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Obama’s Iraq Moment: Sunnis Want Iraq Back, ISIS Sets Sights on Baghdad *Updated*

ISIS makes play to take back Iraq from Shiite government, asking Obama administration for military strikes and drone support. President George W. Bush announces Operation Iraq Freedom has begun.  Screen grab via YouTube National Archive video.

ISIS (State of Iraq and Syria) makes play to take back Iraq from Shiite government, Nouri al Maliki asking Obama administration for military strikes and drone support.
President George W. Bush announces Operation Iraq Freedom has begun.
Screen grab via YouTube National Archive video.


“Iraq is going to need more help, more help from us… I don’t rule out anything.”

- President Barack Obama [in a breaking news statement with the Australian prime minister]

WILL OBAMA send drones into Iraq to help quell the militant takeovers of northern Iraq by ISIS (State of Iraq and Syria)? Parts of Fallujah have fallen, as well as Ramadi, Mosul, Tikrit targeted, with Baghdad next on their list. Threats of a wider regional war, as former Iraq ambassador John Negroponte said today to Chuck Todd, are real, with Nouri al Maliki reaching out to the U.S. for military help, requesting drone support or airstrikes.

Can President Obama stay on the sidelines while an al Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization takes control over Iraq? Before running for president he didn’t have go on the record, making an anti-war speech that got little attention until he was a presidential candidate. It looks like Barack Obama’s Iraq moment has arrived.

The group has been steadily building towards such an outcome, rampaging first through northern Syria and then back into Anbar province, the heartland of its earliest incarnation almost 10 years ago. Along the way, it has steadily accrued weapons and gained confidence, storming unopposed into towns and cities that were notionally protected by the best trained and armed military in the Arab world. [Guardian]

So far, the Obama administration is not budging, as the nightmare from Syria spreads to Iraq, with ISIS involved in both, which President Obama didn’t anticipate when removing troops from Iraq, as President George W. Bush’s agreement stipulated.  From the New York Times:

But American officials also say that militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria represent a formidable military threat, one that Iraq’s security forces, which lack an effective air force, have been hard pressed to handle on their own.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria grew out of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the militant group that American forces fought during their war there. But while the capabilities of the militants have grown, the Iraq’s military’s effectiveness has diminished.

Adding to that challenge is the fact that the group controls territory on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, and the Iraq and Syria conflicts have been feeding each other.

Said Lakhdar Brahimi, the former United Nations envoy to the collapsed Syria peace talks: “The region is in trouble, starting with Iraq. When I went to Baghdad in December, I was told that for every 100 operations ISIS did in Syria, it did 1,000 in Iraq.”

Critics say the latest developments show the weakness in an administration strategy designed to shore up Iraqi forces and to combat a growing Islamic militancy in Syria that officials say poses an increasing counterterrorism threat to the United States.

Whether President Obama wants to aid Iraq is not in question, because the last thing he wants is to involve the U.S. again.

However, there is a lot of time left in his presidency and with ISIS growing in power and a Sunni takeover of so many Iraq cities now complete, the prospect of Baghdad falling to an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group who also has power inside Syria is something he ignores at his peril. As you can see from my update at the top of this piece, President Obama has just learned that being in office makes decisions like this quite different than when you’re on the outside looking in.

The Arab League and the European community cannot stand by either, which is something President Obama has stated continually, pressing that U.S. military engagement cannot always be the answer.
The catastrophe currently being watched by the world cannot escape Hillary Rodham Clinton as she makes her book tour. In Hard Choices, Clinton makes a declarative statement on her Iraq war vote.

“I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.” – Hillary Rodham Clinton in Hard Choices

It’s understandable that Clinton does not want to start her presidential campaign this year, as it’s far too early and would make for a long campaign that is not in her best interests. There will and should be questions about Iraq while she talks about her book, as the unraveling becomes a foreign policy issue for her boss, as well as the world community.

