Nearly two years after Iraq ejected U.S. troops, and with an escalating civil war nearly as deadly as 2006, Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki has come to Washington to ask President Obama to intervene in a war he never wanted in the first place.
The two men were unable to come to an agreement in 2011, when the Iraqi parliament rejected the U.S. offer to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq ““ only if they were granted immunity — to help stabilize the country after the war. At the time, Obama wanted out; Maliki wanted his country back. But 2013 has turned bloodier than either man anticipated. The violence across Iraq has worsened, and the spillover violence from neighboring Syria and increasing influence from Iran threatens, for Malikik, a nation that has endured more than a decade of war and, for Obama, America’s security interests in regional stability.
The last thing Obama wants to do is send U.S. troops back to Iraq — and Maliki has already drawn that line in the sand in an op-ed in the New York Times, saying, “We are not asking for American boots on the ground. Rather, we urgently want to equip our own forces with the weapons they need to fight terrorism, including helicopters and other military aircraft so that we can secure our borders and protect our people.”
The Pentagon has been operating in Iraq, with small special operations forces units and counterterrorism teams. Beyond sending Apache helicopters and other military equipment, these specialized forces are Obama’s only choice to help Iraq from spiraling back into chaos. A senior White House administration official said they’re already working on supplying the Iraqi military with weapons and enhanced intelligence sharing, though some of it is coming slowly and items like air defense systems have questionable value to quelling the rudimentary ground insurgency.
“The Iraqis have asked for weapons systems from us. We’ve worked very closely with them and we support those requests, and we’re working with the Congress through those as appropriate. We’ve made some progress. For example, we notified over the summer a major air defense system which allows the Iraqis for — really, for the first time, to take sovereign control of their airspace, which right now they don’t have. So it’ll take some time to get that system in place, but that system had been pending for some time,” the official said.
The Iraqis are also looking to bring back the Sunnis who were behind the “awakenings” that led to a unified fight between Sunnis and Shias against al Qaeda. The senior official said that’s something Maliki is looking to replicate again. But those agreements were based on one important caveat that no longer exists — those Sunni tribal leaders knew they had the might of U.S. troops on the ground to back them up.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, wrote in Foreign Policy that many of the conditions that brought the violence down after the 2007 surge of U.S. troops should be replicated. “If Iraqi leaders think back to that time, they will recall that the surge was not just more forces, though the additional forces were very important. What mattered most was the surge of ideas — concepts that embraced security of the people by ‘living with them,’ initiatives to promote reconciliation with elements of the population that felt they had no incentive to support the new Iraq, ramping up of precise operations that targeted the key ‘irreconcilables,’ the embrace of an enhanced comprehensive civil-military approach, increased attention to various aspects of the rule of law, improvements to infrastructure and basic services, and support for various political actions that helped bridge ethno-sectarian divides.”
But the U.S. spent years and billions of dollars training the Iraqi security forces. And after just two years without U.S. handholding, it doesn’t look like Iraq learned many of Petraeus’ lessons. The political landscape has only worsened between the Sunnis and the Shia-led government. “We know we have major challenges of our own capabilities being up to the standard. They currently are not,” said Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., in an interview with the Associated Press. “We need to gear up, to deal with that threat more seriously. We need support and we need help.”
So while Iraq wants U.S. help, one thing is clear — the way forward will not involve U.S. boots on the ground. Obama may be willing to help, but it will have to be the Iraqis doing the heavy lifting this time.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”