President Obama's Iraqi Military Mission is to Contain, Not Destroy ISIS
President Obama’s Iraqi Military Mission is to Contain, Not Destroy ISIS

(OPINION) — President Obama emphatically stated that there won’t be any troops on the ground in the latest crisis in Iraq, but something else piqued my interest….the implication that containing not destroying the Islamic States militants seems to be the military goal. He said the airstrikes he ordered in northern Iraq have destroyed the Islamic State militants’ arms and equipment.

During a press conference on the South Lawn, just before boarding Marine One for a Martha’s Vineyard family vacation, President Obama said, “Ultimately, there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem.” “There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution.” He implied that there won’t be any deeper US action unless there’s a clear change in how the Maliki-led government runs the country and the need for a unity government. In other words, the ball is in their court. He also said the Iraq campaign will be a “long-term project” and “I think this is going to take some time.”

President Obama said U.S. troops were pulled out of Iraq because they didn’t want them there. He repeated there will be no more combat troops in Iraq again. “We are going to maintain that because we should have learned a lesson from our long and immensely costly incursion into Iraq,” Obama said. He said there is “no doubt” that ISIS advance on Erbil “has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates.”

He said, “There is no American military solution to this problem, but an Iraqi solution that America and other countries will support.” In other words, the goals of this military campaign are much more narrower than you think. The objectives for Obama’s airstrikes in Iraq are protect the Kurdistan region from ISIS and to break ISIS seige that has stranded about 40,000 Yazidis on the Sinjar mountain. That’s it. Rather than blunting the effect of ISIS offensive anywhere else, he is focused on a limited swath of Iraq.

ISIS or ISIL poses a serious threat to the Iraqi government and could destabilize the entire region. The way the Obama administration seems to view the current situation is that ISIS marching to Kurdistan and displacing the Yazidis is a military problem, hence the airstrikes, but the political problems are up to the Iraqi government to solve. In other words, containing ISIS and not eliminating ISIS is the mission at this juncture.

Well, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is sounding the alarm about ISIS, though President Obama’s goal at this juncture isn’t to destroy the militant group, but to contain them. She issued a sharp rebuke of President Obama’s strategy:

“It has become clear that ISIL is recruiting fighters in Western countries, training them to fight its battles in the Middle East and possibly returning them to European and American cities to attack us in our backyard,” the California Democrat said in a statement backing military action authorized by President Barack Obama. “We simply cannot allow this to happen.”

Feinstein called for a broader military campaign against ISIL, not just the targeted missions authorized by the president.

It takes an army to defeat an army, and I believe that we either confront ISIL now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future. Inaction is no longer an option. I support actions by the administration to coordinate efforts with Iraq and other allies to use our military strength and targeting expertise to the fullest extent possible,” Feinstein said. Source: Roll Call

I would venture to say, the mess playing out before our eyes are the result of the failed policies of four American presidents — George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, especially George W. Bush and to some extent, Barack Obama. Like former secretary of state Colin Powell said, if you break it, you own it. We own the mess in Iraq. I will concede another point — you can’t ignore the fact that a deep-seated resentments of the Sunnis is what’s driving ISIS and Prime Minister Maliki doesn’t show any signs that he wants to share power with the Sunnis and the Kurds. Not even a teeny bit. So, we have a big problem on our hands.

The Washington Post slammed President Obama in a scathing editorial, saying his Iraq policy “isn’t connected to a coherent strategy” and that it’s “unrealistic”:

While U.S. airstrikes and drops of supplies may prevent the terrorist forces from massacring the Yazidi sect or toppling the pro-Western regime in Kurdistan, Mr. Obama lacks a plausible plan for addressing the larger threat posed by the Islamic State. In recent weeks, senior U.S. officials have described the danger in hair-curling terms: The Islamic State forces, which have captured large numbers of U.S.-supplied heavy weapons, threaten not only the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, but also Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. With hundreds of Western recruits, they have the ambition and capability to launch attacks against targets in Europe and the United States.

Yet by the White House’s own account, the measures ordered by Mr. Obama are not intended to defeat the Islamic State or even to stop its bloody advances in most of the region. Instead they are limited to protecting two cities where U.S. personnel are stationed and one mass of refugees. The hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere threatened by the al-Qaeda forces will receive no U.S. protection. Nor will the terrorists’ hold over the areas they already control, including the large city of Mosul and nearby oil fields, be tested by U.S. airpower.

U.S. officials say that Mr. Obama has refrained from a broader campaign because he believes the Islamic State is “an Iraqi responsibility,” as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel put it. The administration is pushing Iraq’s political factions, sharply divided along sectarian lines, to join in forming a new government; once such a government is formed, Mr. Obama said, “the United States will work with it and other countries in the region to provide increased support.”

President Obama is right, that this is an Iraqi problem, but the wait will be a long one, for us to see any kind of resolution. Meanwhile, ISIS will continue its push forward and deeper into Iraq, creating chaos along the way.