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31 Responses to Obama’s Iraq Moment: Sunnis Want Iraq Back, ISIS Sets Sights on Baghdad *Updated*

  1. Ga6thDem June 12, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    There truly is nothing we can do. It’s over, done, finito. Nobody is willing to send thousands more sons, daughters, mothers or fathers over there to die for a lie.

    • Taylor Marsh June 12, 2014 at 11:27 am #

      Sen. McCain has already spoken on the Senate floor, so the pressure will rise quickly.

      There will absolutely not be boots on the ground, but I don’t believe Pres. Obama can ignore what’s happening in Iraq. Drone strikes can be very effective in *certain* instances and he will be faced with a harrowing legacy on Iraq if he sits by and does nothing, which I do not think is an option.

      As I’ve been writing for months and months, what’s happening in Iraq right now is also about Syria, which remains one foreign policy decision that I continue to believe Pres. Obama will regret the most.

      • Ga6thDem June 12, 2014 at 11:29 am #

        Well, drone strikes are probably what will happen.

        • secularhumanizinevoluter June 12, 2014 at 11:48 am #

          If it is determined that the cities are occupied by the Taliban and the vast majority of civilians have fled carpet bomb them. Nothing like some arc light missions to make the point. I should think it fairly easy to convert these sites into moonscapes.

          • Taylor Marsh June 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

            Taliban? You’re in the wrong country, sec.

          • secularhumanizinevoluter June 12, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

            Whoops….righty o on that one….

          • mjsmith June 13, 2014 at 8:16 am #

            Were really expecting sec to know what the hell is is talking about? That would be a first!

          • Taylor Marsh June 13, 2014 at 8:27 am #

            mjsmith June 13, 2014 at 8:16 am

            At least he admits when he’s wrong.

      • June 13, 2014 at 9:37 am #

        Not true , Taylor, about Suc admitting when he is wrong. He’s been wrong on many occasions, but, doesn’t always admit it.

  2. mjsmith June 12, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    The Syrian Arab Army has been kicking the crap out of these ISIS terrorists for the past several months. If Obama does not have the stomach to face up to this extreme threat, perhaps Iraq should look to a more reliable partner.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter June 12, 2014 at 11:49 am #

      Maybe they can follow your hero’s lead and use chemical weapons on them?

      • mjsmith June 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

        What about your idea of carpet bombing and converting cities into moonscapes. Those “Arc Light Missions” approved by President Johnson was as successful as his “War on Poverty.”

        • secularhumanizinevoluter June 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

          As usual you are batting 1000…..WRONG. Arc light missions worked very well. They eliminated all enemy forces in the vicinity. ALL. And the “War on Poverty” was spectacular success. Now granted the never ending and escalated war of domestic terror waged by the repugnantklan since then now aided and abetted by the teabaggers has guaranteed a continuing and even growing poverty rate….but the WOP worked. Of course if you are actually one of those confused sould who say “then why are there poor now” you must also be all for abolishing fire stations and hospitals…I mean…look at all the money spent on them and yet there are still fires and sick people!!!

          • mjsmith June 13, 2014 at 8:50 am #

            The War on Poverty and the Great Society was a tragic failure. The carpet bombing did not eliminate the enemy in Viet Nam. If anything it helped the communists gain sympathy and support.

          • secularhumanizinevoluter June 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

            “The War on Poverty and the Great Society was a tragic failure.”

            “In the decade following the 1964 introduction of the war on poverty, poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest level since comprehensive records began in 1958: from 17.3% in the year the Economic Opportunity Act was implemented to 11.1% in 1973. They have remained between 11 and 15.2% ever since.[7]”
            Gee…that would make you…as usual WRONG!

            The carpet bombing did not eliminate the enemy in Viet Nam. If anything it helped the communists gain sympathy and support.

