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“Word-Salad Foreign Policy”: Trump Wants To Re-Invade Iraq; Bomb Things

Republican primary front-runner Donald Trump pledged Tuesday morning, in a factually-challenged screed, to send American troops to invade Iraq and Syria so as to “take the oil” in ISIS-controlled territories.

“I would go in and take the oil and I’d put troops to protect the oil. I would absolutely go and I’d take the money source away. And believe me, they would start to wither and they would collapse,” Trump said on CNN’s New Day. “I would take the oil away, I’d take their money away.”

Asked last month whether U.S. troops were needed to protect the oil, Trump said, “You put a ring around them. You put a ring.”

Ironically, Trump said he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, saying in May that he would “have never been in Iraq.” Some 200,000 troops were required for that invasion.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most hawkish members of the GOP presidential field, has called for between 10,000 and 20,000 troops to bolster the anti-ISIS campaign.

Trump’s word-salad foreign policy also fundamentally misunderstands the nature of ISIS. While it does make some money from oil sales, the so-called Islamic State does not derive its main source of revenue from oil revenue, as The New York Times points out. The vast majority of its operating resources in 2014 came from extortion, taxation, and theft.

The U.S.-led coalition has struck portions of ISIS’s oil infrastructure as recently as three weeks ago. On July 20, military airstrikes hit three ISIS crude oil collection points near the Deir Ezzor. A recent CNN article, citing military experts, points out that destroying oil infrastructure would be counterproductive to the future recovery of territories held by ISIS if and when the terrorist organization is expelled.

“You have to understand the issues a little bit better than just bombing things,” retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling told CNN.

Nor does Trump seem to understand the basic dynamics of the Middle East. “Believe it or not, Iran is funneling money to ISIS, too,” Trump said Tuesday morning. Iran’s government is a theocracy based on Shia Islam, while ISIS is a terror group based on a jihadist branch of Sunni Islam. They see each other as mortal enemies. In fact, Iran has been willing to offer Iraq an “open check” to fight the extremist group, Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily has said.

Trump also criticized the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration. His Iran deal would be “a hundred times better,” he told CNN. “They didn’t read The Art of the Deal, obviously.” First Trump would have “doubled the sanctions,” demanded Iranian-held American prisoners back, and then “made a good deal.”

“It’s going to go down as one of the dumb deals of all time, and one of the most dangerous deals ever signed,” Trump said.

When challenged by CNN about how America’s allies weren’t likely to go along with additional sanctions, Trump gave a bewildering answer. “I don’t care—that’s part of leadership, you got to get the allies with you. You got to get them… The different people that are involved aren’t going to be with you. You know why? Because they have no respect for our president.”

CNN host Chris Cuomo almost seemed like he was apologizing to Trump for asking tough questions about national security.

“Forgive me if it sounds if I’m teaching you about the world. You know it, and I know you know it. But I’m saying that there’s a tendency to oversimplify situations, people buy into that, and you’re setting them up for disappointment,” Cuomo said.

“Sometimes oversimplification is a good thing. Sometimes we make it too complicated,” Trump said, before going on to call the Chinese currency the “wan.” It is called the yuan.

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, August 11, 2015

August 13, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Iraq | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“An Iraqi Army That Can’t Or Won’t Fight”: Why Fight For The Iraqis If They Are Not Going To Fight For Themselves?

If Iraqis won’t fight for their nation’s survival, why on earth should we?

This is the question posed by the fall of Ramadi, which revealed the emptiness at the core of U.S. policy. President Obama’s critics are missing the point: Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many troops he sends back to Iraq or whether their footwear happens to touch the ground. The simple truth is that if Iraqis will not join together to fight for a united and peaceful country, there will be continuing conflict and chaos that potentially threaten American interests.

We should be debating how best to contain and minimize the threat. Further escalating the U.S. military role, I would argue, will almost surely lead to a quagmire that makes us no more secure. If the choice is go big or go home, we should pick the latter.

The Islamic State was supposed to be reeling from U.S.-led airstrikes. Yet the group was able to capture Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and is now consolidating control over that strategically important city. Once Islamic State fighters are fully dug in, it will be hard to pry them out.

Among the images from Sunday’s fighting, what stood out was video footage of Iraqi soldiers on the move — speeding not toward the battle but in the opposite direction. It didn’t look like any kind of tactical retreat. It looked like pedal-to-the-metal flight.

These were widely described as members of the Iraqi army’s “elite” units.

In their haste, Iraqi forces left behind U.S.-supplied tanks, artillery pieces, armored personnel carriers and Humvees. Most of the equipment is believed to be in working order, and all of it now belongs to the Islamic State. The same thing has happened when other government positions have been overrun; in effect, we have helped to arm the enemy.

