After kicking the US out of the country in 2011, the Iraqi government has apparently changed its tune. Bombings and other terrorist attacks in July killed more than 1,000 people – the most since the dark days of 2008.
And the government is totally incapable of dealing with it.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Iraqi government is seeking substantial aid from the US, including advisors, intelligence operatives, and drones.
What has changed is our empowering the rebels in Syria who are now working with Al-Qaeda in Iraq to wreak havoc on the population and bring the nation once again to the brink of civil war.
The violence has spurred Baghdad to seek new U.S. aid to curb the threat, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. He said a U.S. assistance package could include a limited number of advisers, intelligence analysis and surveillance assets – including lethal drones.
“There is greater realization in the Iraq government that we should not shy away from coming and asking for some help and assistance,” Zebari told reporters Friday in Washington.
He described U.S. interest in Iraq after the 2011 troop withdrawal as “indifferent, completely” but said that seemed to shift as the White House realized al-Qaida’s resurrection there.
“Recently I noticed, and during this visit specifically, there is a renewed interest because of the seriousness of the situation and the challenges,” Zebari said. “I think that is because of the threat of terrorism, the threat of the renewal of al-Qaida and its affiliates has become a serious, serious concern to the U.S.”
The American troops left Iraq in December 2011 as required under a 2008 security agreement. Both countries tried to negotiate plans, but failed, to keep at least several thousand U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the deadline to maintain security. But the proposal fell through after Baghdad refused to give the troops immunity from legal charges, as Washington demanded.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops were killed, and American taxpayers spent at least $767 billion during the nearly nine years of war in Iraq.
Zebari attributed the insurgency’s comeback to its partnerships with al-Qaida fighters in neighboring Syria and outlawed Baath Party extremists in Iraq’s south. Intelligence experts have described the terror group’s footing in Iraq and Syria as a new al-Qaida hub in the Mideast, one that has sought for years to underscore Baghdad’s inability to protect its people.
What can the US do? Not much – especially when you consider the full plate of issues we’re already dealing with:
Distracted by a civil war in Syria, a policy pivot to Asia, growing extremism in North Africa and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the White House put Iraq on the back burner.
Egypt, once reliably stable, has disintegrated over deadly street riots and attacks that killed more than 600 people this week during protests over the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Jordan, a key U.S. ally, is threatening to collapse under financial strain caused, in large part, by more than 1 million refugees who have crossed into the country from Syria. The U.S. is also leading peace talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities, and watching a growing threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. A threat from al-Qaida led to the closing of 19 diplomatic posts across the region last week.
It is tempting to tell Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to go to hell and allow Iraq to slip into chaos. But we simply can’t afford to to do that. Only American enemies in Iran and Syria (on both sides) would benefit.
So we will probably throw a package of aid together and hope that the Iraqi government can get a handle on the violence. We’ve spent a lot of blood and treasure to see to it that Iraq maintained some kind of independent, functioning government. Unless things turn around rapidly, that wish will slip away and al-Qaeda will have scored a significant victory.