While the rumors of America's impending return to active hostilities in the Middle East have been getting louder by the day, I continued to hold out hope that the President would resist the headwinds and use his prime time address to educate the nation how it is impossible to defeat an ideology with bombs and missiles alone.
As he stepped up efforts to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the American public and skeptics in Congress on Tuesday, President Barack Obama compared critics’ opposition to the agreement with support for the invasion of Iraq. In both a muscular speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Pittsburgh and a taping of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Obama cast critics of his diplomatic approach as the same kind of misguided warmongers who pushed for an invasion of Iraq during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Shiite militias have surged into Iraq's Anbar province, a largely Sunni region, in a government-sanctioned bid to recapture the provincial capital Ramadi, which was seized in its entirety by the jihadists of the Islamic State at the end of last week. Thousands have fled the city, which is about 80 miles west of Baghdad. Ramadi's fall poses a problem for U.S. officials, who have sought to paint a picture of a weakening Islamic State. One Pentagon spokesman told reporters that the city's capture was part of "complex, bloody fight" in which "there are going to be ebbs and flows."
If you visited the Interior Ministry compound in Baghdad during the holy month of Muharram this past fall, you would be forgiven for thinking that Iraq, like its neighbor Iran, is a country whose official religion is Shiite Islam. The ministry's walls are emblazoned with iconography and slogans paying tribute to the Shiite martyr Imam Hussain, as are police stations and vehicles throughout the capital: black banners with scarlet lettering, and the portraits of a smoldering, bearded Hussain staring down at the faithful. In an office decorated with maps of Baghdad and Shiite posters, I find the man with possibly the ministry's hardest job: Col. Riyadh al-Musawi, commander of the Baghdad Falcons, the city's premier bomb squad.
The United States began its invasion of Iraq 12 years ago. Yesterday, a previously classified Central Intelligence Agency report containing supposed proof of the country's weapons of mass destruction was published by Jason Leopold of Vice News. Put together nine months before the start of the war, the National Intelligence Estimate spells out what the CIA knew about Iraq's ability to produce biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. It would become the backbone of the Bush administration's mistaken assertions that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs and posed a direct threat to the post-9/11 world. The report is rife with what now are obvious red flags that the Bush White House oversold the case for war.
ISIS continues to bulldoze its way through the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria, releasing a new propaganda video showing its fighters destroying Iraq's ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in March. Nimrud lies close to ISIS' main stronghold in Iraq, the northern city of Mosul. The video, which ISIS posted Saturday, shows militants attacking the more than 3,000-year-old archaeological site with sledgehammers and power tools before finally using explosives to blow it up.
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major What is the Islamic State? General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
As the season for wheat planting in Iraq wound down early last month, farmers in areas under the control of Sunni militant group Islamic State grew worried. More than two dozen farmers told Reuters they had not planted the normal amount of seed, because they could not access their land, did not have the proper fertilizers or adequate fuel, or because they had no guarantees that Islamic State would buy their crop as Baghdad normally does. Farmers, and Iraqi and United Nations' officials, now fear a drastically reduced crop this spring. That could leave hundreds of thousands of Iraqis hungry. But another big loser would be Islamic State, which controls territory that normally produces as much as 40 percent of Iraq's wheat crop.
As we end another year of endless war in Washington, it might be the perfect time to reflect on the War That Started All Wars — or at least the war that started all of Washington’s post-Cold War wars: the invasion of Panama. Twenty-five years ago this month, early on the morning of December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, sending tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft into Panama to execute a warrant of arrest against its leader, Manuel Noriega, on charges of drug trafficking. Those troops quickly secured all important strategic installations, including the main airport in Panama City, various military bases, and ports.
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