Obama pledged to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State. His strategy is to use U.S. air power to keep the jihadists at bay, while U.S. advisers provide the Iraqi military with the training it needs to recapture the territory the Islamic State holds.

But this is a triumph of hope over experience. The United States spent the better part of a decade training the Iraqi armed forces, and witness the result: an army that can’t or won’t fight. The government in Baghdad, dominated by the Shiite majority, balks at giving Sunni tribal leaders the weapons necessary to resist the Islamic State. Kurdish regional forces, which are motivated and capable, have their own part of the country to defend.

If the Islamic State is to be driven out of Ramadi, the job will be done not by the regular army but by powerful Shiite militia units that are armed, trained and in some cases led by Iran. The day may soon come when an Iranian general, orchestrating an advance into the city, calls in a U.S. airstrike for support.

The logical result of Obama’s policy — which amounts to a kind of warfare-lite — is mission creep and gradual escalation. Send in a few more troops. Allow them to go on patrols with the Iraqis. Let them lead by example. Send in a few more. You might recognize this road; it can lead to another Vietnam.

What are the alternatives? One would be to resurrect Colin Powell’s doctrine of overwhelming force: Send in enough troops to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq once and for all. We conquered and occupied the country once, we could do it again.

But the Islamic State would still hold substantial territory in Syria — and thus present basically the same threat as now. If our aim is really to “destroy” the group, as Obama says, then we would have to wade into the Syrian civil war. Could we end up fighting arm-in-arm with dictator Bashar al-Assad, as we now fight alongside his friends the Iranians? Or, since Obama’s policy is that Assad must go, would we have to occupy that country, too, and take on another project of nation-building? This path leads from bad to worse and has no apparent end.

The other choice is to pull back. This strikes me as the worst course of action — except for all the rest.

The unfortunate fact is that U.S. policymakers want an intact, pluralistic, democratic Iraq more than many Iraqis do. Until this changes, our policy goal has to be modest: Contain the Islamic State from afar and target the group’s leadership, perhaps with drone attacks.

Or we can keep chasing mirages and hoping for miracles.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 21, 2015

May 23, 2015 Posted by | Iraq, ISIS, Syria | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“And What Was The Republican Plan For Iraq, Exactly?”: A Remarkable Display Of Ignorance, Poor Judgment And Shamelessness

Moe Lane over at RedState thinks that Reuters and Barack Obama somehow are to blame for the retaliation looting and killings in Tikrit after the routing of ISIS. And that murder and looting shouldn’t really be newsworthy because heck, that’s what happens in war:

Of course the groups sacking the city publicly executed anybody who was, or looked to be, Islamic State. Of course the city got looted. Of course bodies were dragged through the streets. Anybody who knows anything about warfare knows that such things are the default when it comes to a city being captured, or recaptured. It shouldn’t happen. It’s not moral or ethical to let it happen, either. And it will still happen, anyway, unless you are prepared to stamp on it from the start.

Unfortunately for everyone concerned, the military forces that could have prevented Tikrit from being sacked – heck, kept it from being captured by Islamic State death cultists in the first place – were stood down from Iraq by Barack Obama in 2011. With, might I add, the tacit corporate approval and support of Reuters.

It’s one thing to question military strategy and the relative merits of intervention and self-determinacy of nations. But it’s more than a little precious to see the same people who spent the whole Bush Administration cheerleading the illegal and ill-advised invasion of Iraq and calling out as cowards and traitors anyone who opposed it, now blame the press and the Obama Administration for the violence there.

Moe Lane and all his compatriots aided and abetted an invasion conducted for corporate gain under false pretenses that sent the entire region spiraling into conflict, strengthening Iran and precipitating a series of crises that ultimately led to the formation of ISIS due to the oppression of Iraqi Sunnis and the post-Saddam power vaccuum. These same Republicans wanted a more aggressive military operation against Assad in Syria–even though it would have strengthened ISIS. And these same Republicans have been itching like crazy to drop bombs on Iran, undermining our ultimately successful diplomatic efforts, further destabilizing the region and weakening one of our most effective regional allies against ISIS.

So now the folks at RedState, having been wrong not only in absolute moral terms but also from the perspective of sheer realpolitik and national self-interest, see fit to blame the Administration for some the ugliness in Tikrit after ISIS was forced out? Because there weren’t more American troops present?

