going to mean some sort of air support,” says Rubin.
 
But other experts say drones or manned aircraft will only have a limited impact.
 
Military strategist and retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner says “it is enough to stop them, but not enough to reverse the gains.”
 
Another complication, say analysts, is that donors from wealthy Arab countries are funding the flow of arms into Syria’s civil war.
 
Now Islamic extremists from that conflict are threatening the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
 
Middle East expert Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institution says the onus is on Maliki.
 
“Maliki is going to have to do these things, he is going to have to be more inclusive or the Gulf states will not stop their support for hardline Sunni groups,” says O’Hanlon.
 
 
U.S. officials say the jihadis must be stopped before they can establish a safe haven in the region.
 
The militants want to carve out an Islamic emirate stretching from Syria through Iraq.

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Comments
     
by: Mark from: Virginia
June 20, 2014 7:48 PM
I only see one option, but one we doubtfully will take; get out of Iraq for good and stay out. No more American involvement in that graveyard of a country.
Period.


by: meanbill from: USA
June 19, 2014 11:54 AM
TRUTH BE TOLD -- Maliki has a military that is divided between (Sunni and Shia), and the Sunni troops won't fight against the Sunni (ISIL) or other Sunni terrorists, and may even shoot the Iraq Shia troops in the back? -- (Picture it?)

NOW PICTURE THIS -- Sunni troops obeying Sunni officers, but not obeying Shia officers, and Sunni troops refusing to attack Sunni terrorists, and taking their uniforms off and joining them, or even some of the Sunni troops shooting the Shia troops in the back? --- (Not a pretty picture, is it?) --- and some people who don't know anything, now blaming Maliki for the religious divisions in the Iraq military.....

MY OPINION? -- The only way to solve this problem, is to disarm the Sunni military, (and if that's not possible), segregate them from the Shia troops, (like the British did, in the Sepoy mutiny). -- Hundreds of years of Religious Sunni and Shia divisions and wars, can't be forgotten by many, can they? --- IF ONLY the US, EU, and NATO countries hadn't interfered in the Islamic countries politics, none of this Islamic violence, killings, destruction and war happening now, wouldn't be?

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
June 20, 2014 11:54 PM
A message to the non-believer Mark from Virginia?

IF ONLY? -- If only the US, EU, and NATO countries hadn't interfered in the politics of the Islamic countries, (deliberately stirring up the religious differences and hatreds), and bringing nothing but violence, killings, destruction and wars to all these Islamic countries, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria, none of this would be happening now, would it? ---- The US, EU, and NATO countries deliberately stirred-up the Sunni hatred, against the Shia and all the other religions, and only "God" knows why they did it... or the Devil?

In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
June 20, 2014 8:14 PM
You cannot fully blame Bush, the EU or NATO for this.... you said it yourself, "Hundreds of years of Religious Sunni and Shia divisions and wars, can't be forgotten by many, can they?"
They have been slaughtering each other for all those hundreds of years and without any interference by America or Europe. Even segregated for over 200 years and they still fought each other and killed each other.


by: Not Again from: Canada
June 19, 2014 7:59 AM
It is a very difficult situation for the Obama administration, because there are very few options if the Iraqi gvmt does not wish to create a gvmt of national unity, and Maliki does not resign, or as a minimum the powers of Maliki must be significantly decentralized. With the passage of time, in this crisis, it will be more and more difficult to find persons of stature and with commanding leadership attributes to join a rapidly failing gvmt. The situation is going to end up just like in Syria, if a national unity gvmt is not formed, = a gvmt which does not have the support of the majority, propped up by the Iranian theocratic dictatorship; under such a situation, Iraq will completely fall appart, as Syria did. In addition, the war is likely to spread throughout the neighbouring countries, as they too take sides, not by choice, and ISIL will be strenghtened rather than weakened.

All this is the result of grave mistakes by the Bush administration they very much pushed, were enamoured/supported, Maliki to the top; notwithstanding that it was very evident, from the beginning, that Maliki was reluctant to share power equitably and did not have broad support. Unfortunately for all, Maliki can break Iraq further, but he can't fixit.


by: meanbill from: USA
June 19, 2014 12:54 AM
CRAZY isn't it? -- The US trained South Vietnam army ran in the Vietnam war -- (AND NOW?) -- the US trained Iraq Security Forces ran and hid -- (AND?) -- will the US trained Afghanistan army also run and hide, instead of fighting?

