Handing Over Iraq to Iran & Turkey

Marissa Cochrane Sullivan


Marissa Sullivan, the Deputy Director of the Institute for the Study of War, had a troubling article in the Wall Street Journal today, July 28th.

When Obama entered office, he was given a winning hand in Iraq, but the Iraqi officials she has spoken with across the political spectrum, say that the Obama administration has been dangerously disengaged from the reality in Iraq, a reality which includes more and more influence by Iran and Turkey.

Obama has been disengaged from all aspects of his job, take the debt ceiling debate as one example. Until two weeks ago, he was completely uninvolved. Disengagement is his modus operandi.

Now U.S. influence in Iraq is waning because of this disengagement. Our military made great sacrifices for Iraq and it would be a tragedy to lose it now. Iran and Turkey are filling the void. One prominent Iraqi leader joked that Iraq must have disappeared from every White House map.

While the administration has made general statements about assisting Iraq, Obama has continued with his usual non-specifics and ineffective leadership. Nothing different from what he does here. Both Sunnis and Shiites agree that Obama is doing a whole lot of nothing.

Ms. Sullivan said, “From my discussions with Iraqis, it is clear that the U.S. still has unused leverage in their country. The Iraqi military, improved though it is, still depends heavily on the U.S. for logistics, training, intelligence and other critical external-defense capabilities. The U.S. can also help Iraq improve relations with its neighbors and emerge from U.N. sanctions left over from the Saddam Hussein era”

Ms. Sullivan warns that, “Vice President Joseph Biden and other U.S. officials have argued that Iran didn’t play a large role in the formation of Iraq’s government last year, but I heard the opposite from Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish politicians. They all described Iran as having played a central role in pressuring Shiite groups to fall in line behind Prime Minister Maliki. ‘This government was formed in Iran,’ said one senior Iraqi official whose view was shared by many others.”

Iranian backed groups have stepped up of late and were responsible for the killing of 14 U.S. soldiers in June. One military official said the enemy is “..getting more sophisticated, more lethal, more precise in targeting.” Iran is increasing the flow of weapons to Iraqi militants to make it more unappealing for Americans to stay.

It is vital that a troop presence remain in Iraq to train Iraqi forces, to conduct counterterrorism missions with Iraqis, to counter Iranian influence and to contain ethnic strife.

Obama has set a deadline of Dec. 31 for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. U.S. officials have ignored all negotiations with Iraqis on the matter. The U. S. government finally had some discussions with Baghdad this summer but the results are unknown.

“Failing to sign a new U.S.-Iraqi security agreement would redound to Iran’s great benefit. The Obama administration has a fleeting opportunity that it cannot afford to squander,” said Ms. Sullivan. Read here: WallStreetJournal

To further support Ms. Sullivan’s perspective,  on July 21, 2011. Baghdad. Three days ago, Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops crossed the border into Iraq and launched a major military offensive against the Iraqi Kurds. The first announcement came out on July 18 via Iran’s state news agency.

Since then, little word has escaped from the semi-autonomous region of northeast Iraq that once was Kurdistan. Iranian authorities report that they have captured three rebel Kurdish military bases. They also caution that the fighting has been ongoing for days and Iranian troops are still engaged…” Read here: Iran invades Iraq to attack Kurds and here: Institute for the Study of War