President Obama’s speech to the nation–recent developments
Tonight President Obama will address the nation to prepare it for increased air attacks on ISIS in Iraq and likely Syria. Many expect him to seek Congressional approval for these actions, as well as money to fund them and for training of the Iraqi military leadership. Indeed, a poll released in the last few days found eighty-two percent of Americans supporting such a Congressional action. Fully sixty-two percent support a limited war with ISIS.
As I noted in last week’s post, a key requirement of President Obama was that the Iraqi Parliament would form a new and more inclusive government. This was essential for tactical reasons to gain moderate Suni support for the ground fight against ISIS. Strategically, it was necessary to keep us from appearing to side with the Shia, in a sectarian war, both in Iraq and Syria. No doubt in response to intense pressure from Washington, the Iraqi Parliament finally broke their log-jam and established a new government led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi which, on paper at least, appears to be inclusive. Suni’s get key posts in the new government and many other concessions. Al-Abadi also reached out to the Kurdish minority. Of course, on paper isn’t the same as in practice. It will take time to know how effective these nominal changes will be. Likely it will take considerable time to find out, and the ultimate test will come in terms of oil moneys being shared on an equitable basis. But this action by the Iraqi Parliament met President Obama’s key requirement and is a significant step which should allow some Suni support for the fight against ISIS.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry was busy gaining support of one kind or another from moderate Suni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and The United Emirates. This is another key step in trying to transform the appearance of military action against ISIS from a Suni versus Shia sectarian war into a war against an extreme terrorist organization cum state. This was a fine piece of diplomacy and it wouldn’t have been possible if we had just immediately gone it alone and with massive force as Senators McCain and Sessions had demanded.
Now it is up to President Obama to make the case that ISIS is a threat, not only to our interests in the region, but to the United States itself. This might not be easy, for other than its ties to world Islamic terrorists, most of the argument against ISIS as a direct threat to the United States is hypothetical—numbers of Americans who have joined ISIS might come back and wreack terror. With the falsity of The Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam, and the absence of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq still in memory, at least among those knowledgeable about those wars, the standard for truth is high.