            ” Missions were commonly flown in three-plane formations known as “cells” and were also employed when ground units in heavy combat requested fire support. Releasing their bombs from high in the stratosphere, the B-52s could neither be seen nor heard from the ground. B-52s were instrumental in nearly wiping out enemy concentrations besieging Khe Sanh in 1968[1] and An Loc and Kontum in 1972.

            GOSH dumb ass….. twofer.

          • mjsmith June 15, 2014 at 6:59 am #

            I am not sure if you are aware of the outcome of the “conflict” or how many B-52s had been shot down, especially in combat.

            As far you you thinking the economic opportunity act did as much good for ending poverty as the economic recovery act did at ending the recession.

            Noce to see that you double down on dumb

  3. PaperbackRuyter June 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Under Bush drone strikes and continued intervention in the Middle East were felt to just encourage more terrorism and anti-American sentiment. That doesn’t suddenly change with Obama at the helm. Obama needs to ignore McCain and just stay out.

    Frankly Afghanistan is heading for the same result, possibly even worse. Obama needs to quit throwing away US money and lives on the Middle East.

    • Taylor Marsh June 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

      There is absolutely no way any American president can ignore what ISIS is doing and the complete & total unraveling of Iraq.

      As you’ll see from the update, he’s already announced we will get involved & help, with a political component imperative.

  4. mjsmith June 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    “…combat a growing Islamic militancy in Syria ” Maybe he can arm the “moderates” this super top secret group of people that is often referred to by lousy politicians and idiotic media analysts.

    I said all along that this is the real threat to the region is the al qaeda terrorists. Now ISIS is so whack that even al qaeda is not terrorist enough for them to be associated with them.

    So going to war in Iraq was wrong because Sadaam Hussein repeatedly, veritably used chemical weapons and continued to be a major threat by supporting terrorists, including paying Palestinian families $50,000 if one of their family members becomes a suicide bomber.

    There is no confirmed proof, the White House statement not mine, that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. There is proof that they were used. There is also plenty of evidence and motive that the terrorists were behind the chemical attacks in Syria.

    There is this repeated nonsense that arming this group that nobody knows about called the “moderates” would have saved the region from the problem that we are faced with today. This is utterly false 100%. To go after terrorists you do not send out “moderates.” THe Israeli Defense Force does not send out “moderates” to go after terrorists. Russia, China, India, Brazil, and more importantly, the People who live in this part of the World do not want to live under the tyranny of islamic radicals.

    • Taylor Marsh June 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

      You are simply incorrect to take Bashar al Assad’s propaganda as proof that someone other than Assad is behind what came from Syrian gov’s side. That is not saying that Syrians fighting him are blameless in carnage. But absolving Assad as you *continually* do puts your credibility at stake, for obvious reasons.

      A United Nations report released on Monday confirmed that a deadly chemical arms attack caused a mass killing in Syria last month and for the first time provided extensive forensic details of the weapons used, which strongly implicated the Syrian government.

      While the report’s authors did not assign blame for the attack on the outskirts of Damascus, the details it documented included the large size and particular shape of the munitions and the precise direction from which two of them had been fired. Taken together, that information appeared to undercut arguments by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria that rebel forces, who are not known to possess such weapons or the training or ability to use them, had been responsible.

      The report, commissioned by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was the first independent on-the-ground scientific inquest into the attack, which left hundreds of civilians gassed to death, including children, early on Aug. 21.


      Kerry, however, said, “I have seen evidence . . . it hasn’t been confirmed, but I’ve seen the raw data that there may have been, as France has suggested, a number of instances in which chlorine has been used in the conduct of war.” In addition to possible consequences that have been “made clear by President Obama and others,” the secretary of state noted that a French-sponsored resolution being circulated at the U.N. Security Council seeks to hold the Syrian government responsible for “crimes against humanity, atrocities in the course of this conflict.”

      • mjsmith June 12, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

        The point is, this ISIS terror group has been going into cities and beheading people and doing the most abhorrent things. They are referred to as “activists” and “rebels” in reports and even by our own government.

