Who lost Iraq?

Who lost Iraq? Two views:

Fareed Zacharia says that first, above all, Nouri Al-Maliki lost it.

The prime minister and his ruling party have behaved like thugs, excluding the Sunnis from power, using the army, police forces and militias to terrorize their opponents. The insurgency the Maliki government faces today was utterly predictable because, in fact, it happened before. From 2003 onward, Iraq faced a Sunni insurgency that was finally tamped down by Gen. David Petraeus, who said explicitly at the time that the core element of his strategy was political, bringing Sunni tribes and militias into the fold. The surge’s success, he often noted, bought time for a real power-sharing deal in Iraq that would bring the Sunnis into the structure of the government. . .

But how did Maliki come to be prime minister of Iraq? He was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration. Having invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called “the worst war plan in American history” — the administration needed to find local allies. It quickly decided to destroy Iraq’s Sunni ruling establishment and empower the hard-line Shiite religious parties that had opposed Saddam Hussein. This meant that a structure of Sunni power that had been in the area for centuries collapsed. These moves — to disband the army, dismantle the bureaucracy [Moe: thank you Paul Bremmer you creep] and purge Sunnis in general — might have been more consequential than the invasion itself.

Dexter Filkins, noting among other things that the border between Iraq and Syria has been erased, names three causes: 1) the Syrian war, and 2)  Al-Maliki, whose thuggery since the US withdrawal (which itself was necessitated in part by his absolute refusal to sign the usual Status of Forces Agreement to provide legal protections to remaining US Troops), and 3) . . .

Which brings us to the third reason. When the Americans invaded, in March, 2003, they destroyed the Iraqi state—its military, its bureaucracy, its police force, and most everything else that might hold a country together. They spent the next nine years trying to build a state to replace the one they crushed. By 2011, by any reasonable measure, the Americans had made a lot of headway but were not finished with the job . . .

Today, many Iraqis, including some close to Maliki, say that a small force of American soldiers—working in non-combat roles—would have provided a crucial stabilizing factor that is now missing from Iraq.

So Bush broke it and Obama left before it was finished (I’m surprised that Filkins beleives we could ever actually ‘finish’ it). By the way, Filkins is a war correspondent of the ‘old school’ and spent years in Iraq during the war and his book about that time, The Forever War, is just stunning.


24 responses to “Who lost Iraq?

  1. ALL of the above……

    But Maliki IS the acute problem…..


  2. Once Barak Obama took over responsibility for the Iraq War, who put Maliki in power became irrelevant. As Obama withdrew forces from Iraq his leverage over Maliki proportionally decreased. Obama had the responsibility to manage the consequences of his decision to withdraw from Iraq.


  3. To make a long story short, we removed a tyrannical and corrupt regime and chose the best of possible solutions with which to replace it in a “nation” that was essentially three nations forced to be one.

    We had a time line which me met and a set of actions we which we fulfilled. At the end of it Obama pulled us out on schedule at the request of the Iraqi government.

    I can’t find anyone to blame for Iraq’s internal problems other than the Iraqis and the other Muslims in the region and, so long as oil flows, I can’t find the will to care about what they do to each other.


  4. Commenting on the French Revolution, Edmund Burke said liberty gives people the freedom to do what they please. Before trying to give them liberty, better to learn what they will be pleased to do.


    • I sense a new awareness among people – even the teeveee talking heads – that democracy cannot be imposed. That’s a new insight for Americans and I think a very important one. That said, I’m uneasy about the 300 ‘advisors’ going over. I’ve seem to have heard that term before somewhere .. .


  5. Not so simple Alan…..

    Actually for once I think jonolan has it right…..

    A behind the scenes political look at the Iraq problem development…



  6. I am amazed at the power to absolve this President of any blame that always comes to bear when something goes wrong. If Maliki had turned out to be great the last President would have gotten no credit.

    I suppose that every President after Truman should have let the Russians take over West Germany because Truman and Roosevelt planned the post war government. Eisenhower should have pulled everybody out of Germany and when Soviet stooges infiltrated and took over, well the West Germans did this to themselves.

    The parallel to post war Europe is there in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The comparisons of the giants that American Presidents were during the cold war to the present is stark.


    • Alan, that’s a false parallel. You cannot compare the Muslim World with Europe. The populations and cultures are too different, as are the “nations” involved.

      Remember please that the only thing that Muslim like killing more than infidel are other Muslims, especially ones of a different sect. It’s a lot like Europe’s long-running series of war brought upon by the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries.

      As much as I loath Obama, I can’t blame him for Muslims’ normal behavior, especially when there was no way that we could have stayed in Iraq w/o causing a war with Russia and China…with no support from Europe.


  7. Alan?

    The Iraq GOVERNMENT REFUSED to grant American soldiers immunity from their actions in THIER Country….
    They said ‘go home we don’t need ya’…..


    THEY blew it….
    NOT Your President….
    Iraq IS a soverign country….


  8. jamesb,

    There is this thing, maybe you have heard of it. It is called negotiations. The Obama that negotiated with Republicans over the budget debacles could have gotten anything from Iraq. We had more power over Iraq than Obama had over John Boehner. We did not get immunity for our troops because we did not want it. We wanted out. We got out and everything we did previously in Iraq has just been thrown away.

    You guys blame everyone except Obama for Iraq. I do not choose to blame anyone else.


