Moreover, the government is incapable of meeting these threats given what Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, calls “security gaps,” including “their air sovereignty, their air defense capability, the ability to protect the two oil platforms, and then the ability to do combined arms operations for an external defense, synchronizing their infantry with their armor, with their artillery, with their engineers.” Given these security weaknesses, increasing sectarian and terrorist violence abetted by Iranian support and meddling will create the conditions for any number of outcomes inimical to American interests, whether state collapse, a Syria-like grinding civil war, a nakedly Islamist government, another Saddam Hussein, or increased sanctuaries for jihadist organizations.
Whatever the outcome, the big winner will be Iran, whose regional influence will increase in the vacuum created by America’s retreat, just as the Soviet Union was emboldened in its geopolitical rampage by our withdrawal from Indochina. Iran’s leadership is already trumpeting the withdrawal as a sign of American “failure” in Iraq, a “good omen for the Islamic ummah, especially for revolutionary nations,” as the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei put it, but a “day of humiliation” for America, according to the Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami. Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabadi made the implications more explicit: “The American soldiers had no other choice than to leave Iraq, and this is the beginning of all American forces withdrawing from the region and the people’s intolerance of these ambassadors of death, colonialism, and plundering.” Of course, the nation that will benefit the most from this “failure” and “humiliation” will be Iran, with its deep ties to Iraq’s Shia population and its record of strong support for the jihadist groups destabilizing the region.
Just as Jimmy Carter embodied the delusional idealism and failure of nerve that weakened America after 1975, so too Barack Obama has damaged American prestige and invited further aggression with his rush to leave Iraq and his failure to negotiate vigorously for a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. Of course political self-interest played a big role in this act of appeasement. Obama campaigned on the promise that he would end the “dumb” war in Iraq, calling the surge in troops a “reckless escalation.” Given his serial failures to keep his other campaign promises like shutting down Guantanamo and ending military tribunals, Obama saw an opportunity in American war-weariness to keep at least this one promise, and he wasn’t going to let any difficulties in negotiating America’s post-withdrawal presence in Iraq get in his way.
But accompanying these political interests was Obama’s ideology of American guilt and inevitable decline, and the disbelief in American “exceptionalism,” to be replaced by a vision in which America is merely a global “partner mindful of his own imperfections,” as candidate Obama wrote in Foreign Affairs. Yet the rest of the world sees these pronouncements for what they really are––as signs of American retreat and weakness sure to invite further aggression. And we know what the most likely source of this aggression will be: an emboldened, oil-rich Iran, already killing our citizens and supporting our enemies, and increasingly likely soon to be in possession of nuclear weapons.
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