Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Next Stop Baghdad?
Iraq: The Logic of Disengagement
How to Win in Iraq
Why Air Strikes Might Not be Enough
The Price of the Surge
When to Leave Iraq
Today, Tomorrow, or Yesterday?
How to Leave a Stable Iraq
Building on Progress
Iraq, From Surge to Sovereignty
Winding Down the War in Iraq
It's Hard to Say Goodbye to Iraq
Why the United States Should Withdraw this December
The Problem With Obama's Decision to Leave Iraq
How to Salvage the Relationship Between Washington and Baghdad
The Iraq We Left Behind
Welcome to the World’s Next Failed State
Is Iraq on Track?
Democracy and Disorder in Baghdad
When the Shiites Rise
Why Separatism Could Rip the Country Apart—Again
Collateral Damage in Iraq
The Rise of ISIS and the Fall of al Qaeda
Kurds to the Rescue
How to Get the Kurdish Regional Goverment to Take on ISIS
The Fallacy of Iranian Leverage
Why the Turmoil in Iraq Will Weaken the Islamic Republic
Who Lost Iraq?
And How to Get It Back
Maliki Isn't the Problem
The Roots of Sectarianism in Iraq
Syria and the Violence in Iraq
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his decision to airlift food and water to members of the Yezidi minority stranded in the Sinjar mountains of Iraq, and to use air-to-ground munitions against formations of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) moving against Kurdish units near Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region. So far, Obama’s strategy has been well calibrated and at least partly successful; the Yezidis’ plight appears less dire than a few days ago, and ISIS’ forays into Kurdistan have been stymied for the moment, perhaps even partly reversed in some places.
Obama’s restraint in providing major assistance to the central Iraqi government in Baghdad has likewise been prudent, since, by coming to the aid of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki too soon, the United States would squander the leverage it could use to persuade the Iraqi government to find a different and better prime minister. It is, after all, Maliki who governed so badly that major Sunni political and tribal leaders acquiesced to ISIS’ advances rather than work with a man they increasingly saw as a dictator to stop the brutal group’s march. The Iraqi army will likely not be willing to do its part to restore security in Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland under Maliki, so it would be a fool’s errand for the United States to attempt too much while he still leads the country.
In other words, Obama’s critics should give him some space and some time. Over the years, most everyone in the United States, including the president, most of his critics, and certainly most of us in the think tank community, have had ample opportunity to be both right and wrong about Iraq and Syria. And, whatever those past debates, ISIS’ takeover of large swaths of Iraq and Syria constitutes a serious threat to U.S. national security that must be addressed on its own terms -- as the Obama administration seems to have realized.
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