    • Alan, in ’08 Bush tried to negotiate with Malaki re a Status of Forces agreement and ran into the same thing Obama did. Malaki would not give American military personnel the standard legal protections and was already saying ‘get the hell out’ before O was elected. He was under pressure from Iran and he needed them more than he needed us.

      Bush set a withdrawal date when Malaki wouldn’t budge and O stuck with it when Malaki still wouldn’t sign.

      We’ll always have Bush to blame for getting us into this mess but even he eventually wanted out but ran out of time. Obama promised he’d get us out and he did.

      As you’d say, end of story.


  9. I beg to differ with ya…..

    The US NEGOTIATED with Iraq….

    Down to the wire ….

    The Parliament would NOT give the US or NATO immunity for their troops….
    You can’t just MAKE them do it by doing a “i’m the US you will GIVE us what we want!’

    Iraq is a sovereign country….
    They did NOT want our troops there ….
    So the President left…
    At NO time DID Obama or the US military WANT OUT UNTIL they where told to GET OUT….

    Obama and his handlers THEN spun it to be we didn’t want to stay anyways…

    Please check this post and it’s link…..
    A behind the scenes political look at the Iraq problem development…

    ‘You can take ‘m to the water…But you can’t make’m drink……’


  10. Sadly, Alan, James is right. It’s not Obama’s fault that Iraq is weak and an easy target for ISIS.

    If you want to blame Obama for what IS actually his fault, blame him for arming ISIS in the first place and siding with them against Syria’s legitimate ruler, Bashar al-Assad.

    What’s happening right now in Iraq is to a large extent Obama’s fault but the fact that the Iraqis can’t respond to it isn’t.


    • Heck jonolan, mostly we can blame ourselves and our own sad history of blowback for ill advised actions. Iran? In 1953 we and the Brits overthrew a democratically elected government to get the oil back and paid for it big time in 1979. Taliban in Afghanistan? In the 80’s we called them ‘freedom fighters’ because they were trying to get the Soviets out. Which they did, just like the British before them. And then those well- armed (compliments of the US) freedom-fighters became the Taliban (thanks Saudi Arabia and your Wahabi madrassas movement!).

      Thanks too to Saudi Arabia for allowing US to establish a base in Saudi near Mecca to fight Sadaam in ’91. Which outraged fundamentalist Sunnis, the loudest of whom was Osama Bin Laden who got tons of money from the Prines and created Al Qaeda and hid in Afghanistan where the Taliban made it easy. After which 15 of his Saudi countrymen attacked the US on 9/11. So of course we invaded Afgahnistan and Iraq.

      All makes perfect sense.

      Stuff comes back and bites ‘ya in the posterior.


  11. Good get Moe….

    There has been questions about the Saudi’s possible ISIS funding in the past since they ARE a Sunni group….


    • james, almost all the Sunni money comes from Saudi. We have been covering for them since the oil embargo in the 70’s. Now THAT was some terrorism – it terrified the West for decades to come.


  12. Ms. Holland,

    Bush was on his way out in 08. Maliki had nothing to lose by refusing Bush. Obama had leverage until he he announced he was leaving no matter what. Obama could have told Maliki he was staying and dictated terms to him. We needed to keep an air presence in Iraq to keep Iranian air craft out. If Obama had seen Maliki as as Republican he would have steam rolled him. It was the get out at all costs policy, which Iran, the terrorists, and Maliki all took advantage of.

    Kinda like the empty out Guantanamo at all costs is going to bite all of us.


  13. PLEASE!
    Give me a break!

    Obama NEVER announced he was leaving NO MATTER WHAT…..

    Where do you get this stuff?
    He wanted to keep a 5,000 or so troop in country….
    The Iraqi Parliament said NO
    We can handle this…..
    Maliki actually took the deal to Parliament…
    But when they said no?
    He covered his rear and joined them…
    He’s STILL in power and he has NOT included the majority Sunni’s in HIS government one the main reason the place is upside down….

    ALAN….ALAN ya gotta KNOW what you’re saying…..

    Obama could NOT JUST LEAVE the troops there…

    We don’t OWN Iraq…..

    You sound like Cheney for goodness sake


    • Actually James, Obama did state that essentially he wanted to leave Iraq per the schedule “no matter what.” He ALSO wanted to leave 5K+ troops there indefinitely. Such is the nature of Obama, talking out of both sides of his mouth.

      So you and Alan are both right in this case. Again, this is nature of Obama politics.

      As for the rest of comment – You’re wrong. Obama could have done just about anything, including keeping the bulk of our troops in Iraq, but chose not to. I’m not disputing that particular choice but let’s not fantasize about it being anything other than a choice.


      • And if O kept troops in Iraq against the express and public wishes of the Parliament and Prime Minister, how does that differ from an occupation against the will of a sovereign nation? And Sunni Islam would have been fine with that? The US protecting Iran’s near-proxy Shia government? Sure.


        • It doesn’t differ from that at all, Moe. As I said, I don’t dispute Obama’s decision in the matter. Let’s not pretend that he couldn’t have done it though, or that it wouldn’t have been a fairly good option on the whole since we were both stabilizing the country and could have “adjusted” Maliki’s government.


  14. Jamesb,

    I believe our departure under Obama was inevitable and all sides in Iraq rightly counted on it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s