Iraq: News and Analysis

Last Updated on June 16, 2014.


Pew Poll Finds Americans Deeply Skeptical of US Military Force
“Most Americans see good diplomacy (62 percent) rather than military strength (30 percent) as the best way to ensure peace,” according to Pew. “This view is held by most typology groups. … Among the public generally, just 37 percent say using overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism, while a majority (57 percent) says ‘relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism’.” [Defense News, 6/27/14]

House Democrats Overwhelmingly Vote Against Funding Combat Operations in Iraq
142 Democrats and a handful of Republicans joined forces behind an amendment to the fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill that would have barred any spending on combat operations in Iraq. The overwhelming Democratic support for the provision signals a Congress increasingly weary of war. [Roll Call, 6/20/14]

Iraq inks deal to pave way for US return
The Obama administration secured two diplomatic concessions from Iraq’s government: an immunity deal for U.S. special operations forces and a commitment from Iraq’s prime minister to begin forming a new government. President Obama has said the soldiers will assist Iraqi forces staring down the rapidly advancing Sunni Muslim group, which over the weekend captured a pair of pivotal border crossings with Syria and Jordan. Although administration officials insist that the mission, which would see the troops embedding at joint operation centers in Baghdad and Northern Iraq, is “non-combat,” they also acknowledge that the troops need legal protection. [The Hill, 6/23/14]

Kerry Says ISIS Threat Could Hasten Military Action
“They do pose a threat,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to the fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “They cannot be given safe haven anywhere.” “That’s why, again, I reiterate the president will not be hampered if he deems it necessary if the formation is not complete,” he added, referring to the Iraqi efforts to establish a new multisectarian government that bridges the deep divisions among the majority Shiites and minority Sunnis, Kurds and other smaller groups. Mr. Kerry stressed that if American action is taken soon — President Obama has said that he is considering airstrikes — it should not be interpreted as a gesture of political support for Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government, but rather as a strike against the ISIS militants. [New York Times, 6/23/14]

Obama Sends Military Advisers to Iraq
Liberal Democrats expressed concern that the president was putting the U.S. on a track that would lead to deeper military engagement, including airstrikes and possible ground troops. “The president’s announcement today on Iraq signaled a dangerous escalation of U.S. military involvement in a problem the president himself has said has no military solution,” Stephen Miles of the group Win Without War said in a statement. “President Obama needs to listen to the American people who do not want to restart the Iraq war.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/19/14]

Marines, US Soldiers Arrive at the US Embassy Compound in Iraq
The Pentagon has deployed about 100 troops to Baghdad, Iraq, to help protect diplomatic personnel and property. The arrival of FAST Marines and a contingent of U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq marked the first operational deployment of U.S. troops there since the withdrawal of combat forces in December 2011. “This is a temporary thing,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. “There is no intention that this is any kind of permanent plus up. They are there temporarily, to assist with some relocation of some personnel who work at the embassy.” [Defense News, 6/16/14]

More U.S. troops to Iraq; Special Forces considered
President Obama notified Congress that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad. About 170 of those forces have already arrived and another 100 soldiers are on standby in a nearby country until they are needed. While Obama has vowed to keep U.S. forces out of combat in Iraq, he said in his notification to Congress that the personnel moving into the region are equipped for direct fighting. [Military Times, 6/16/14]

Progressives Readying Fight Against Obama Over Iraq
Progressive veterans of the last fight over U.S. military intervention in Iraq aren’t waiting until President Obama decides what to do in Iraq this time around. They’ve already begun laying the groundwork for a massive pushback on Obama should he decide to engage U.S. forces in the nation once again. To progressives, even a limited intervention in Iraq by Obama would be a betrayal of the base that helped get him to the White House six years ago. Should Obama decide to go ahead with airstrikes in Iraq, progressive strategists say the liberal grumbling could turn into an election year headache for the White House. [Buzz Feed, 6/15/14]


Obama’s Armed Drones in Iraq Reek of Mission Creep
For a White House that endorses precise and discrete airpower, there is no such precision or discretion in articulating what that airpower is intended to actually accomplish. Before President Obama authorizes bombing something or someone in Iraq, he has an obligation to articulate to the American public and Congress with clarity what military missions those airstrikes are for, and what they will not be for. To date, an intelligible and unambiguous description of what those missions might be has been lacking, which is the surest path toward an unintended, gradual, and deepening U.S. military commitment in Iraq. [Foreign Policy, 6/30/14]

