Saturday, June 14, 2014





On the White House;s South Lawn this afternoon, en route to boarding a helicopter, US President Barack Obama stopped to make a few comments on Iraq:

Yesterday, I convened a meeting with my National Security Council to discuss the situation there, and this morning I received an update from my team.  Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria.  In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory.  And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people.  And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

Now, this threat is not brand new.  Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping and intelligence.  Now, Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.  We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.
I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.
So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed. 
So this should be a wake-up call.  Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.  In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies. 
Now, Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process.  Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos.  So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.
Indeed, across the region we have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counterterrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish a safe haven.  And we’ll continue that effort through our support of the moderate opposition in Syria, our support for Iraq and its security forces, and our partnership with other countries across the region. 
We’re also going to pursue intensive diplomacy throughout this period both inside of Iraq and across the region, because there’s never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to war or relying on the United States military. 

We’ll be monitoring the situation in Iraq very carefully over the next several days.  Our top priority will remain being vigilant against any threats to our personnel serving overseas.  We will consult closely with Congress as we make determinations about appropriate action, and we’ll continue to keep the American people fully informed as we make decisions about the way forward. 

He took a few questions and we'll note this response: "And obviously, our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny.  But ultimately, they're going to have to seize it.  As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.  And given the very difficult history that we’ve seen in Iraq, I think that any objective observer would recognize that in the absence of accommodation among the various factions inside of Iraq, various military actions by the United States,  by any outside nation, are not going to solve those problems over the long term and not going to deliver the kind of stability that we need."

AFP's WG Dunlop offered this observation on Barack's comments.

Immediately after Barack's remarks were aired live, Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC -- link is video) went to a pre-recorded interview with Senator John McCain.

Senator John McCain:  Well our Director of National Intelligence, General [James] Clapper, has already said what is happening in this area of Syria - Iraq has now been dramatically expanded and also has enriched does post a threat for attacks to be planned on the United States of America.  That is the opinion of our Director of National Intelligence.  And I share it.

Andrea Mitchell:  What should the president do?  He says he's only ruled out ground troops.  So he is considering military options.  We're expecting decisions. What would you advise him to do?

Senator John McCain: Andrea, I think that -- I think the national security team should be replaced. But that's not going to happen.  So then, he should bring in other individuals such as General [Jack] Keane, the architect of the surge which succeeded and we had it won, people like the Kagans at  the Institute for the Study of War  [Kimberly Kagan and Fred Kagan], other -- and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.  I think I would put [former top US commander in Iraq] David Petraeus on a plane to Baghdad right now and try to sort all this out.  And, also, Maliki has got to be more inclusive.  He's got to completely change, the way he's treated the Sunni and it may be too late, I don't know.  Maybe it needs to be somebody else?   But now we need to move forward. We've got to plan not only on the military side of it but on the political side of it as well because it's clear that the Sunnis have been alienated completely by Maliki and the way he's handled his leadership in Iraq. 

A few things on the above. 

James Clapper?  Could Clapper be right?

Clapper lied to Congress.  The matter should have immediately been turned over to the Justice Dept and Barack should have asked for a resignation.

That didn't happen.

So Clapper has no standing now.  McCain can cite him all he wants but Clapper is a known liar who went before the Congress and lied.  When an official does that, they need to resign.

Clapper could be 100% right that this group of people -- whatever you term them -- are or will plan attacks on the US.  But he's a liar who's disgraced his name and few are going to rush to believe him.

McCain may have seen information -- I'm sure he has -- independently that makes him believe Clapper's assertion.

I don't believe the assertion.  There's no support being presented to the public for it.

There's also no common sense argument for it.

This group allegedly wants to take over not just Iraq but Syria as well.  They're also going to expand to attacks on the US?


Should they take over Iraq, if they also want to take over Syria, that would be their goal.

And if they achieved that?  They'd go for the region. 

I don't see where they -- as Clapper believes -- would be making one advance after another in the region and suddenly decide to focus on the US.

It doesn't make sense.

Doing so would slow their attempted march to take over the region.

Doing so would also unleash a response (and hatred and anger) aimed at them from the US and it would mean a full out war. 

So I don't see how they'd want to court that anger and the combat response that would follow.

They might. 

But thus far, we have allegations only and we have common sense.  And common sense does not back up the allegations. 

That McCain would suggest a group that includes the neocon Kagan family (which also includes Barack advisor Robert Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland who's with the State Dept) isn't surprising (he is right-wing).  But due to other comments by McCain in the past, we should note that he made clear he was not calling for US troops back into Iraq. ("I do not envision a scenario where ground troops are on the ground [. . .] I would not commit to putting American boots on the ground in order to achieve that in deference to that weariness that you so accurately describe.")

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"