February 26, 2016 |
Why would anyone in the Middle East want to ally with the United States? There are many reasons to ask this question, but here's one I find especially disturbing: how the United States lets down thousands of Afghans and Iraqis whose lives are at risk because they have worked with Americans. For this "sin," they and their relatives are now being threatened with death. I have written of the long delays in issuing special visas for Iraqi and Afghan translators who worked with U.S. military and civilian officials.
January 4, 2016 |
After the grim foreign-policy news from the Mideast in 2015, can we hope for anything better in the new year? That would be a relief, after a year in which ISIS thrived amid the Mideast chaos and civil wars that flooded Europe with one million refugees, half of them from Syria. So is there any reason to expect things to improve in 2016? After all, in December the world's major powers agreed on a framework plan for ending the Syrian civil war, right? And the Iraqi army (retrained, yet again, by U.S. officers)
June 19, 2015 |
One of the most frustrating aspects of President Obama's "strategy" to degrade and destroy ISIS in Iraq is that he seems to grasp why it isn't working. Yet he refuses to take the obvious steps needed to fix it (and I don't mean sending thousands of American ground troops). Instead, he only tinkers with a strategy that has failed. U.S. officials rightly want the Iraqis to do the fighting against ISIS, helped by U.S. trainers and coalition air strikes. Last week, the president decided to send 450 more U.S. military trainers and support troops to a new base in Anbar province, an ISIS stronghold.
June 8, 2015 |
Ever since key Iraqi and Syrian cities fell to ISIS last month, the administration has been scrambling to adjust its tactics. Rather than revamp a failed strategy, U.S. officials now appear ready to rely (at least tacitly) on Iran to help roll back the jihadis. This is especially true in Iraq, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias have proven more effective in fighting ISIS than the Iraqi army has. Previously wary of these Shiite militias - lest they inflame sectarian tensions and push more Sunni Iraqis into the ISIS camp - U.S. officials have now dropped objections to their playing a major role.
May 18, 2015 |
On May 23, 2003, I attended the Baghdad news conference at which the U.S. viceroy, Paul Bremer, announced he was dissolving the Iraqi army. I thought of that day when I read of Wednesday's confrontation between 19-year-old student Ivy Dietrich and Jeb Bush, who had been blaming President Obama for the rise of the jihadis. She told the former Florida governor, "Your brother created ISIS. " Dietrich's claim was a bit too blunt but still right on the money. It should serve as a warning to 2016 presidential contenders: Using the Iraq war as a political club against the opposition can boomerang.
May 2, 2015 |
AMMAN, Jordan - When ISIS jihadis poured into Iraq from Syria in June and attacked Sheikh Abdullah al-Yawar's compound, he urged the Iraqi government to fly weapons to a nearby airfield so his Sunni tribesmen could hit back. But the Iraqi defense minister refused Yawar's offer, which might have prevented the capture of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. After Mosul fell, Yawar asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to let him recruit two battalions of tribesmen to police the border and prevent more jihadis from crossing.
April 25, 2015 |
ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan - Fifty yards from my hotel, in the largely Christian neighborhood of Ainkawa, a car bomb went off last Friday. You can still smell the acrid smoke where the Nili café was shattered, killing two young men who had stepped out for a smoke not far from the U.S. consulate (which the terrorists didn't reach). But the Barista Coffee shop and Alreef Snack, just doors away, are open and patrons sit at outdoor tables. In fact, Erbil is one of the safest places in Iraq, despite far more security barriers than were visible before the Islamic State threatened the city last summer.
April 12, 2015 |
The visit of Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to Washington this week will test whether the White House has any Mideast strategy beyond a nuclear deal with Iran. Even administration optimists have revised naive hopes that an accord would stabilize the region. "We can do two things at the same time," Secretary of State John Kerry told the PBS Newshour , meaning negotiate while standing up to Iranian interference in Yemen. The bigger question is whether the White House has a strategy to offset Iran's drive to dominate its neighbors, a drive that is fueling sectarian war throughout the region.
July 11, 2014 |
Having ignored Iraq since 2009, the Obama team is now desperately trying to devise a way to prevent its total collapse - and to roll back the jihadi state newly established on a third of Iraqi territory. The only slim hope of doing either requires the ouster of the leader whom the United States has backed for nearly a decade, Iraq's paranoid prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki's sectarian Shiite politics have driven Iraq's Sunnis - a fifth of the country's population - into the arms of the Islamic State movement (known as ISIS)
June 30, 2014 |
For Dick Cheney, Iraq means never having to say you're sorry. His recent interviews damning President Obama for losing Iraq make him sound as if he's suffering from amnesia. But memory loss has not blotted out his central role in creating the Iraq mess. He just refuses to admit he made any errors. His willful blindness doesn't only distort the past; it also helped create a terrorist haven in Iraq that didn't exist before America invaded. And his hubris dims any future chance of driving out the terrorists.