Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Can't Afford to Plunge Us into Sectarian Civil War

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Can't Afford to Plunge Us into Sectarian Civil War

Article excerpt

The horrors that Iraq is experiencing these days cannot be blamed on President Barack Obama. He can't put troops back into Iraq for a full-scale fight against ISIS - the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - the group that is taking over swaths of territory there. We would be on one side of a sectarian war, with no end in sight.

The criticism being leveled against Mr. Obama is that he left Iraq too soon. He should have kept U.S. forces there to train the Iraqi army. He should, critics say, have convinced the Iraqi government to agree to a status of forces agreement that would put U.S. troops under U.S. law exclusively.

But would a longer troop stay in Iraq have done any good? In northern Iraq we saw how Iraqi forces laid down their arms and fled in the face of ISIS advances. Would the Iraqi army have done better had we stayed?

Not likely. ISIS was able to rout the Iraqi army in northern Iraq because the Iraqi government had so alienated the Sunni sector of Iraq's population that the Sunni, who predominate that area, were not prepared to defend the government. They may not like ISIS, or its declaration of a caliphate, but the government of Nouri al- Maliki, had virtually disenfranchised the Sunnis.

Mr. al-Malaki, a Shiite, had come to power through nationwide elections, but he is operating the government to favor the Shiites, who constitute the majority of Iraq's population. The Shiites had been disadvantaged under the former government, which had been Sunni-dominated, led by Saddam Hussein.

In 1991, when the United States took on Iraq over its invasion of Kuwait, President George H.W. Bush was smart enough to know he should not overthrow its government. There was too much chance of Iraq coming unglued.

The Sunni and Shiite populations are Arab. Iraq is also home to a large population of Kurds, who are Persians. …

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