        My focus has always been to end the horror and your focus is entirely on bringing Assad to justice. I know what would happen if the Syrian government collapsed. I also know what will happen if the Iraqi government collapses.

        If you feel there should be an investigation or something like that, I am all for it. Uncover all of the evidence and find out what really happened. Kerry and Obama blame Assad and also said they are not going to attack Syria after saying they were definitely going to attack Syria. Even in your references Kerry is quoted as saying that the evidence has not been confirmed.

        I am not sure if you feel Seymour Hersh has more credibility than I do on this.I really don’t know and I am not going to rely on youtube videos and politicians “unconfirmed evidence.”

        From Democracy Now – “This comes as a major new article casts doubts on the veracity of the Obama administration’s claims that only the Assad regime could have carried out the attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta earlier this year. Writing in the London Review of Books, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh argues the Obama administration, quote, “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.” He reports U.S. was also aware that al-Nusra, a militant group fighting in Syria’s civil war, had, quote, “mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.”

      • secularhumanizinevoluter June 13, 2014 at 5:17 am #

        “But absolving Assad as you *continually* do puts your credibility at stake, for obvious reasons.”

        BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Ms. Marsh…that could be the funniest thing you have ever written!!!
        And you owe me cleaning costs for my computer screen.

      • mjsmith June 13, 2014 at 11:13 am #

        Let me make a polite clarification. I have always maintained that we do not know who is behind the attacks. While there is evidence presented that suggests the Syrian government is behind it. There is also evidence that there terrorists are behind it .The evidence you present is clearly “unconfirmed.” I am not saying that it is not true. I am saying that we do not know if it is or not. Do you know if the evidence that clearly indicates the terror groups did it its true? I do not know if that is true or false either. It is worth looking at.

        To say that I * continually * absolve Assad or anyone is false. I do say that we do not know who did it. If all you have is reports based on unconfirmed evidence and youtube videos, how can you claim that you somehow know for a fact that he did do it?

        In addition, you had been behind this crisis and causing this catastrophe from the very beginning, well over a year before this chemical attack took place. “Assad Must Go!!!” Back then I asked what is the strategy, or policy, or even “game plan.” there was none. I was critical of both Republicans and Democrats for not having any responsible strategy to back up the rhetoric. The Syrians support the government in overwhelming numbers across all groups. The majority of the Syrian Arab Army are Sunni. Any person who wants to leave the Syrian Army and join one of the many groups that are in the fight against it could have done so easily by now.

        Now ISIS controls both sides of the border of Syria and Iraq.

  5. LiberalJoe June 12, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    There isn’t a hell deep enough for G.W. Bush, Cheney, Powell, et all and every Congress critter who voted for the AUMF and the eventual enabling of the IRAQ War.

    This is Vietnam to the 10th power. The similarities are stunning. As the US dis-engages in the region, the folks we were fighting takeover and conquer the country and the region explodes in broader conflicts and massacres-this was so predictable to anyone who was alive during Vietnam. It might not be now but at some point the US and some future President is going to say enough because the country won’t tolerate the endless military involvement and the economy won’t be able to handle the diversion of resources to support the war.The major difference and it is significant is that the mid-east sits on all that oil and the folks there don’t like us and want to do us harm. In Vietnam they wanted to become our trading partners and they have.

    Maybe this is a reach but this has the potential to come back and haunt Sec Clinton once again. The country is thirsty for the end of military involvement, endless wars and what the country has become since 911.

  6. casualobserver June 12, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Well, since Obama’s August, 2010 photo op declaration of victory was only at a military base and not an aircraft carrier, I guess no one need to comment on that.

    No doubt the Shiite government is already talking to Iran, so I guess we can let the Iranians take care of the Sunnis this time.

    So far, the Kurds seem to be holding their own once again.

