KURDS AND ISIS
However he got there doesn’t matter. It is rare that President Obama gets policy and action together to do the right thing. So let’s give him credit for helping the Kurds rescue thousands of minority religious followers and begin pushing ISIS back into traditional Sunni tribal areas. Without U.S. airstrikes and weapons delivered to the Kurds, the Mosel Dam and Christians and other minorities would still be in the hands of ISIS. There is absolutely no question that ISIS is capable of genocide against any people who do not believe in sharia law.
Unfortunately, this is not a short-term problem with a quick answer. The right thing is to support the Kurds. Their army, the Peshmerga, can and will fight to protect their homeland and people. All they need is an American commitment to supply needed weapons and some economic support. They can be a pillar of stability in the region and a military balance to the ISIS. The Kurds will not, unless forced, ever put their fate in the hands of a Baghdad Shiite or Sunni government. They have suffered under successive Baghdad regimes. The Kurds also have no love for Iran or Turkey.
Over the last five-plus years, the world has seen that our word cannot be taken at face value. Therefore, the problem for the Kurds is deciding whether they can trust our commitments. They are in a very dangerous position with few options. America will get another chance to show the world if our word means anything. The president has broad powers in foreign policy and armed conflict issues. But in this case it would help if he could involve Congress in long-term support for the Kurds. This is an issue he should not use to attack his opposition. There has to be some kind of a line between progressive political goals and something as serious as building a area of stability in the wreckage of Iraq that is friendly with America.
We can not expect the Kurds to trust us if we show intent of putting them back under a Baghdad regime. The president and Congress need to accept that the idea of a Shiite government ever being trusted by the Sunnis or the Kurds is gone. In fact, it was never a viable option. The borders of the Middle East have been changed de facto. A smart foreign policy would accept the change and move on. Please, Mr. President, keep Secretary of State, John Kerry out of Kurdish policy issues. You and we cannot afford any more bumbling by your Department of State.
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OBAMA AND IRAQ
The first requirement for the development of an effective foreign policy is to differentiate between your beliefs and reality. I don’t believe President Obama can see the real world. He only sees what he wants it to be. That kind of vision is dangerous in the making and implementing of foreign policy.
Iraq is a clear example. General David Petraeus and his surge strategy won the war in Iraq. To be fair, President Obama did not inherit a stable Iraq. He made the situation worse by his haste to pull all troops out of Iraq. The Iraqi government Bush left him could not last without enough American troops on the ground to check Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s rush to follow Iran’s guidance and to purge his administration and military of all Sunni and Kurd leaders. The end result was the creation of a Shiite oligarchy, no better that the Sunni dictatorship President Bush defeated.
The Bush regime won the war, but paved the way for a failed Iraqi government when they destroyed the Iraqi army and the Bath party of Saddam Hussein. None of the existing infrastructure every government needs was left. To make matters worse, the Bush administration failed to understand a Shiite/Maliki government would never be a check to the Shiite nation of Iran. Instead the Iranians ended up owning Maliki who preceded to further weaken the Sunnis and the Kurds. For all the American blood and treasure the Bush administration spent in Iraq, little was left for Obama to work with, especially given his primary motive to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible. I doubt President Obama, or either of his inept secretaries of state, ever saw the real geo-political problem a Maliki government would cause. You would think that President Obama, who leans hard in the direction of supporting Sunni Muslims, would have recognized the growth and consequences of Shiite power in Iraq.
You didn’t need timely intelligence, which Obama claims he never received, to see the Sunni Islamic radicals that joined the rebellion against Syrian Shiite President Assad could easily cross the border into Sunni areas of Iraq. The Sunni tribes alienated by Maliki were ready to provide support in the form of manpower, logistics, weapons and money. Borders mean nothing if they are not defended.
