Monday, March 27, 2017

Erasing the Mistake of 2011

The Iraqi prime minister now wants America to remain in Iraq once the main enemy is defeated on the battlefield. This is progress if President Trump agrees unlike President Obama in 2011.

Failure to defend what we achieve on the battlefield won't have the excuse of falsely blaming the Iraqis in 2011 when President Obama refused to get a "yes" on staying in sufficient force to hunt jihadis and combat Iranian influence in Iraq. Writes Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi:

President Trump and I discussed how to build upon the Strategic Framework Agreement our two countries signed in 2008. We ask the United States to join us in urging the international community to fulfill its funding pledges to secure and stabilize our communities and prevent ISIS and al-Qaeda from reemerging. We also need U.S. know-how and investment as we revive our economy and renew our democracy. In the spirit of our 2008 agreement, we want to engage in a partnership that involves political, diplomatic, defense, security, educational and cultural cooperation.

Over the past few years, military advisers from the United States and other coalition countries have helped Iraqis turn around our armed forces so that we can fight and win our battles ourselves. Now, we ask Americans to assist us as we restore our infrastructure and diversity and partially privatize our economy. We need U.S. investment to rebuild our housing, hospitals, schools, sanitation facilities, roads, highways and bridges. We can also benefit from Americans’ technical expertise as we improve and expand our telecommunications, information technology and health-care sectors. Iraq needs U.S. financiers and corporate partners to help us develop agriculture, petrochemicals and other industries.

President Obama blamed the Iraqis for not getting a status of forces agreement in 2011. But as I've reminded people, it is misleading for President Obama who ran for office in 2008 on getting out of Iraq as fast as possible and who boasted about leaving Iraq in his 2012 reelection campaign to argue post-ISIL that in between those two dates he really, really wanted a SOFA but the Iraqis refused to give it to him. How convenient was that, eh?

Note that President Obama got a SOFA after the rise of ISIL in 2014 to cover our participation in Iraq War 2.0 even though it is not in the form he insisted it had to be (approved by Iraq's parliament) in 2011.

Abadi even wrote that Iraq needs American help to strengthen rule of law and fight corruption! I know I've droned on and on about this issue for more than a decade now, but here we are.

And in a reference sure to warm the heart of Eric at Learning Curve, Abadi referenced the US-Iraq 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement that was supposed to guide the scale and scope of America's presence until Iraq could stand on its own, even absent a parliament-approved SOFA that President Obama once pretended was necessary to remain engaged in Iraq.

Iraqis deserve a better future than they've had under Saddam's brutal rule and under assault by Sunni jihadis aided by Syria and Shia jihadis backed by mullah-run Iran. Let's bolster the Iraqis who want to build that future free of jihadi killings and Iranian dominance.

And Arabs in general across the Middle East deserve an example of a government that is neither an autocracy or theocracy, which have been their traditional options for far too long.

UPDATE: Max Boot asks what Trump will do after ISIL is defeated in Mosul:

Will President Trump approve a long-term American military presence of the kind that will be needed to counter Iranian influence and to help prevent the emergence of ISIS 2.0?

I've heard and read American generals saying we need to stay in Iraq this time. I suspect they are telegraphing what they understand to be administration intent rather than going off script.