How the President's failure to act decisively has fed chaos in Syria and Iraq
The New York Daily News (no right-leaning paper, mind you) Editorial Board:
Highly organized and bloodthirsty, the radical Islamist army called ISIS took but a few days to subjugate the cities of northern Iraq as it dreams of taking over the entire country — while President Obama played it cynically cool.
The group’s stunning, barbaric march prompted the President on Friday to offer to review a range of options because America has “a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria.”
Returned now to the White House from a long-weekend family vacation in California, the President must face the awful reality that he dodged last week:
ISIS is already firmly in charge of large swaths of both of those countries, has ambitions to devour more and is showily slaughtering scores of captured and unarmed prisoners.
Al Qaeda Nation is being bloodily born before the world’s eyes.
The battle — for now and surely for the long run — has been lost, in no small part because Obama declined to show strength at crucial moments when strength was needed. Still worse, boxed in by his own failures, he’s flailing for a strategy desperately enough to consider partnering with Iran.
Yes, that Iran, the country whose regime has held Americans hostage, exported terror against the U.S., supplied weapons to insurgents who killed American troops in the Iraq War and driven insistently toward nuclear weapons capability. Just this month, the grand ayatollah there scoffed, “American cannot do a damn thing.”
Yes, that Iran. The taste in the mouth is awful.
The world is reaping what Obama helped sow.
Elected on the promise of ending the Iraq War, the President was true to his word. He wound down the conflict, enabling Vice President Joe Biden to boast in 2010 that Iraq was “one of the great achievements of this administration.”
“We’re leaving behind a stable and self-reliant Iraq,” Obama said in 2011 as the last U.S. troops left a war that cost nearly 4,500 of them their lives.
But he left no residual force to combat terrorism, having failed to reach a troop agreement with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In our absence, ISIS grew quickly into a malignant force.
Made up of Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq and who despise the Shiite majority, ISIS staged more than 600 attacks in 2011, up from 34 the year before. With no U.S. troops to control them, and with Maliki repressing Sunnis, ISIS followed up in 2012 with more than 400 attacks.
When civil war broke out across the border in Syria, Obama proved impotent. He called for President Bashar Assad’s ouster to no avail. He threatened missile strikes if Assad used chemical weapons, then he dropped the threat after Assad fatally gassed 1,400 people. He considered and then ruled out providing militarily significant arms to moderate anti-Assad forces.
ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his fighters marched into Obama’s vacuum, seized territory in southern Syria and proclaimed in January that he planned to create his own domain by taking ground in Iraq, including the capital Baghdad.
He also made clear that he had a larger target, saying on an audio recording:
“Our last message is to the Americans. Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching.”
You can’t say that Obama wasn’t warned.
Overeager to leave Iraq, gun-shy about intervening in Syria and insufficiently vigilant about the rising threat of ISIS, the President opened the way to an Islamist force of unprecedented power.
The toll wreaked by his disengagement from the world and retreat from the use of American influence is severe. While ISIS expands its reach with summary executions possibly running into the thousands, Obama is left to offload onto Maliki all responsibility for the chaos that’s happened and all that’s to come.
That's the easy way for Obama to escape admitting that he blew it.