As Hundreds of US Troops are Sent to Iraq, Fears of Mission Creep
Lawmakers and anti-war groups raise flags about additional troop deployments and calls for executive “flexibility.” Last week, two members of Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that respect the Constitutional requirement to seek Congressional authorization before using military force in Iraq. Citing that letter, a coalition of 32 organizations including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Codepink and Peace Action issued a statement on Tuesday calling on other lawmakers to support their call and “demand a vote.” [Juan Cole, 7/3/14]

Congress needs to act on Iraq authorization
Congress has the constitutional responsibility to authorize force to prohibit an unchecked, all-powerful executive from unilaterally committing U.S. forces. Congress must take away the never-ending authorization it gave with the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and the 2002 Iraq authorization. Both are far too broad and do not include sunset provisions. Until they are repealed by Congress, they remain available to the president. [Washington Post, 6/30/14]

Stop the Next Iraq War Before It Starts
The president has promised not to send “combat troops” to Iraq, but it’s hard to see how the U.S. military personnel he is sending there can avoid combat, given that they are being dropped into the middle of a civil war. Before the Obama administration gets involved any further, Congress and the public should be consulted. Nearly three-quarters of Americans think the last Iraq war was a mistake. Let’s not repeat it by sliding into a new military intervention in Iraq under the guise of sending advisers. [Huffington Post, 6/27/14]

How Nonviolent Action Could Thwart ISIL’s Advance in Iraq
Observers should pay attention to the real and durable ways that civil society groups build power from below. Organized citizen groups that use non-violent means to pressure abusive power-holders and to advance changes without exploding themselves or cutting off heads will continue to outperform these militarized NGOs into the foreseeable future. [Defense One, 6/27/14]

House To Push Back Against Military Action in Iraq
Members of Congress want to send a clear message to Obama: They won’t stand for another war. “I think the reality is that the administration is weighing what to do on this right now and a strong statement of opposition by Congress would be a factor in that calculus,” says Stephen Miles, coalition coordinator for Win Without War, which includes groups like, the NAACP, Greenpeace and Veterans for Peace, and backs both amendments. “It would certainly make the president more hesitant to use military force.” [In These Times, 6/18/14]

On Iraq, Echoes of 2003 
Our 2003 invasion of Iraq should be a warning that military force sometimes transforms a genuine problem into something worse. It’s possible for the Shiite-led Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to defeat ISIS, but the essential first step is for Maliki (or a replacement) to reach out and work with Sunnis and Kurds instead of marginalizing them. As Gen. David Petraeus told a London conference, “This cannot be the United States being the air force for Shia militias.” [New York Times, 6/18/14]

Don’t Be Sucked Into War With Iraq, Again
The hard truth is that there is little we can do to save the corrupt, incompetent government we installed in Iraq. If 10 years, millions of hours of work and hundreds of billions of dollars could not build a regime that can survive, it is difficult to imagine any fix that can. Those seeking to blame the Obama administration for the collapse are engaged in a cynical game. There is not a quick fix to this problem. The hard truth is that, like the collapse of the Diem government in South Vietnam a generation ago, there is little we can do to prop up this government. As military expert Micha Zenko tweeted, “Unless the US has bombs that can install wisdom and leadership into PM Maliki, airstrikes in Iraq would be pointless.” [Defense One, 6/12/14]

U.S. moves to help Iraq are no quick fix
“The president’s announcement today on Iraq signaled a dangerous escalation of U.S. military involvement in a problem the president himself has said has no military solution,” said Stephen Miles, the coordinator of the left-leaning Win Without War coalition. “What is needed in Iraq is a political solution, and any U.S. support must only be made after changes to the policies of Prime Minister Maliki that are fueling sectarian tensions and growing this conflict.”  [Politico, 6/19/14]

