Just in time for Friday the Thirteenth, the American People are watching and waiting to see if President Obama will decide the US needs to take action in Iraq once again after months of watching Iraq fail to address increasing violence. One of many countries in the Middle East facing armed militants thanks to governments unable and/or unwilling to become more responsive to the will of their diverse populations and the ongoing rise of extremist activities, a destabilized Iraq could easily revert back to being a breeding ground for terrorists and make it far more difficult for other Middle Eastern nations to transition to freer and more democratic societies. In that sense, it is in the interest of America, as well as the rest of the International Community, to prevent the collapse of the central Iraqi government; however, the same can be said about most territories under duress in the Middle East.
The only reason the Obama Administration is so openly willing to entertain the notion of military intervention in Iraq is that the US has poured billions of dollars, along with the priceless blood of American troops, into the largely ineffective Iraqi military for nearly a decade. For those who want to use the emotional rationale that America’s invasion and disastrous nation-building efforts in Iraq somehow obligates the US to intervene in the distressed country, it would be wise for them to consider what Warren Buffet might say about such an investment strategy, i.e. more intervention would likely mean more bad investment. It would also be wise to recognize the Iraqi military’s failures mean any more weapons given to Iraq could easily fall into the wrong hands and pose a risk to security forces, which is a particular problem when it comes to our advanced weapons.
Where the Arab Spring revolutionaries sought peaceful political transitions to serve the majorities, Iraq is facing sectarian strive due to the failure of the Shiite majority’s political leadership to respect the rights of the Sunni minority. As the Saddam Hussein empowered groups of the Sunni minority of Iraq to abuse the Shiite majority, the Shiite increased abuse of the Sunnis was expected. In fact, this writer was one of many individuals who foresaw Iraq devolving into a civil war that would result in the slaughter of the Sunni minority once the US could superficially stabilize the situation on the ground to justify a withdrawal. The only thing surprising is that it seems the Sunnis are actually provoking their own demise. Just as the Bush Administration failed to address the underlying issues behind the sectarian violence, any military intervention by the Obama Administration would almost assuredly have the same result.
Furthermore, the fact that the Sunnis are actually the majority of Muslims in the world and globalized terrorists groups like Al Qaeda were the result of once national sectarian groups taking greater interest in the treatment of their brothers around the world, US intervention in Iraq to simply prop up the Shiite dominated government would actually help provoke anti-American sentiments and enflame sectarian strife across the region. For the majority Sunnis in Syria, where the US failed to intervene against the crushing military strength of the Assad regime as it targeted peaceful protestors, US intervention against the minority Sunnis in Syria in favor of the far better equipped and trained Shiite government would surely come back to haunt the US, especially given that Nouri al-Maliki was originally installed as the national leader by the US.
In fact, the military intervention by a US lead or backed coalition would likely result in the same sentiments with little gained in terms of long-term stability. At the same time, what potential connections Iran may have with Iraq’s current problems only serves to complicate our attempts to normalize relations with the rogue state. While Iran should do everything it can help calm the situation in Iraq for bonus points, direct Iranian intervention is sure to inflame regional tensions, i.e. Iran should not try to establish itself as a regional power/threat until it normalizes relations with the International Community. From immediate action on behalf of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to address minority rights and concerns, which might include him finally stepping down from power, to Iraqi voters being given the option to divide Iraq into Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish etc. states, there must be a political solution that the US and the International Community can implement before military intervention can even serve a purpose.
Like in Yugoslavia, where genocide made it impossible for factions to resolve their grievances, a divided Iraq might be better for the Iraqi People, though oil revenue would complicate the short-term transition. In regards to other foreign affairs matters, such a position would differ from the Russian position on weakening the central Ukrainian government in that such action would be based on the verified will of the Iraqi People and serve no world power’s interests. If a political settlement can be reached by warring parties, the International Community must come together to provide a coalition of peacekeepers able to help implement any peace agreement that may come into existence for the sake of regional stability. If escalating violence threatens the implementation of a credible peace agreement, military intervention should be considered. Outside of these conditions, America’s interests are best served by avoiding direct intervention in Iraq and taking a more regional approach for intervention.
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