COULD IT BE? -- that the US always trains the others army, to be cowards, or does the US deliberately train the others army to take off their uniforms in the streets, and run away without firing a shot, and save their butts? -- (US trained?)

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
June 21, 2014 12:10 AM
To Mark from Virginia, the non-believer?
HOW can the US, and NATO military, (that couldn't defeat any army in any conflict or war) -- train another army, to defeat the enemy army, they could never defeat? --- Sounds crazy, doesn't it? --- (The losers training somebody else, to win a fight they couldn't win?)

In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
June 20, 2014 8:09 PM
It was because of the massive American involvement and the brunt of the Americans fighting in South Vietnam, and the lack of understanding between American and South Vietnamese strategies that the ARVN forces were, shall we say, less effective. It certainly was not because of the training they received.
It was because of the involvement of US forces compared to the lesser involvement of the Iraqi Security Forces that the latter did not step up as boldly. Give them all the training you can, but if you do not give them a better reason to fight, they won't fight.


by: Earl from: Folsom, CA
June 18, 2014 11:07 PM
imho,
Step 1) Please get educated on the history of the 3 separate areas of Iraq as it existed during the Ottoman Empire.
Step 2) Remove Prime Minister Maliki from his position.
Step 3) Work toward establishing three separate countries to replace Iraq, one for the Shi'ites, the Kurds, and the Sunni's.
Step 4) Read step one if this does not make sense.

In Response

by: Earl from: Folsom, CA
June 23, 2014 4:30 PM
imho
1) ISIL has already irreversibly established a new state within what was formerly Iraq. Its going to take a while for the world governments and the media to recognize and acknowledge this.
2) Iraq Kurds are concentrated in the north, Sunnis in the middle, and Shi-ites in the south. This is roughly how the three countries existed before the Iraq border was drawn.
3) I would think it would be easier to deal with three countries than to try and have the three warring tribes as one country.
4) I am not the type to hurt anyone, its not in me. However, war is messy so I hear. Instead of our government trying to get Maliki to change, why not work with the UN to vastly increase huge refugee programs to allow as many innocent civilians to move out of the region as possible. Give everyone a date to be out. Then have a military force go in and kill off ISIL and kill anyone they are using as a shield. Its the only way to beat them and stop them from continuing the extremist horrific rampage. It would be easier to accomplish this if there were three smaller countries for the Kurds, Sunnies, and Shi'ite. To heck with the oil distribution i Iraq.
5) As an American, I will gladly pay $7+ per gallon of gas to do my measly part in preventing further expansioin of this ISIL barbaric movement.

In Response

by: Earl from: Folsom, CA
June 23, 2014 3:15 PM
Yes, they killed each other when they were three separate countries for hundreds of years.
1st opinion) The only advantage I see to creating three separate countries again is to be able to deal with the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi'ites separately with their own governments. Break the problem into pieces. If the never got along as three separate countries, how on earth can anyone expect them to ever get along as one?
2nd opinion) The British/French made the first huge mistake when they drew a border around these three warring tribes and called it Iraq.
3rd opinion) My tax dollars to try and propagate this huge mistake have been totally wasted. How can a few US Presidents think they could have fixed this in a few Presidential terms?
4th opinion) The only way to beat the ISIL is to change war tactics, go in and kill innocent civilians in order to kill ISIL, otherwise, they will only continue to conquer. Otherwise, accept them as an independent country and a new boundary we can then confine them to through the UN and an alliance of countries.

In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
June 20, 2014 8:01 PM
your "Step 1" intrigued me, so I did a little research into that period of Iraqi history. It was broken up into three Provinces; Mosul Vilayet, Baghdad Vilayet and Basra Vilayet. For most of the time during the control of the Ottoman Empire in that region (1534 - 1704 and again 1831 - 1920) it was considered a battleground between rival factions.
Even kept separated, the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds still fought with each other and killed each other. I wonder if your idea of Step 3 would ever work... It certainly did not for the 259 years of that arrangement in the past.

In Response

by: Peter from: Australia
June 19, 2014 7:44 AM
Let those innocients kill each other then the world will be better.
If God exists Why He Won't Heal those mental Amputees?

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