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 16, 2015 |
Anyone who wants to understand how ISIS can be rolled back needs to heed the message of two Sunni Arabs who visited Washington this week. I'm not referring to the Saudi crown prince and his deputy, who came to seek assurances from President Obama that he's not cozying up to Tehran. (When it comes to ousting ISIS, the Saudis are as much a part of the problem as they are part of the solution.) Rather, I'm referring to two prominent Iraqi politicians who came to warn that ISIS can't be defeated unless Washington helps Iraqi Sunnis who want to drive the jihadis out. One of the visitors was Rafe al-Issawi, an urbane, English-speaking physician who was once Iraq's respected finance minister.
October 17, 2014 |
Leon Panetta has taken a lot of heat for publicly dumping on Barack Obama's foreign policy while the president is still in the White House. Where's his loyalty? the critics ask, as Panetta makes the publicity rounds for his new memoir, Worthy Fights , which says tough things about Obama's past policies on Syria and Iraq. Shouldn't Panetta, who served as CIA director and defense secretary during Obama's first term, have zipped his lip until his former boss left office? Absolutely not. Panetta - a child of Italian immigrants who believes deeply in America's promise - is trying to nudge Obama to adopt a more engaged style of governing; he rightly believes this is the only way Obama can break through the paralysis in Washington and exert more forceful foreign policy leadership in the future.
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 20, 2014 |
For more than a year, Mideast analysts have warned about an al-Qaeda offshoot that was creating a virtual state in eastern Syria and western Iraq, where it trained European and American recruits. The Obama team failed to focus on this virulent threat to U.S. interests, either in Syria or Iraq. Now those jihadis - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - have jolted the region by pouring out of Syria, seizing Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and heading toward Baghdad "This is al-Qaeda 6.0," says Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad and Kabul, "and they will be stronger than they ever were in Afghanistan.
June 18, 2014
Politics being what they are in this country, it was predictable that Democrats and Republicans would point fingers at each other when Sunni insurgents began taking over territory in Shiite-controlled Iraq. It was George Bush's fault for starting the 10-year war that left nearly 4,500 Americans dead and raised new fears about the future stability of the Middle East. It was President Obama's fault for not insisting that a larger U.S. military force be left in Iraq after the war to discourage insurgents.
November 4, 2013 |
The last time Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House - in late 2011 - he and President Obama touted Iraq's political and security progress. On Friday, Maliki arrived again, this time in search of help to fight a stunning resurgence of al-Qaeda violence that has claimed 7,000 Iraqi deaths in 2013 - nearly 1,000 in October. It will be a hard sell. Most Americans, including Obama, are eager to put the Iraq war out of mind. And as a bipartisan group of senators noted in a letter to Obama last week, Maliki's "mismanagement" of Iraq's sectarian politics has helped create the climate that permitted al-Qaeda to reemerge.
May 21, 2013 |
BAGHDAD - Iraq's wave of bloodshed sharply escalated Monday with more than a dozen car bombings across the country, part of attacks that killed at least 95 people and brought echoes of past sectarian carnage and fears of a dangerous spillover from Syria's civil war next door. The latest spiral of violence - which has claimed more than 240 lives in the last week - carries the hallmarks of the two sides that brought nearly nonstop chaos to Iraq for years: Sunni insurgents, including al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq, and Shiite militias defending their newfound power after Saddam Hussein's fall.
April 28, 2013 |
BAGHDAD - Iraqi soldiers backed by tanks retook control of a Sunni town north of Baghdad on Friday after gunmen withdrew without a fight, although violence erupted at three Sunni mosques and clerics called for the formation of a tribal army to protect Sunni cities. The Sunni gunmen had seized Suleiman Beg on Thursday after a firefight with security forces, one in a string of incidents that have killed more than 170 people in a spate of violence and clashes in Sunni Muslim towns in western and northern Iraq during the last four days.
April 27, 2013 |
BAGHDAD - Clashes spread to a key northern city and gunmen took over a town elsewhere in Iraq on Thursday, raising the death toll from three days of violence to more than 150 people as a wave of Sunni unrest intensified. The turmoil is aggravating an already-sour political situation between the Shiite-led government and Sunnis, who accuse Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government of neglect and trying to disenfranchise their Muslim sect. Maliki appeared on national television appealing for calm amid fears that the country is facing a return to full-scale sectarian fighting more than a year after U.S. troops withdrew.