Obama Abandons Iraq

Originally published in Enterprise Blog
October 21, 2011

President Obama announced today that he has decided to abandon America’s interest in Iraq and damage our position in the Middle East by withdrawing all U.S. military forces by the end of this year.

This retreat will have great costs for the United States. It squanders the gains made by both American and Iraqi military forces over the last four years, but, even more important, it squanders the enormous opportunity to forge an alliance with Iraq at a time when such an alliance would be of tremendous value to the United States. It dramatically increases the likelihood that the new and unstable Iraqi democratic experiment—already under attack from an authoritarian prime minister and a hostile Islamic Republic of Iran—will fail.  The withdrawal of American forces now serving as peacekeepers along the Arab-Kurd seam greatly increases the likelihood of ethnic civil war. The withdrawal of American military protection from a state helpless to defend itself on its own effectively throws Iraq into the arms of Iran, however the Iraqis feel about the matter.

It makes a mockery, moreover, of the notion that the United States is somehow isolating Iran and increasing the pressure on the Islamic Republic mere days after the revelation of an elaborate Iranian plot to conduct attacks on American soil. What sort of sanctions regime can we maintain if Iraq is effectively a free-trade corridor with Iran? How can we argue that Iran is being isolated when its ability to operate terror groups and training areas within Iraq is growing unchecked?

How can we claim to be taking a firm line against Iran while giving Tehran the single most important demand it has pursued for years—the complete withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq?

There is no benefit to the United States from this unnecessary decision, and likely much loss.