Kerry strikes out in Baghdad

Secretary of State (remember?) John Kerry took a detour to Baghdad on his current trip to the Middle East. He sought to persuade the government of Prime Minister Maliki to stop Iran from flying arms across Iraqi territory to support the Assad regime.

The United States has more or less abandoned Iraq, Iraq lacks an air force, and Iran is filling the vacuum created by our withdrawal. The New York Times reports that Kerry asked Maliki to provide for additional inspections of the cargo on the Iranian overflights (“American officials have repeatedly insisted to Iraq that it should request that the Iranian flights land and be inspected”), but that Kerry “found him unwilling to give ground.”

How bad was it? This bad:

Maliki repeated Iraq’s view that there is no definitive proof that the cargoes are arms, rather than humanitarian aid, as the Iranians contend. Kerry was left to say that he will gather more information to prove his point.

It’s actually worse than that, because, as the Times also points out:

“The number of flights shows that they can’t possibly be humanitarian flights,” a senior administration official, who declined to be identified citing the diplomatic sensitivity of the subject, told reporters.

It’s actually worse than that, because astute Iraqis publicly profess that they have weighed the Obama administration’s influence and found it wanting:

“The Americans are not using claws or teeth,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Mr. Maliki’s former national security adviser, said shortly before Mr. Kerry’s visit.

A headline Sunday in the Iraqi newspaper Al Mada referring to President Obama’s trip last week to the Middle East read, “Obama Visited the Region but Ignored Iraq.” The article noted that “Iraq was not even mentioned in Obama’s speeches to the region” and said that “all the protests and bombings in Iraq haven’t come to the attention of Obama.”

It’s actually worse than that, because, as the Los Angeles Times also points out, Maliki’s resistance to Kerry’s charms was the subject of levity at Kerry’s expense:

American influence over the country, or the lack of it, was the subject of a joke between the two leaders before their meeting.

Appearing briefly before photographers, Kerry joked to Maliki that Clinton had told him that the Iraqi leader is “going to do everything I say.”

Maliki shot back through the translator: “We won’t do it!”

Kerry’s assessment of internal Iraqi issues raised with Maliki reflects equally on the Obama administration: “There’s a lot happening, and a lot not happening.”


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