March 10, 2015

Little Support for Obama’s ‘Strategy’ Against ISIL

Given Obama’s record, it’s little wonder few follow his lead.

Problems continue to abound for Barack Obama in dealing with the Islamic State and other jihadists in the Middle East. He claims he wants congressional support, and he boasts there is a united front to combat the Islamic State, but, given the current situation in the Middle East and Obama’s record of failed foreign policy, few are lining up to follow his lead.

Early last month, Obama submitted to Congress his request for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to fight the Islamic State. As we noted then, his request prohibits any enduring offensive combat operations and sets a timetable for three years, which in his warped view will show the world our resolve in countering the Islamic State.

In reality, the 2001 AUMF against al-Qaida and the 2002 AUMF for military operations in Iraq allow Obama to pursue the Islamic State. But those AUMFs were during the Bush administration, and since Obama doesn’t want to commit to a ground campaign, or for that matter have any part of Bush’s war strategy, he wants his own AUMF.

It appears, however, that due to his numerous failed strategies in the Middle East (Libya, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq) he can’t even convince Senate Democrats to approve his AUMF request. Obama obviously wants Congress to share responsibility for his strategy debacle against the Islamic State, but lawmakers aren’t taking the bait.

If Congress was to grant his AUMF request and things deteriorate further, Obama would shift the blame on Congress. At the same time, if Congress doesn’t grant his AUMF request, he will blame Congress for not giving him authorization. But remember, he already has authorization under the 2001 and 2002 agreements, yet he won’t commit to putting boots on the ground. For now, we will just have boots in the air.

Speaking of boots in the air, the U.S. air campaign has had some success in Syria, but is also doing the lion’s share of work. According to The Washington Post, “Of the 2,738 airstrikes the coalition has conducted in Iraq and Syria since last summer, the Americans have carried out 2,203.”

The Post adds that “the picture on the ground in Iraq is similar,” with U.S forces of just under 3,000 troops far outnumbering other countries such as Australia and France. This despite Obama saying there would be no ground troops. Move along; nothing to see here. They are strictly advisers and trainers, the administration says – that is until they’re shot at and must fight back. But we digress.

Meanwhile, there are no members of the Arab alliance who have announced they will send advisers to Iraq. Since the Iraqi government can’t seem to muster support for its fight against the Islamic State, who then to turn to but the United States? Well, kind of.

The Iraqi government is asking for the U.S. to start dropping bombs on Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, which is currently held by ISIL. Baghdad wants Tikrit back, but it isn’t happy with Washington. An aide to the prime minister complained, “The Americans continue procrastinating about the time it will take to liberate the country.” If the Iraqis are waiting for Obama to admit he left too soon or is acting too slowly, they will be waiting forever.

While Baghdad waits for Obama to act, the Iran-Iraq coalition – yes, you read that right – has made little progress. According to World Affairs’ Michael Totten, “The Iraqi armed forces consist partly of Iraqi Shia militias led by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.” But, he writes, “The Iranian-Iraqi coalition has made almost no progress at all in Tikrit. ISIS laced the area with mines and is dispatching suicide bombers with reckless abandon – another bit of irony. Iran’s Lebanese client Hezbollah pioneered suicide bombings in the Middle East during the 1980s, and now that very deplorable tactic is being used against its own architects closer to home.”

With Tikrit consisting primarily of Sunni Muslims, and with a deep distrust for Iran, is there any reason to believe more sectarian violence won’t erupt? For Iraqis in Tikrit, it’s essentially a choice between being slaughtered by ISIL or taken over by Iran.

The violence, political chaos and instability in the Middle East is made worse when a sitting president with no foreign policy experience fails to recognize, deal with, or at the very least contain the spread of radical Islam. Given the circumstances in Syria and Iraq and the fact that Iran is seeking to expand its influence (while pursuing nuclear weapons), what good would Obama’s AUMF request do anyway?

He has not decimated al-Qaida and the Islamic State is still growing. In fact, Boko Haram recently announced its allegiance to the Islamic State. When Obama declared terrorists were on the run, he must have meant that they were running to join forces.

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