Excerpts from Destabilizer-in-Chief by Mario Loyola in National Review:
Influence is a function of power. Commitments have to be backed by real resources. Otherwise, as Walter Lippmann argued, your foreign policy is bankrupt. Once the Iraq War was over, the key task facing the U.S. was to ensure the strength and stability of Iraq’s governing institutions long enough for them to be able to stand on their own. This required above all that the factions see their future in cooperation under a U.S. umbrella rather than conflict fueled by extremism — exactly as with Egypt and Israel in the 1970s.
The continued presence of U.S. forces empowered us to underwrite the risks of reconciliation for those factions, in particular the Sunnis. That’s what made us indispensable mediators. As long as U.S. forces were present, U.S. diplomats had powerful levers with which to continue pushing Iraq’s factions toward compromise. But with our forces gone, our diplomats suddenly can’t convince any Iraqi of anything. And because the conflict is internal, we can’t solve it by arming competing governments, as we did with Israel and Egypt. Our allies within Iraq — those who had fought on our side, and who are that country’s best hopes for the future — were left helpless before the competing forces in the proxy war between Iran and the Gulf Kingdoms.
Though it is often said that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a strategic windfall for Iran, in fact Iran achieved nearly nothing with the considerable effort it expended arming Shiite militias and manufacturing potent IEDs to kill U.S. forces. By 2009, the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq had been utterly defeated and marginalized, and, Maliki’s obsequiousness to Iran aside, even the Shiite political parties backed the U.S. over Iran.
It took Obama to turn the Iraq War into a strategic windfall for Iran. And what a windfall it has been. The alliance of Syria, Russia, and Iran is everywhere in the ascendant. Obama has thrown away not only a priceless strategic position in Iraq, but indeed the dominant U.S. position in the whole Middle East, on which the stability of the region depended — along with any hope for Israeli–Palestinian peace.