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August 30, 2022

Another Afghanistan in Iraq?

Recent upheaval and violence in Baghdad matters for U.S. policy and security.

As if to accentuate the fact that, one year ago tomorrow, Joe Biden completed his disgraceful and disastrous surrender of Afghanistan, the Iraq that Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama, abandoned has once again descended into chaos and violence. It’s almost as if Democrats are bad at foreign policy.

No one cares about Iraq, though, right? Among Americans that’s certainly true, but other nations in the region are certainly watching.

At least a dozen people were killed yesterday when violence erupted in Baghdad after Muqtada al-Sadr announced his “final withdrawal” from politics and the nation’s parliament. Al-Sadr is an influential Shiite cleric who led insurgents against U.S. forces. He gained power in last October’s elections, but he was unable to secure a governing majority. His abrupt resignation triggered supporters (no doubt by design), who stormed the government palace. At least 12 were shot and killed by security forces. Al-Sadr soon called for peace from his supporters, saying, “This is not a revolution.”

John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, called the violence “disturbing,” but he said there would be “no evacuation going on at the [U.S.] embassy and no indication that’s going to be required at this time.”

Now for a quick bit of history.

After Obama removed U.S. troops from Iraq, the Islamic State promptly took over most of the country and much of the surrounding region, threatening U.S. national security. It took years to defeat ISIS and Iraq is still not a stable country.

Infighting among Muslim sects is a big reason why. “Iraq’s majority Muslim population is split into two sects, Shiites and Sunnis,” reports Fox News. “Under Saddam Hussein, Shiites were oppressed until the U.S.-led invasion reversed the political order. Now, the Shiites are fighting among themselves, with the dispute centering on power and state resources, but also influence over the Sunnis.”

That matters because Iran-backed Shiites have long clashed with al-Sadr’s more nationalist Shiites. With al-Sadr gone, Iran will have more influence — unless al-Sadr’s departure is a ruse meant to foment more unrest and destabilize the Iran-backed faction.

Barack Obama left Iraq prematurely and promptly started to cozy up to Iran with his terrible nuclear deal. Donald Trump wisely nuked that nuke deal, but Joe Biden wants back in.

Obama’s weakness in Iraq set up an awful deal with a far more powerful Iran that can exploit Iraqi unrest. Both nations saw Biden’s weakness in Afghanistan, and the Iranians in particular hope to take advantage of it in restoring Tehran’s nuclear deal and bolstering its regional power.

Unrest in the Middle East, by the way, puts pressure on global oil markets. Iraq is one of the world’s largest oil exporters, and Saudi Arabia would prefer not to have Iraq in Iran’s back pocket.

That’s why a little unrest in Baghdad matters on Main Street USA. And it’s why we shouldn’t elect Democrat presidents who are inept at foreign policy and have a knack for putting America last.

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