As if more American troops would have prevented the violence. Is Moe Lane unaware of the number of Iraqis killed by American troops in the initial invasion? Has he not seen pictures of Abu Ghraib? Does he not know that not only did American forces not prevent widespread looting in Baghdad, we couldn’t even be bothered to stop Iraq’s most priceless treasures from being looted from its top museums?

But let’s assume for the moment that a stronger American presence in Iraq would have prevented some of the retributive violence in Tikrit. What exactly did Moe Lane believe that a hypothetical President McCain or Romney would have done in Iraq? Keep more troops there? For how long, exactly? Did Republicans plan to simply occupy Iraq for decades? At what point would the nation be considered stable and safe enough to finally withdraw?

Republican foreign policy is a disaster. The existence of ISIS is directly on the heads of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and everyone who supported the invasion of Iraq. And yet those same people have the gall to blame the President (and the press!) for the ugly aftermath of ISIS’ removal from one of its strongholds, apparently because Democrats didn’t put enough American troops in harm’s way for long enough.

It’s a remarkable display of ignorance, poor judgment and shamelessness.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 5, 2015

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Iraq, ISIS, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What We’ve Paid For War In Afghanistan And Iraq”: Apparently, ‘Mission Accomplished’ Means ‘Mission Never-Ending’

War is hell.

Major General Harold Greene could certainly tell you all about that — but, sadly, he’s dead. On August 5, General Greene became the highest-ranking American soldier to die in our unfathomable, 13-year war in Afghanistan, joining 2,339 other servicemembers who’ve paid the ultimate price for being sent by warmongering politicians into that fight for… well, for what?

No president or congressional leader has ever offered a coherent or credible answer, much less a compelling one, for why our troops have been made to sacrifice so much for so little. Indeed, how bitterly ironic that the general was not killed by the Taliban or al Qaeda, whom we’re supposedly fighting, but by one of the Afghan government’s own soldiers, whom we’re supposedly helping.

Another blunt reminder of the hellish absurdity of our political leaders’ quick-draw approach to war can be seen in a recent report by the Congressional Research Service. Military budget analysts in this non-partisan congressional agency keep track of how much the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are costing us taxpayers. The tally has now topped a trillion dollars — and that amount doesn’t count the cost of the the future health care bill for veterans or the enormous interest payments that’ll be made on that debt, which will multiply the trillion-dollar outlay three- or fourfold.

And the meter is still running. The Pentagon, White House, and Congress intend to keep a contingent of soldiers and trainers in both countries for the foreseeable future, plus provide billions more of our tax dollars to both countries for building their infrastructure and education systems. Meanwhile, a trillion dollars and so many American lives later, Iraq is in chaos and falling apart, and Afghanistan is mired in corruption and facing a Taliban takeover.

And — ready or not — here we go again. Our military has been hurled back into the chaos of Iraq. Apparently, “Mission Accomplished” is “Mission Never-Ending.”

We’re told that, for now, America will provide only jet fighters, drones, weaponry, humanitarian airdrops, military advice, training — and, of course, our money — to the cause of making this unworkable country work. At least President Obama has put his foot down and sensibly pledged that there will be no American “boots on the ground.”

However, in the politics of Iraq, don’t count on “sensible” surviving the chaos. The Shia-Sunni-Kurdish divide still rages on there, now exacerbated by the theocratic Islamic State’s sudden sadistic invasion. Plus, Iraq’s former prime minister (a corrupt autocrat whom our foreign policy geniuses installed during the disastrous Bush-Cheney reign of errors) was so detested by practically everyone that the parliament dumped him. However, he added slapstick to Iraq’s chaos by desperately trying to cling to power, finally having to be almost physically hauled away.

But the least sensible factor affecting Iraq is our own red-faced, militaristic, warmongering members of Congress, demanding that we must go to war. For example, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham is filled with bloodlust over the ferocious rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, so he says we have no choice but to return there to destroy the fanatics.

Of course, by “we,” congressional warriors like Lindsey don’t mean them, their loved ones, or anyone else they actually know.

Since the end of World War II, practically every American president, backed by Congress, has sent our troops to die in wars of lies and political flimflam. From Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, our soldiers have been in senseless wars nearly non-stop for 70 years. It’s time to tell the perennial political sword-rattlers that they should wield the swords themselves. War is hell…and this one is stupid.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, August 20, 2014

August 21, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Need To Blow More Stuff Up”: Republican Fear-Mongering On Iraq Isn’t Going To Work

Now that the United States is engaging militarily in Iraq, both the Obama administration and its Republican critics are trying to convince the public that their preferred response to the situation there is the most appropriate one. That has produced a stark rhetorical divergence. To simplify a bit, the administration is arguing that this conflict has very little to do with us, but if we do the wrong thing, lots of other people could suffer. Republicans, on the other hand, are arguing that it’s all about us, and if we do the wrong thing lots and lots of Americans are going to die.

