On the unfolding Iraqi disaster:

From The Wall Street  JournalThe Iraq Debacle


The magnitude of the debacle now unfolding in Iraq is becoming clearer by the day, with the terrorist army of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, marching ever closer to Baghdad. On Tuesday the al Qaeda affiliate captured Mosul, a city with a population greater than Philadelphia’s, a day later it took Tikrit in the Sunni heartland, and on Thursday ISIS commanders announced they plan to attack the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

No one should underestimate the danger this presents to the stability of the region and to America’s national and economic security. An extended civil war seems to be the best near-term possibility. More dangerous is ISIS’s ambition to establish a Muslim caliphate in the heart of the Persian Gulf, which would mean a safe haven for Islamic terrorism that would surely target the U.S. The danger to Iraq’s oil exports of three million barrels a day is already sending prices up and global equities down.


The threat to Baghdad is real and more imminent than is widely understood. Four Iraqi divisions have melted away before the 3000-5,000 ISIS force, which is gaining deadlier weapons as it advances. One source says Iraqi soldiers who are supposed to protect Baghdad are dressing in civilian clothes beneath their military uniforms in case they have to flee. Iraq’s air power, such as it is, could soon be grounded if civilian contractors are endangered.

An alternate view from Farred Zakaria at Investor’s Business Daily, Maliki’s Shiite Government In Iraq Isn’t Worth Saving:

But let’s remember why this force is not there. Prime Minister Maliki refused to provide the guarantees that every other country in the world that hosts U.S. forces offers.

Some commentators have blamed the Obama administration for negotiating badly or halfheartedly and perhaps this is true. But here’s what a senior Iraqi politician told me in the days when the American withdrawal was being discussed:

“It will not happen. Maliki cannot allow American troops to stay on. Iran has made very clear to Maliki that its No. 1 demand is that there be no American troops remaining in Iraq. And Maliki owes them.”

He reminded me that Maliki had spent 24 years in exile, most of them in Tehran and Damascus, and his party had been funded by Iran for most of its existence. And in fact, Maliki’s government has followed policies that have been pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian.

Washington is debating whether airstrikes or training forces would be more effective, but its real problem is much larger and is a decade in the making. In Iraq, it is defending the indefensible.


While the blame Bush refrains are getting old, Zakaria does make a legitimate point. Yet the real question is not how bad Malaki is, but compared to what?  While we must take care not to sacrifice the good for the illusion of perfection, we should also avoid sacrificing the bad for the strong possibility of the worse.  I can imagine that a widening  influence from Iran, the resurgence of Al Qaeda,  or an even more radical offshoot, or civil war in an oil rich country may be much worse than the retention of Malaki.