Diplomacy Not More Arms Needed in Iraq and Syria
Debates about the past do not address the problem of what can be done now to stem the spread of violence and instability. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as the debate unfolds. Some in Washington have reacted to the crisis by calling on President Obama to send even more arms and military equipment to Iraq, but Baghdad’s sectarian Shia-dominated forces are part of the problem not the solution. Pouring arms into the spreading cauldron of war risks exacerbating the crisis in Iraq. This crisis increasingly poses threats to global security and requires a multilateral diplomatic response. The United States should work through the United Nations to propose and support a major global diplomatic initiative. This will require returning to the Geneva process of attempting to find a political solution in Syria, but this time with Iran directly involved and the agenda broadened to include political alternatives in Iraq. [David Cortright, 6/12/14]

Conducting U.S. airstrikes in Iraq would be complicated, former military officers say
Airstrikes would be complicated if the insurgents stay within the cities they have taken control of in recent weeks, raising the likelihood of civilian casualties. In Iraq, refugees from Mosul said they were fleeing their homes in anticipation of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS fighters who have taken over the city. “When we heard that the plane carriers had reached the gulf, we left,” said Ahmad Ziad, a 30-year-old taxi driver who was leaving Mosul with his wife and two children. “We aren’t scared of ISIS; they are better than the Iraqi army. We are scared of the airstrikes.” [Washington Post, 6/16/14]

Iraq: A Veteran’s Perspective on the Fall of Tall Afar
Our eight year war in Iraq had but one real lesson: military force cannot bring peace and stability to Iraq or anywhere else in our complicated, interconnected world. Furthering the violence with American bombs will only compound the crisis and harden the resolve of the religiously motivated violent movement dominating Iraq today. Too many have already been lost for the folly of yet another sure-to-fail military intervention. [FCNL, 6/16/14]

7 Myths about the Radical Sunni Advance in Iraq
The Sunni radicals are not a conventional army. There are no lines for the US to bomb, few convoys or other obvious targets. To the extent that their advance is a series of urban revolts against the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki, the US would end up bombing ordinary city folk. The Sunnis already have resentments about the Bush administration backing for the Shiite parties after 2003, which produced purges of Sunnis from their jobs and massive unemployment in Sunni areas. For the US to be bombing Sunni towns all these years later on behalf of Mr. al-Maliki would be to invite terrorism against the US. [Juan Cole, 6/16/14]

Obama Should Resist Military Intervention, in Iraq and Beyond
It is extremely unlikely that sending arms or dropping bombs can extricate Iraq from a crisis that has been sparked by the repressive actions of the al-Maliki government. In fact, if U.S. bombing were to result in civilian casualties or the deaths of allied forces, it could make matters worse by handing a propaganda victory to ISIS while adding to the needless killing already under way in Iraq. Obama’s recent reluctance to use military force makes good sense in a complex world in which the United States can’t control all events or put out every fire. He should stick to that approach in dealing with the current crisis in Iraq. [Huffington Post, 6/16/14]

7 Talking Points You Need for Discussing the Iraq Crisis
The current crisis is not the result of inadequate US support of Maliki and the Iraqi military. It is the outcome of Maliki’s failures, which have provided the evildoers of ISIS—a band that does threaten civilians and stability in the region—an opportunity, and these failures were enabled by the Bush administration and unaddressed by the Obama crew. Unless the basic dynamic is altered, any military action will be as effective as pounding sand. [Mother Jones, 6/13/14]

On Iraq, let’s ignore those who got it all wrong
The most prominent voices being heard are the very ones who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who promised that everything was simple and the only question was whether we’d be “strong” and “decisive” enough — the same thing they’re saying today. They’re the ones who swore that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, that he had a terrifying arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, that the war would be quick, easy and cheap, that since Iraq was a largely secular country we wouldn’t have to worry about sectarian conflict, and that democracy would spread throughout the region in short order, bringing peace and prosperity along with it. [Washington Post, 6/13/14]

The People Who Broke Iraq Have A Lot of Ideas About Fixing It Now
Here are some of the top advocates for launching the war in 2003 (people like Ambassador Bremer, former Prime Minister Blair, Senator McCain, and Bill Kristol) along with their misleading statements and incorrect predictions and what they have to say about Iraq now. [Huffington Post, 6/16/14]

