Iraq ambassador to US: Help us or else

Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington that because his country's situation was so tenuous, if the US didn't supply more military assistance, Iraq would reach out to Russia, Syria, and Iran for help.

Foreign Policy:

"Because of the precarious situation now facing us, it is difficult for us to decline offers from other countries that share our perceived danger," Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, specifically referring to Iran and Russia. "We have always tried to resist that but the situation on the ground may push us to acquire more support from our neighbor[s]."

Recently, Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus have stepped up their military support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he tries to prevent Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham militants from conquering more of central Iraq and continuing their march toward Baghdad. Russia shipped jet fighters and military trainers to Iraq, Syria has mounted airstrikes against ISIS targets, and Tehran has provided Maliki with troops, military advisors, weaponry, and financial support. The Obama administration, meanwhile, continues weighing whether to conduct airstrikes of its own against ISIS. Faily said Iraq's decision to seek support from U.S. adversaries was based "primarily from the need, rather than the desire."

The Iraqi military is embroiled in a pitched battle to retake Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, from ISIS. On Tuesday, state-run media said the military successfully cleared the University of Tikrit of extremist militants, but Sunni Islamists still control Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and other parts of the country. ISIS declared that it established a new Islamic caliphate in the territory under its controls in both Iraq and Syria, a goal that militant groups such as al Qaeda spent decades trying -- and failing -- to accomplish.

Faily said that "because of the urgency on the ground," this was the wrong time for Washington to make U.S. support for Iraq dependent on Maliki either stepping down or truly reaching out to Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Sunni leaders in Iraq's heartland are so angry with Maliki that they are backing the brutal ISIS, who they believe is willing to take the fight to the Iraqi leader and his Shiite allies. "Don't condition it," Faily said. "The risk is too immediate. The threat is too important for us to think about conditionality."

Pray that Iran supplies as many troops as possible. This messy, sectarian conflict would be Iran's Vietnam. Russia is probably too smart to get too much involved in the conflict but if Assad's assistance results in an escalation in aid to the Sunnis from the Gulf States, he may wish he kept his jets at home.

This war is not going to end soon. ISIS is getting help from Sunni tribes fed up with Shiite domination and Obama is almost certainly correct that political reform is more important than any small military assistance we can provide the Iraqis at this point. But Prime Minister Maliki and the Shiites don't appear ready to change, so the collapse continues.

If the Iraqi government wants to be beholden to Putin, Assad, and the Iranian theocrats, we should tell them "be my guest." They would get what they deserve.

Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington that because his country's situation was so tenuous, if the US didn't supply more military assistance, Iraq would reach out to Russia, Syria, and Iran for help.

Foreign Policy:

"Because of the precarious situation now facing us, it is difficult for us to decline offers from other countries that share our perceived danger," Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, specifically referring to Iran and Russia. "We have always tried to resist that but the situation on the ground may push us to acquire more support from our neighbor[s]."

Recently, Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus have stepped up their military support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he tries to prevent Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham militants from conquering more of central Iraq and continuing their march toward Baghdad. Russia shipped jet fighters and military trainers to Iraq, Syria has mounted airstrikes against ISIS targets, and Tehran has provided Maliki with troops, military advisors, weaponry, and financial support. The Obama administration, meanwhile, continues weighing whether to conduct airstrikes of its own against ISIS. Faily said Iraq's decision to seek support from U.S. adversaries was based "primarily from the need, rather than the desire."

The Iraqi military is embroiled in a pitched battle to retake Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, from ISIS. On Tuesday, state-run media said the military successfully cleared the University of Tikrit of extremist militants, but Sunni Islamists still control Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and other parts of the country. ISIS declared that it established a new Islamic caliphate in the territory under its controls in both Iraq and Syria, a goal that militant groups such as al Qaeda spent decades trying -- and failing -- to accomplish.

Faily said that "because of the urgency on the ground," this was the wrong time for Washington to make U.S. support for Iraq dependent on Maliki either stepping down or truly reaching out to Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Sunni leaders in Iraq's heartland are so angry with Maliki that they are backing the brutal ISIS, who they believe is willing to take the fight to the Iraqi leader and his Shiite allies. "Don't condition it," Faily said. "The risk is too immediate. The threat is too important for us to think about conditionality."

Pray that Iran supplies as many troops as possible. This messy, sectarian conflict would be Iran's Vietnam. Russia is probably too smart to get too much involved in the conflict but if Assad's assistance results in an escalation in aid to the Sunnis from the Gulf States, he may wish he kept his jets at home.

This war is not going to end soon. ISIS is getting help from Sunni tribes fed up with Shiite domination and Obama is almost certainly correct that political reform is more important than any small military assistance we can provide the Iraqis at this point. But Prime Minister Maliki and the Shiites don't appear ready to change, so the collapse continues.

If the Iraqi government wants to be beholden to Putin, Assad, and the Iranian theocrats, we should tell them "be my guest." They would get what they deserve.

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