When the President has talked about Iraq in the last couple of weeks, his remarks have been a combination of moral justifications for helping the Yazidis and Kurds (he even used the word “genocide”), assurances to Americans that we won’t be pulled back into a ground war there, and discussions of how the ultimate solution to this problem has to involve political stabilization in Iraq. The message that comes through is: This is very important, but it isn’t really about America and Americans. Take, for instance, this interview he did with Thomas Friedman:

The president said that what he is telling every faction in Iraq is: “We will be your partners, but we are not going to do it for you. We’re not sending a bunch of U.S. troops back on the ground to keep a lid on things. You’re going to have to show us that you are willing and ready to try and maintain a unified Iraqi government that is based on compromise. That you are willing to continue to build a nonsectarian, functional security force that is answerable to a civilian government….We do have a strategic interest in pushing back ISIL. We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq, but we can only do that if we know that we’ve got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void. So if we’re going to reach out to Sunni tribes, if we’re going to reach out to local governors and leaders, they’ve got to have some sense that they’re fighting for something.”

Otherwise, Obama said, “We can run [ISIL] off for a certain period of time, but as soon as our planes are gone, they’re coming right back in.”

One thing Obama plainly won’t be doing is trying to make us afraid. Not so his Republican critics, however. In any foreign crisis or conflict, their position is always that whatever Obama is doing is insufficiently aggressive. Now that we’re launching air strikes in Iraq, that means they have to argue for more substantial military involvement, which after a while could begin to sound like advocacy for another war. And so unlike Obama, they’re arguing that if we don’t step up our military involvement, Americans are going to be killed in large numbers. Appearing yesterday on Meet the Press, Rep. Peter King said this:

“Well first of all, David, this is not just Iraq. ISIS is a direct threat to the United States of America. What Dick Durbin just said and what President Obama has said, is really a shameful abdication of American leadership. This isn’t Iraq we’re talking about. And we can’t wait until Maliki and the Iraqi parliament to fight ISIS.

“Every day that goes by, ISIS builds up this caliphate, and it becomes a direct threat to the United States. They are more powerful now than al-Qaeda was on 9-11. So Dick Durbin says we’re not going to do this, we’re not going to do that. I want to hear what he says when they attack us in the United States.”

Strictly speaking, it’s true that ISIS is more powerful than Al Qaeda was on September 11. But it’s also irrelevant to what kind of threat they might pose to us. Al Qaeda didn’t need to be powerful in order to carry out the September 11 attacks; that was the whole point. They killed nearly 3,000 Americans using nothing but box cutters.

But King isn’t the only one saying ISIS is coming to get us. Here’s Lindsey Graham on Fox News Sunday:

“His responsibility as president is to defend this nation. If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here. This is not just about Baghdad. This is not just about Syria. It is about our homeland.”

When Chris Wallace asked Graham if America really wanted to get deeply involved in two ongoing civil wars, Graham shot back, “Do you really want to let America be attacked?” He then followed up with, “Mr. President, if you don’t adjust your strategy, these people are coming here.”

The Republicans’ presumption is that with sufficiently aggressive American military action, ISIS can be dissuaded from taking an interest in terrorist attacks within the United States. Which is possible. It’s also possible that such action is precisely what would get them interested in such attacks.

As usual, what we’re hearing from Barack Obama is that this is a complex situation in which every course of action presents the danger of unintended consequences, while what we’re hearing from Republicans is that everything is actually very simple and it will all work out fine if we just blow enough stuff up. What Republicans don’t argue is that the future of Iraq and its people is reason enough in itself to determine what course we should take; our actions have to be dictated by the danger that ISIS is going to start setting off bombs in Shreveport and Dubuque. That may be because they genuinely believe that’s a possibility, or because they think that fear is a necessary ingredient in persuading Americans to go along with a large-scale American military action.

It may take a while to know for sure, but I’m skeptical that all too many people are going to be persuaded by this argument. After 13 years of taking our shoes off in airports, buying plastic sheeting and duct tape, and hearing the terror alerts go up and down — and more importantly, after the last Iraq war, also sold on the basis that if we didn’t invade Americans were going to die in huge numbers — the fear card isn’t so easily played. That isn’t to say that ISIS might not one day try to attack targets in the U.S. They might. But it’s going to be hard to convince the public that the way to eliminate that possibility is with a large military campaign in Iraq.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 11, 2014

August 12, 2014 Posted by | Iraq, Middle East | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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