Monday, September 24, 2012

Obama's Failed Exit From Iraq

From Michael Gordon, at the New York Times, "In U.S. Exit From Iraq, Failed Efforts and Challenges" (at Memeorandum):
The request was an unusual one, and President Obama himself made the confidential phone call to Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president.

Marshaling his best skills at persuasion, Mr. Obama asked Mr. Talabani, a consummate political survivor, to give up his post. It was Nov. 4, 2010, and the plan was for Ayad Allawi to take Mr. Talabani’s place.

With Mr. Allawi, a secular Shiite and the leader of a bloc with broad Sunni support, the Obama administration calculated, Iraq would have a more inclusive government and would check the worrisome drift toward authoritarianism under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

But Mr. Obama did not make the sale.

“They were afraid what would happen if the different groups of Iraq did not reach an agreement,” recalled Mr. Talabani, who turned down the request.

Mr. Obama has pointed to the American troop withdrawal last year as proof that he has fulfilled his promise to end the Iraq war. Winding down a conflict, however, entails far more than extracting troops.

In the case of Iraq, the American goal has been to leave a stable and representative government, avoid a power vacuum that neighboring states and terrorists could exploit and maintain sufficient influence so that Iraq would be a partner or, at a minimum, not an opponent in the Middle East.

But the Obama administration has fallen frustratingly short of some of those objectives.

The attempt by Mr. Obama and his senior aides to fashion an extraordinary power-sharing arrangement between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Allawi never materialized. Neither did an agreement that would have kept a small American force in Iraq to train the Iraqi military and patrol the country’s skies. A plan to use American civilians to train the Iraqi police has been severely cut back. The result is an Iraq that is less stable domestically and less reliable internationally than the United States had envisioned.

The story of these efforts has received little attention in a nation weary of the conflict in Iraq, and administration officials have rarely talked about them. This account is based on interviews with many of the principals, in Washington and Baghdad.
Continue reading.

And check JustOneMinute as well.

Yet another foreign policy disaster from President Clusterf-k. Will Americans even care? Probably not, if expert opinion on voter preferences is any clue. But as I argued previously, this year foreign policy is taking on an outsized importance, and history will judge this administration's failures.

I'll have more later...