Obama pays the price for early withdrawal in Iraq

On Iraq, what is unforgivable is knowingly withdrawing from a country still struggling to defend itself from extremism and effectively leaving it vulnerable to those extremists

Soldiers in Baghdad
Steven George-Hilley
On 14 June 2014 08:01

The alarming revelations that the Sunni militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) is aiming to launch an offensive on Baghdad after toppling government forces in Tikrit and Mosul is another reminder of why Barack Obama made an incredibly foolish decision to withdraw US forces from the country by the end of 2011.

The extremist insurgency has been quietly building behind the scenes since then, progressing from brutal car bombings and hijackings to transforming into a much more powerful force, capable of taking entire towns.

Naturally, this current crisis provides an opportunity for the anti-war activists like Owen Jones to remind us all once again why it was wrong to invade in the first place. However, the secondary responsibility(after the actual perpetrators) for the current bloodshed and beheadings lies with the Obama administration and its catastrophic and politically motivated decision to rush withdrawal.

Such a move may well have won votes with a US public suffering from war fatigue, but it also left an inexperienced leader in Prime Minister Maliki in charge of a volatile country with a new Iraqi army struggling to contain the situation.

In response to the crisis, former Presidential candidate Senator John McCain has called for immediate resignations from Obama’s security team. “Everybody in his national security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ought to be replaced,” he told reporters the other night.

McCain, a man with significant military experience was also heavily critical of the Obama administration's lack of action over Syria and the failure to act against Putin, and had previously warned of the disastrous consequences of an early withdrawal from Iraq.

The recent insurgency, which appears to be highly organised and effective, is a reminder of why the US should have maintained some form of ground presence, despite public opinion.

Those on the left can remind us about why we were wrong on Iraq all they like, but removing a brutal dictator who gassed his own people and posed a threat to the region remains the right thing to have done. What is unforgivable is knowingly withdrawing from a country still struggling to defend itself from extremism and effectively leaving it vulnerable to those extremists. 

The responsibility for this grievous error of judgement lies with the Obama administration and its weak and misguided foreign policy.

After the shameful failure of the US and Britain to take meaningful action over the chemical weapons use in Syria, we cannot afford to sit back and simply verbally condemn terrorism any longer.

As countries with military might and power, turning a blind eye to children being burned by napalm and chlorine attacks in Syria is setting a worrying precedent for dictators around the world looking to commit similar atrocities.

The response to the Iraq crisis needs to be robust and stark, whether this be in the form of airstrikes or the deployment of ground forces. A clear message needs to be sent that extremism will not be allowed to thrive in the middle east. We failed to act on Syria, and we simply cannot afford to do the same on Iraq.

Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank and a Conservative Party activist

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