By: Harry C. Blaney III
Because America has a long holiday celebrating its Independence, that does not mean that all the nasty things around the world will suddenly stop. More likely – without concerted action by responsible powers – things will likely get worse. The good news is that good people are still trying to dampen the conflict. On this holiday weekend, and for many more months, there will be American and foreign diplomats, United Nations officials, American military, and NGOs who will be working (and, in some cases, putting themselves at risk) to make peace or at least reduce killing in a region which often seems to be defined by conflict.
As I noted elsewhere on this blog, I heard Ambassador Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to America, at the Carnegie Endowment on July 1. In his talk, Ambassador Faily made a plea for urgent help for the Maliki government. He noted the situation was urgent, dangerous and spreading. But, he largely ignored, as any diplomat has to, that a new unity government and Maliki stepping down are necessary conditions to a successful outcome of the present (almost) civil war and the likely ISIS and Sunni Ba’athist victory.
According to recent reports from Baghdad, however, the new Parliament could not reach any firm agreement on a new government or leader for the country. There are also reports that Shia and other legislators are meeting informally each night to see if a new government could be formed. The Iraqi ambassador asked for more military assistance to combat Sunni militants on Tuesday. He said Iraq had to accept assistance from anywhere, given how dire the situation was for a unified Iraq. So if America doesn’t provide soon the help Iraq needs, it must accept help from such powers as Iran, Russia, and Syria.
Ambassador Faily said: “Because of the precarious situation now facing us, it is difficult for us to decline offers from other countries that share our perceived danger… We have always tried to resist that, but the situation on the ground may push us to acquire more support from our neighbor[s].”
America is sending 300 more military personnel to Iraq in addition to theoriginal 300. We are increasing our military assistance in other ways, too. According to reports, the U.S. is planning to sell as many as 4,000 Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi government. A Bloomberg article said: “…Sale of the laser-guided missiles made by Lockheed Martin Corp. would be in addition to 500 previously purchased, of which about 400 have been delivered.” Clearly, we are implementing a policy of modest military assistance and are making an assessment of the capabilities of the Iraqi military in order to determine whether any more help can turn the tide of this civil war.
This does not change the bottom line that “American boots on the ground” (i.e. fighting troops, aside of protection for American assets, including our people) is not an option. Europeans are looking at the Middle East with some concern that the contagion is spreading. They wonder what to do as governments sell military hardware to questionable nations in the region but have done little to start peacekeeping efforts.
America, as it has been repeated, can’t fix Iraq and Syria alone. But, with the help of others in the region (and if our European allies could ever get their act together), there is at least a chance we might get to make real progress. President Obama and Secretaries Kerry and Hagel both deserve our sympathy for all the horrors they need to deal with, and our thanks for not simply walking away but for thinking through the tough issues and using caution rather than simply blind responses.
Happy 4th of July!
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