The situation in Iraq is a serious threat to the security interests of the United States that requires a strong bipartisan response, not political bickering. There are four things Congress must do to address this threat.
1. Stop Re-litigating the Iraq War. Instead of focusing on the dire security threats currently emanating from Iraq and Syria, many congressmen and pundits want to dwell on why the United States should not have invaded Iraq in 2003 and claim the current crisis is a product of that decision which they claim was a mistake.
This is a pointless argument. It doesn’t matter now who was wrong or right in 2003 about the threat from Saddam Hussein. The issue before us today is how the United States should respond to a new and different threat: the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaida offshoot that intends to create a huge cross-border Islamist caliphate which likely will become a terrorist sanctuary. Congress needs to focus on this threat, not those of 2003.
2. Recognize That the U.S. Has a Stake in the Iraq-Syria Conflict. Some congressmen and talking heads are claiming we should stay out of this conflict because it’s not our fight. Others think we just should let Iraqi, Syrian, and maybe Iranian forces kill each other.
Such claims ignore the seriousness of the ISIS threat and how much more dangerous it will become if ISIS sets up its own terrorist state, a process that may already be underway. ISIS has already seized Iraqi border crossings with Syria and Jordan, huge amounts of military hardware, and millions of dollars from Iraqi banks. It also has threatened to kill the King of Jordan and send suicide bombers into that country.
Congress should support increased military support to the Iraqi government but insist that any U.S. military support must be contingent on major Iraqi political reforms that bring Sunnis back into the political process.
3. Work With President Obama to Forge a Bipartisan Approach to Iraq. It’s time for Congress to put aside, at least for now, arguments over President Obama’s foreign policy toward Iraq and worldwide and focus on a bipartisan strategy to deal with ISIS. This means Congress must give the president political cover to take controversial decisions that his leftwing base and libertarians will strongly oppose, probably sending a larger number of military advisers to Iraq, airstrikes and increased military aid.
4. Stop Obama From Making a Devil’s Deal With Iran. Congress also must stop the Obama administration from trying to address the Iraq situation through an informal agreement with Iran. Obama officials are currently engaged in multilateral talks with Iranian diplomats on its nuclear program, a process Iran has astutely manipulated to its advantage. I believe it is very likely that Obama officials are already discussing some kind of U.S.-Iran joint strategy on the Iraq crisis on the margins of these talks.
Congress must be clear: Iran’s support of Iraq’s sectarian Maliki regime is a major driver of the current unrest. Any agreement with Iran that involves an increased Iranian presence in the country (Revolutionary Guard units reportedly are already in Iraq), Iranian-trained Shiite militias, or Iranian weapons will only inflame the Iraq crisis and drive up Sunni support for ISIS. Congress must demand Iran stay out of the Iraq conflict and that the Obama administration not pursue any agreement that would bring Tehran further into it.
We need statesmanship right now on Capitol Hill to address the threat from ISIS, not the usual partisan, “I told you so” gamesmanship. This doesn’t mean congressional Republicans should endorse the president’s troubled foreign policy record: They simply must put politics aside on Iraq and Syria for now and provide the president with political support to encourage him to implement aggressive but politically controversial policies that are needed to deal with the ISIS threat and hopefully bring stability to Iraq.
Fred Fleitz served for 25 years with the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is currently Chief Analyst with LIGNET.com, Newsmax Media’s global intelligence and forecasting service. Read more reports from Fred Fleitz — Click Here Now.
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