The result of the ISIS invasion of Iraq is that tribal and religious areas no longer follow the lines drawn by western diplomats after WWI. All remnants of the Shiite/Maliki government are being forced to fall back into Shiite populated areas, primarily south of Baghdad. A realistic map of Iraq will soon show Sunniland, Kurdistan and Shiiteland. The Sunnis and the Kurds will never go back into a centralized Shiite-run government. That failed experiment is over. Only more American blood and treasure could delay the collapse of Iraq, and for what? Our government needs to stop believing a Iraqi centralized government is possible. It is not.
Our policy should be to support the Kurds with modern weapons and monetary aid until their own fighters get properly equipped and to persuade the outside Sunni world to help bring the ISIS under some restraint. In the meantime, use unfettered air power and required boots-on-the-ground to break the advance of ISIS and stop their atrocities against the Christians and other religious groups ISIS is now slaughtering. Some massive evacuations of endangered refugees may be necessary. All because two administrations failed to see the Middle East as it is. Hawks and doves are equally to blame.
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What if President Obama was not a progressive ideologue using every issue he can find to destroy his political opposition and transform America into a socialist state run by a progressive elite? What could he do if he really wanted to solve national and international problems to protect the citizens of America?
First, the biggest danger is on the Ukrainian border. President Putin is determined to rebuild all or part of the old Soviet Empire. First a piece of Georgia, then the Crimea area of the Ukraine, and now threatening a huge piece of the eastern Ukraine. He has troops massed on the border. The Ukrainian army is no match for the Russian army. He is only waiting until he has the perfect excuse to cross the border to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians. He’s looked around the geo-political map and sees no real opposition, certainly not from America or Europe. Putin deals in power. America and NATO deal in sanctions. Not necessarily the same thing.
Freeing Europe from dependence on Russian natural gas and oil by an all-out effort to increase American production and exports of gas and oil would have an immediate effect on Putin. His economy is dependent on the sale of Russian energy. But more is necessary. President Obama should announce the world situation has made him rethink the down sizing of our troop strength to pre-WWII levels and ask Congress to allocate more funds to modernize our Air Force and Navy.
He also needs to re-establish the anti missile radar deployments in Eastern Europe. Announce NATO maneuvers, with at least one division of American troops, in Europe. Moving aircraft carriers closer so the possibility of air support to Ukrainian forces is real. Sending lethal military aid to the Ukraine by an airlift would give Putin more reasons for keeping his troops in Russia. Sending MREs (meals ready to eat) to a country begging for defensive weapons is both dumb and insulting. No one wants a war between Russia and the West, least of all President Putin. A show of strength and resolve is needed to prevent war. The president and Congress should continue to impose sanctions that impact the Russian economy.
Next in line for the attention of a traditional president is the Middle East. First the president has to see the world as it is and not as he thinks it is or wants it to be. His tendency to favor Muslim Sunni positions won’t handicap his policy in what used to be Iraq.
First, throw your maps and mental images of yesterday’s Iraq and Syria away. Radical Muslim military power backed by Sunni nations has changed the landscape. It would take a sizable American force augmented by our allies to put Iraq and Syria temporarily back together. That is not going to happen, and it shouldn’t. Radical muslim regimes, like Iran and now the ISIS are nearly impossible to negotiate with. Our options are to back the Kurds with real military and economic support. The Kurds deserve their own nation and they will defend it. They are the last hope of Christians caught up in the dramatic advance of ISSI.
Sharia Law is now dealing harshly with Christians. The Kurds will take them in. America should help and immediately recognize the Kurdish nation. Forget trying to strengthen the Shiite government in Baghdad. Without U.S. troops on the ground to prevent abuse of the Sunni and Kurdish minorities by the al-Maliki Administration that plan could never work. Maliki and his government are openly a tool of Iran, another Shiite nation. Baghdad will probably be part of the ISIS Sunni group while the Shiites hold on to the part of Iraq south of Bagdad. With U.S. support, Jordan should be able to remain a sovereign nation, depending on its relations with its radical ISIS Sunni neighbor.
I’ll leave the Israel-Hamas conflict for another blog soon.
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