WHO COULD possibly have known that if the United States invades Iraq, topples the butcher of Baghdad, then eventually leaves, that Al Qaeda, who wasn’t there before we attacked, would being moving in and taking over? Just when we got out, now Nouri Al-Maliki is asking President Obama to help him defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Military equipment, anyone? How about an Apache helicopter or two?
Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace Thursday morning, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, “We are talking with the Americans and we are telling them we need to benefit from their experience, from intelligence information and from training from those who are targeting al-Qaeda in a developed, technical, scientific way.” Meanwhile senior U.S. officials working on Iraq policy say they expect Obama to focus on the problem in his meeting Friday with Maliki and are looking to help improve Iraq’s capabilities to fight terrorism.
For both Obama and Maliki, a new counterterrorism cooperation package represents a marked change. Until this summer, Maliki had largely spurned American involvement in his country, choosing instead to deepen Iraq’s ties to its neighbor Iran. The Obama administration defended its decision in 2011 to end negotiations with Maliki over an extension of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, stating that the administration judged Iraq to be capable of meeting security challenges without U.S. troops on the ground.
There are limits to what Obama is likely to agree to when he meets with Maliki at the White House and it’s unlikely any new U.S. aid to Iraq will include the return of American soldiers to the country, at least for now. “I would not anticipate U.S. trainers going back into Iraqi soil,” one senior administration told reporters this week. Nonetheless the White House is pressing Congress to allow the delivery of Apache attack helicopters and planning to increase intelligence sharing with Maliki’s government in light of the rise of al-Qaeda.