I wrote here and here about the unraveling of Iraq that has followed the withdrawal of American troops and the failure of the Obama administration to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Maliki government. I also noted that Maliki would be in Washington this week seeking help from President Obama.
The U.S. has a clear interest in helping the Maliki government stem the tide of violence and terrorism in Iraq. For one thing, as Max Boot explains, al-Qaeda in Iraq has staged a comeback to the point that even the White House concedes its status as an emerging “‘transnational threat network’ that could possibly reach from the Mideast to the United States.” The danger is that, in combination with closely affiliated al Qaeda forces in Syria, it can consolidate what Boot calls “a fundamentalist emirate stretching from western Iraq to northern Syria which will become what Afghanistan was prior to 2001: a magnet and breeding ground for jihadist terrorists.”
Second, Iran, naturally enough, has been gaining power in Iraq ever since U.S. troops departed. Greater U.S. involvement in Iraq would help counter Iranian influence.
There is much the U.S. could do, short of large scale military involvement, to assist the Maliki government, and Boot spells some of it out. But will Obama provide such assistance?
Probably not. I agree with Boot who says:
Greater U.S. involvement. . .conflicts with Obama’s desire to pull out of the Middle East at all costs. The cocksure president is also unlikely to take any action which suggests that his 2011 troop pullout was a mistake—which it was.
Moreover, Obama is under no political pressure to help Iraq. Congressional Republicans are happy to avert their eyes from the looming tragedy, just as they have been happy to avert their eyes from the ongoing and related tragedy in Syria.
There, the Iranians and al Qaeda are both winning at the expense of non-jihadist, non-anti-American forces. This might well be the future of Iraq, thanks in no small part to bipartisan American policy.