AEI's Kagan: Maliki's Departure Only Part of the Problem in Iraq

Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 08:51 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Nouri al-Maliki may have quit as Iraqi prime minister, but "it would be a mistake to imagine this as a panacea," Frederick Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, told Newsmax TV.

"Maliki was definitely a significant part of the problem," Kagan told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Thursday. "He had definitely alienated the Iraqi Sunni population in a way that made them much more vulnerable to the ISIS attacks.

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"The problem is that the alienation's pretty deep at this point — and the Sunni demands went well beyond having Maliki go," he added, noting that the Islamic State had taken over so much of Baghdad, including its military.

"This is not just a question of coming to a political settlement now. Their ISIS army is going to have to be defeated in the field — and that's something that we really need to be taking much more seriously than we have been," Kagan said.

Maliki, 64, had been prime minister for eight years. He relinquished the post to his nominated replacement to end a political deadlock that has plunged the country into uncertainty as it battles ISIS.

He will be succeeded by Haider al-Abadi, who also is a member of the Dawa Party. The White House commended Maliki for stepping aside.

The Islamic State's strong advance across much of northern and western Iraq has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since June. It last week prompted the United States to launch aid operations and airstrikes as the militants threatened religious minorities and the largely autonomous Kurdish region.

In his Newsmax interview, Kagan slammed President Barack Obama's lack of leadership on Iraq and his strong resistance to concentrated strikes against ISIS.

"There is a lot more energy in the world for doing something about this than the White House is yet manifesting, which would suggest that it might be possible if we actually have some American leadership for a change to put together a coalition that would be serious about this," he said.

Obama's stance "implies that the United States doesn't actually have any significant interest here," Kagan continued. "If you say this is an Iraqi problem and we basically we have to let the Iraqis solve it, the implication is if they don't then there's nothing we can do."

But the United States can do so much, especially by with airstrikes, retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters told Malzberg later Thursday. That's especially because ISIS has such an extremely violent history.

"This is a death cult. It is addicted to blood. It's apocalyptic. It's purely destructive, and they also destroy 1,800-year-old churches," he said. "They destroy archaeological monuments. They burn books. … It's stunning, and our president is playing golf."

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Peters said he hoped that Obama would have ordered more airstrikes "to buy time for the Kurds to be armed and trained, for Baghdad to sort itself out, for some other regional players that consider taking action.

"Obama is a minimalist," Peters added. "He wants to do the least he can get away with doing, which he did in this case.

"This problem with ISIS is like a nasty cancer tumor — and Obama just wants to take a little, teensy portion — cut a teensy, tiny portion of the tumor — and hope it goes away.

"The cancer tumors and the terrorist movements don't react like that. The tumor and the terrorist movements continue to spread.

"These guys are a real threat — and they're drawing recruits from all over the Middle East," Peters said.

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