In spite of the blood and treasure spent during Operation Iraqi Freedom, radical Islamists have successfully re-taken the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Mosul in a show of force that seems to have taken the Obama administration by surprise.
While long warned of the dire consequences of leaving the Iraqi people without American troops to help protect them, Barack Obama seems to have acted upon his own campaign rhetoric; “Osama bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is on the run,” pulling all but a very few American troops out of the country in 2011, essentially ending American involvement and the war. The move left a power vacuum, into which radical Islamists are now flooding.
On Thursday, an Al Qaeda-inspired militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS,) made clear that they have taken the cities of Mosul and Tikrit in bloody battle. Baghdad, the capitol, is their next objective.
The ISIS forces are bolstered by loyalists of the Saddam Hussein regime, and other deposed Sunnis are celebrating their victories in the North and have demonstrated their dominance by imposing brutal Shariah law in the territories they have captured. Roads in that area are littered with the decapitated bodies of soldiers and police.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, elected to lead Iraq after coalition forces freed the country from Saddam Hussein, has asked the United States for help in the form of air strikes. Barack Obama seems reluctant to put American resources at the disposal of Maliki’s government and is still mulling the problem.
Meanwhile, to make matters even more difficult from a strategic alliance perspective, fighters from Iran’s exclusive Revolutionary Guard have offered to join the fray in America’s absence. The commander of the elite force from Iran, Qassem Suleimani, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday, pledging to send two Iranian brigades, as many as 10,000 armed soldiers, to help defend Baghdad. Malaki is said to be seriously weighing the offer, however 150 troops have already been dispatched from Tehran and are en route to Bagdad.
On Thursday, retired four-star Army General Jack Keane appeared on Fox News, saying that the U.S. created a huge vacuum by leaving Iraq. The blood and treasure the U.S. spent in securing this country was essentially abandoned when the U.S. left Iraq unprotected in 2011.
“It’s kind of like a house where termites have been at it for years and you look at the house and it looks good but the fact of the matter is if you push on it hard it will collapse,” General Keane said.
“Maliki believed he was on his own – kind of like in a life boat without a lifeline and we left him to himself,” he told Fox’s Bret Baier regarding America’s desertion of the Iraqi people.
To date, aid groups say that a half million Iraqis have fled their homes in the North, creating a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, three planeloads of Americans have been evacuated from an airbase north of Bagdad and several hundred American contractors are still waiting to leave.