Sunday, May 24, 2015

Of Barns, Horses, and Door-Closing Timing

Is there nothing besides a minor reduction in the rate of increase of one of his pet programs that President Obama will consider a real problem that requires a sense of urgency to combat?

This pretty much defines the president's Iraq policy:

The Pentagon said on Sunday that Islamic State militants had gained the advantage in fighting in Ramadi and that if the western Iraqi city fell, the U.S.-led coalition would support Iraqi forces “to take it back later.”

We could have devoted force to help Iraq hold Ramadi. But instead we ignored the simpler problem. Now we will have to commit even more force to carry out the harder task of helping Iraqi forces take ground from a fanatical enemy.

Which pretty much describes the choice in 2011 of staying in Iraq to defend our gains or leaving and then coming back in last year to try to regain what has been lost while we ignored the mounting problems in Iraq.

Oh, and we don't return to the status quo ante. Even if we win these battles with the Shia militias that are flowing to the Ramadi region, Iraq will be worse off:

"It's a miscalculation from the commander in-chief (Abadi)," Iraqi analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said. "He wanted to give the US a place and the tribesmen a bigger contribution."

Yes, Prime Minister Abadi wanted American help in Anbar to unite Sunni Arabs with his Shia-led government against ISIL jihadis.

Indeed, we wanted Iraq's government to reach out to the Sunni Arabs after blaming Maliki for poisoning relations.

Now we risk Iran-inspired Shia militia slaughtering some Sunni Arabs in the flush of battle, which could wreck chances of reconciliation even if Anbar Arab hatred of ISIL outweighs fear of Shia militias long enough to eject ISIL from Anbar.

But we wouldn't focus on the more important Anbar front. No, we're still focused on Mosul. Sometime in the future. When all is ready.

It will be splendid, I'm sure.

Drama? No Obama.

Could we fast forward to the "smart" part of our diplomacy?

UPDATE: On the bright side, Iraqi forces are moving west:

Shi'ite militias, Iraqi security forces and pro-government Sunni tribal fighters launched a counter-offensive on Saturday against the insurgents, who have pushed east towards a key military base after overrunning Ramadi.

"Today we regained control over Husaiba and are laying plans to make more advances to push back Daesh fighters further,” said local tribal leader Amir al-Fahdawi[.]

Husaiba is 6 miles east of Ramadi.

We'll see if they push into relative vacuum on the approaches to Ramadi or actually retake Ramadi.