Tags: Al-Qaida | Barack Obama | Iraq | Middle East | WSJ | Iraq | insurgents

WSJ: US Caught Off-Guard by Iraqi Insurgency

Image: WSJ: US Caught Off-Guard by Iraqi Insurgency Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council on May 14 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

By Drew MacKenzie   |   Thursday, 12 Jun 2014 09:39 AM

With Iraq teetering on the brink of collapse, the White House has been caught off guard by the capture of two cities by Muslim militants and the desertion of thousands of Iraqi security forces, The Wall Street Journal reported.

As Sunni fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) headed to Baghdad after taking Mosul and Tikrit, the Obama administration hastily arranged a meeting on Wednesday with military leaders and policy makers to deal with the latest Middle East crisis.

Even though the State Department has known for some time that jihadists wanted to create an Islamic state in parts of Iraq and Syria dominated by Sunnis, the United States was ill-prepared to counter the ISIS onslaught.

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"Recent events in Iraq show the potential risks of the administration's foreign policy approach," the Journal's Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes wrote, referring to President Barack Obama’s approach of limiting U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts.

Obama was recently criticized by Republicans for his speech at the West Point military academy where he urged allies to take the lead in fighting terrorist threats in their regions, allowing American troops to take a back seat in worldwide confrontations.

The United States had hoped that the $14 billion it had spent to bolster Iraqi security forces would be enough to contain the violent ISIS extremists. But officials did not take into account that Iraqi security forces would lay down their arms in droves, along with their weapons and their uniforms.

The Journal reported that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had attended a meeting of Gulf states in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in May, which focused on al-Qaida inspired Islamic forces seizing territory in Syria and Iraq. But no decisions were made by Hagel and his counterparts on how to force back the insurgents.

Now Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has been overrun, and the United States believes that there’s little chance of Iraqi forces recapturing it in the near future. As the United States mulled air strikes in bid to support Iraq’s embattled troops, the bigger concern is that the Shiite-controlled capital Baghdad does not fall to advancing ISIS forces.

After American forces pulled out of Iraq in 2011, the region remained fairly stable until the civil war in Syria gave the ISIS the opportunity to recruit, train and operate in vast areas of the two countries.

U.S. military officials say that ISIS is now a bigger terrorist threat to the United States than the al-Qaida-based organizations in Yemen or Africa and more powerful than al-Qaida's leadership in Pakistan, the Journal said.

Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told the Journal the threat of terrorism from the ISIS "worse than pre-9/11 Afghanistan" because of the large number of foreigners, including Europeans and Americans, who are joining the fight.

"These people will come home eventually and they are going to come home with, I believe, intentions to fulfill al-Qaida's dream for another attack on our homeland and, certainly, another attack on our Western and European allies," Rogers told the paper.

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