    Amazing how history repeats itself

    • mjsmith June 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

      The only thing I will say is that these terror groups do not represent anywhere near the majority of Sunnis. The terror groups are made up of radicalized sunni members. I do not look at it as a primarily a Sunni vs. Shi’ite conflict. I am sure there are plenty of Sunnis in that massive exodus fleeing ISIS. Iran is in the mix according to various reports and already helped Iraq reclaim Tikrit.

      “According to Iranian security forces, at least three battalions of the Quds Force, the elite overseas branch of the Revolutionary Guard, were dispatched to Iraq to fight off ISIS, a Sunni militant group that claims it has ties to al-Qaeda.

      The guards were dispatched particularly to help the Iraqi military fight ISIS in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit Thursday. The town was initially taken over by the militant group, but was later reclaimed, at least in part, by the military and the special forces from Iran.

      But the Iranian forces in Syria have a stronger interest in protecting what Natali calls an “existential threat to Shia shrines.” ISIS has threatened to raid Karbala and Najaf, which are be some of the most sacred shrines to Shias worldwide, and views them as the perfect battle ground to fight Maliki and his military forces. Iran wants to protect them.

      But it is still unclear how far Iran will go to protect its Shia brothers in Iraq. It is also facing a crisis in Syria as President Bashar Al Assad, an Alawite and Shia, fights the Sunni-dominated opposition groups in the country. So far Iran has not intervened directly; it has not sent soldiers into the country, but is thought to be sending money and weapons to Assad’s military.

    • Taylor Marsh June 13, 2014 at 8:31 am #

      casualo – Malaki & the Iraqi gov. have been talking to the Iranians for years. People also forget that the Iranians were instrumental initially in Afghanistan for the US, and we were allies.

      Kurds finally got country they’ve wanted for 100 years.

      Nobody’s saying this, but Joe Biden suggested partitioning the country 8 years ago! It’s doing it naturally in this mess right now, though Lord knows the West won’t take that for an answer either.

      History, indeed.

    • ladywalker68 June 13, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      I have to agree with Liberal Joe. Listening to the morning news while I get ready for work, they are saying the Iraqi soldiers are running away and not fighting.

      So to point out the elephant in the room: If the military of Iraq doesn’t have the stomach to stand up and fight, there is nothing the US can do that is anything other than a short term solution, unless we agree to go back in and fight for them again.

      George W. Bush BROKE Iraq, by taking out the guy that tried to “do his daddy in.” And now, without US involvment, you have a broken country that cannot defend itself.

      Our interference is nothing more than posturing and all the kings horses and all the kings men cannot put the Humpty Dumpty of Iraq back together again.

  7. fangio June 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    Wow ! Sounds like the Tet offensive . It’s deja vu all over again . Yes , the EXCEPTIONAL United States is so good at making history repeat itself . American voters are such suckers . Hillary Clinton is the biggest sucker of all .

    • Taylor Marsh June 13, 2014 at 8:34 am #

      Well, I don’t know about the biggest sucker of all, as Clinton has a lot of company.

      If you’ll allow me, fangio, her biggest mistake was believing that a president needs all the executive room he desires as commander in chief. Establishment politicians who eye the president always do. Just look at Pres. Obama.

  8. casualobserver June 15, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    A quote from the liberal blogosphere’s favorite non-neocon conservative…..

    It’s hard to credit the idea that there is anything that the U.S. could realistically do at this point that would stabilize the country or improve the behavior of its government. Redoubling support for a failed government seems to be exactly the wrong thing to do, and re-inserting the U.S. into the current conflict through military action seems guaranteed to add to the country’s instability rather than reduce it. It would be appropriate to provide humanitarian aid to the people displaced by the latest upheavals. It could be useful to use whatever influence the U.S. has with the governments of those countries where ISIS has been getting much of its funding to try to cut off at least some of the foreign support that the group receives. Other than those admittedly small measures, I would be extremely wary of trying to “do something” there, because I have no confidence in our government’s competence to do something smart and constructive when it comes to Iraq, and I doubt that very many Americans or Iraqis disagree with me about that.

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