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Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani is the senior editor with Trend News Agency and is a journalist, author and political analyst based in Baku, specializing in the Middle…

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Obama Fiddles While Iraq Burns

Obama Fiddles While Iraq Burns

To compare U.S. President Barack Obama to a modern-day Nero may be somewhat harsh, but as the Middle East continues to disintegrate, falling into chaos and unprecedented violence, its oilfields and gas fields within grasping reach of well-organized terrorist groups, it’s hard not to when no clear U.S. foreign policy is in sight.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush (the elder) went to war against the most powerful Arab army to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, the tiny emirate he had invaded a few months earlier, claiming it as Iraq’s 19th province.

The only reason Bush Sr. went to war and succeeded in putting together a formidable coalition that included Arab countries was the need to safeguard Kuwait’s oil.

Today, two of the Middle East’s most key countries – Syria and Iraq — are quite literally on the verge of disintegration, threatened by terror groups the likes of which the world have rarely seen, with the potential to jeopardize the security of Western Europe and United States, and yet there is no visible U.S. involvement or articulated policy to manage the crisis.

What is even more alarming is that this latest crisis did not suddenly appear out nowhere, as the loudest media narrative has insisted. Alarm bells and red flags were consistently ignored by the Obama administration.

Members of the U.S. administration were warned, repeatedly, that ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, posed a real threat to the security of Iraq, and ultimately to the region, but chose to ignore the warnings.

As reported by the Daily Beast, "On November 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House, and made a rather stunning request.”

Maliki -- who reportedly celebrated when the last U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011 -- made a very discreet request of the White House to return some U.S. military units to Iraq so they could assist the country’s air force in planning target acquisition of ISIS positions.

Senior administration officials told the president that ISIS was producing upwards of 40 suicide bombers a month.

Related Article: The Peak Oil Crisis: Iraq on the Precipice

ISIS took advantage of the Iraqi government’s weakness and the Iraqi army’s unpreparedness. That, compiled with Sunni disenchantment with the government’s policies, provided fertile grounds for the Islamists to strike.

Yet the warnings were there, clear for anyone to see, if anybody really wanted to see. The problem was that nobody close to the American president seemed to give it much thought. All the intelligence services were telling anyone who was willing to listen that the news from Iraq was worrisome. No one at the White House seems to have been listening.?

Additionally, too much trust was placed in the restructured Iraqi Army. Despite major U.S. training and reforms, Iraq's military suffered from poor operational tactics while legitimate and popular grievances were unheeded.

Obama could have used political leverage to force al-Maliki to avoid sidelining the country’s Sunni population. The sale of advanced weapon systems for nearly $11 billion should have been the carrot.

And major notice should have been taken when Fallujah -- a town made infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq when Sunni gunmen killed American contract workers, and where resistance to the U.S. presence became notorious -- was the first major and strategically important city to fall to the Islamists.

When Fallujah fell, red flags should have gone up. But the only flag that went up was the black banner of the jihadists.

It was only after Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, fell to ISIS that the world began to take notice. But by then, ISIS had gained control of oil fields in Syria and some in Iraq, and had looted millions from banks in the cities they occupied.

Obama may be thinking that the fallout of this crisis will be mitigated if the U.S. continues to pursue improved relations with Iran. But again, he seems to ignore the fact that countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey will never accept Iran playing the role of the regional policeman.

Like it or not, as the only remaining superpower, the job falls to the United States. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

By Claude Salhani of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • William Hoffman on July 09 2014 said:
    Claude, so what actions are you advocating we take in Iraq and Syria?
  • Claude Salhani on July 09 2014 said:
    Military action:
    That does not mean US boots on the ground. Keep the US role limited to air power and intelligence and along with the European allies and NATO to that of logistic and financial support. Ground forces should come from nations that have a direct stake in the immediate outcome of the conflict and that the Sunni populace on the ground will trust, and that can only be fellow Sunnis.

    There are 58 member countries in the Organization of Islamic Conference and boots on the ground should come from those states. Realistically however, only a few can be serious contenders given the countries facing there own problems at home are excluded, along with those with insufficient resources. That still leaves Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

    Why should most of these countries become involved? Two reasons: First, some, like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar already are involved. And second, if they don’t act now they will eventually have to act once the Islamists are on their doorsteps, but by then it would be too late.

    Step three: a military response alone will not suffice and a political solution needs to come in conjunction with military operations. Maliki’s government will have to share with the Sunnis.
  • William Hofman on July 10 2014 said:
    1. "US role limited to air power and intelligence"
    Is this not the position of the president?

    2. "Boots on the ground from some member countries in the Organization of Islamic Conference"
    Are you advocating US policy to intervene in foreign governments and to openly push them towards war? This hasn't gone well for us in the past.

    3. "Political Solution"
    I'm curious if you really believe Obama is not doing any diplomacy or if you think he is just not effective? Is your thinking that if just the right person or words were said the political actors in the region would do what we want? I tend to trust the President understands the complexities and limitations, at least better than the war hawks / neocons.

    Thanks for your response,
  • Dave on July 10 2014 said:
    Not only does your article show a tragic lack of understanding of current events, you are factually incorrect when you say "The only reason Bush Sr. went to war and succeeded in putting together a formidable coalition that included Arab countries was the need to safeguard Kuwait’s oil."

    In point of fact, the reason Iraq took action against Kuwait was the illegal side drilling into Iraqi reserves on the well understood proposition that the Western oil companies would have their personal militia aka the US Army, ensure that activity would be permitted at any cost to the Iraqi's and very little to the Kuwaitis.

    It never ceases to amaze me how much self serving revisionism plagues the press.
  • claude salhani on July 14 2014 said:
    Mr. Hofman, thanks again for your input.
    1. air power and intel. I believe we are doing intel but not air power at the moment. I mean doing this in a major way with no holds barred.
    2. no, not to intervene, but to "request" using what political and/or economic leverage the US may have to convince these countries that they are in as much danger as the rest of the world and that it is in their interest to act sooner rather than later. Bush Sr. did it in Kuwait.
    3. i am not sure that the president really understands the full implications of the problem. yes, he has advisers, but i am not sure how much they grasp the situation. I do not claim to know better than the "experts" but i do know the region, its culture and its thinking. i think the president is uncertain of how to act when it comes to the Middle East.

    finally let me add thst i am not a war hawk. I have covered 12 conflicts in my lifetime and despise war,but in some instances, alas, military might is needed.
  • claude salhani on July 14 2014 said:
    Dear Dave,

    Thank you for your comments. Actually, you are wrong. Iraq invaded Kuwait because it was broke after an eight year war with Iran and badly needed money. the Kuwaitis refused to raise the price of oil and refused to give Iraq and more money. the side drilling, much like the claim that Kuwait was Iraq's 19th province were mere excuses. what was the first thing the Iraqis did when they entered Kuwait City? They raided the central bank. much like ISIL did in Mosul.

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