Thoughts on Possible US-Iran Collaboration in Iraq
The crisis in Iraq adds urgency to reaching a nuclear deal with Iran by July 20 since the nuclear matter needs to be resolved before the two sides can fully explore regional areas of mutual interest. Reality is that Iran and the US need each other. And both of them need to recognize the other’s ability to play a stabilizing role. Few things have been as destabilizing for the region than the US-Iran enmity. [Huffington Post, 6/16/14]

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Wicked’ Iraq Problem
“The current crisis in Iraq is a reminder of the dangers Hillary Clinton faces with the Democratic base,” said Stephen Miles of the progressive group Win Without War. “Today, with the threat of military action once again on the table in Iraq, … we’ll be looking to see if her recent denunciation of her 2002 vote for the Iraq War represents a true change of heart or was simply an effort to rewrite history in advance of a 2016 run.” [National Journal, 6/15/14]

The Fall of Mosul and the False Promises of Modern History
Those who will say that the US should have left troops in Iraq do not say how that could have happened. The Iraqi parliament voted against it. There was never any prospect in 2011 of the vote going any other way. Because the US occupation of Iraq was horrible for Iraqis and they resented it. PM Nouri al-Maliki can only get Iraq back by allying with nationalist Sunnis in the north. Otherwise, for him simply brutally to occupy the city with Shiite troops and artillery and aerial bombing will make him look like his neighbor, Bashar al-Assad. [Juan Cole, 6/11/14]

U.S. Said to Rebuff Iraqi Request to Strike Militants
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials. But so far, the administration has signaled that it is not interested in such a direct American military role. “Ultimately, this is for the Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqi government to deal with,” said Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman. [New York Times, 6/12/14]

Panic over the ISIS Offensive in Iraq
“Everyone should take a deep breath.” If ISIS were to turn its guns and its bombs directly against the United States, this would most likely be in response to the United States turning its guns directly against ISIS. The current rise of ISIS has been made possible by the exclusionary practices and increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Maliki government in Baghdad. Maliki’s regime is a narrowly based Shiite regime, and most Sunni Arabs do not see a future for themselves in an Iraq led by Maliki. It is fantasy to think that any of this would have been any different by extending the unwelcome U.S. military presence any longer. If we feel fright and revulsion over this group, let that be a reminder of how mistaken was the decision to launch the war. [National Interest, 6/13/14]

Iraq Is Falling Apart, and There’s Little Washington Can Do About It
The grim reality is that the White House has few good options for preventing a vicious al Qaeda-linked militant group from advancing toward Baghdad three years after the U.S. effectively washed its hands of Iraq’s security problems. It’s far from clear what new Apache helicopters, jet fighters, or tanks would do to help now. Without adequate ground intelligence, the United States could run the risk of accidentally killing Iraqi security forces or, even worse, civilians. “Airstrikes are tricky,” Matthew Henman, head of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, said. “In an urban environment, they can become indiscriminate, resulting in civilians killed and infrastructure damaged.” [Foreign Policy, 6/12/14]

Options Limited to Help Iraq
Current and former officials say Washington’s options for helping the Iraqi army fight back are limited because the threat in Iraq is so entrenched. A senior U.S. military official explained, “You would need a major commitment of military forces to make a difference. There is not a lot of appetite for that.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/11/14]

Iraq War Veterans In Congress Mostly Urge Caution
Over the last days and months, the 17 veterans of the Iraq War currently serving in Congress have helplessly watched from Washington as insurgent fighters gained ground in Iraq — ground that they fought for not long ago as combat surgeons and fighter pilots, platoon leaders and chaplains. But these new members of Congress aren’t marching lockstep on the way forward for the deteriorating country — not with each other, and not with older hawks on the Hill calling on President Barack Obama to get back into Iraq.
 [Defense One, 6/18/14]

Discussion of ISIS and the 2001/2002 AUMFs
We thought it important to join (and reorient) the conversation along two dimensions: (1) to show how implausible the claims are that the 2001 (9/11) and 2002 (Iraq) AUMFs might provide the President with authority to use force against ISIS in Iraq; and (2) to use this debate as an illustration of the dangers of preemptively authorizing the use of force in the absence of specific facts that warrant it. [Just Security, 6/17/14]

Iraq Crisis a Result of Failed U.S. Policy & Warmongers

June 16, 2014