Obama Prepares for Drone War in Iraq

By Juan Cole

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he will send 300 Green Beret Army special operations soldiers to Iraq. They will be detailed to Iraqi National Army Headquarters and brigade HQs and their primary task will apparently be intelligence-gathering and helping with the Iraqi National Army response to the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL). Likely the intelligence-gathering in turn is intended to allow the deployment in Iraq of American drones. At the moment, the US has no good intelligence on the basis of which to fly the drones.

Obama underlined that no combat troops will be sent to Iraq.

These steps are in part obviously a political response to the Republican War Chorus that has blamed him for doing nothing (they can’t any longer say ‘nothing’) about the Iraq crisis. To the extent the moves are political, they are frankly craven. Obama should just have said no. If he needed covert intelligence, that is what the CIA and the NSA are for. (By the way, if the NSA surveillance program was really doing its job, how come northern and western Iraq could take Washington by surprise by seceding from the country in favor of a would-be al-Qaeda affiliate? Maybe they should be paying less attention to guys in Texas selling dime bags and more to like, actual al-Qaeda?)

To the extent that Obama is likely paving the way to US drone strikes on ISIS in Iraq, he is mysteriously failing to take his own advice. He has already admitted that the Iraq crisis is political and not military, and said that there are no military solutions. The Sunni Iraqis of Mosul, Tikrit and other towns of the west and north of the country have risen up and thrown off the government and the army of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The uprising was coordinated with ISIS, but was made up of many groups and to some extent was the spontaneous act of townspeople. Droning some ISIS commanders to death isn’t going to change the situation in Mosul, a city of 2 million that is done out with the Maliki government.

For Obama to associate himself with an attempt to crush this uprising in favor the the highly sectarian ruling Da’wa Party (Shiite ‘Call’ or ‘Mission’), which is allied with Iran is most unwise. If it had to be done, it should have been done as a covert operation and never spoken of publicly.

Ominously, the administration is even talking about a sort of aerial hot pursuit, of droning ISIS in Syria. Obama is not old enough to remember the ways that ‘advisers’ in Vietnam turned into armies and hot pursuit into and bombing of Cambodia laid the ground for genocide. I am.

Meanwhile, the ISIS takeover of Sunni Iraq provoked comment from key players in the Middle East. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal responded forcefully to al-Maliki’s charge that Saudi Arabia is behind ISIS and all the violence it is committing in Iraq, intimating that the real problem is the sectarian way al-Maliki is governing the country. (That is rich, given that few countries in the world are governed in a more sectarian way than Saudi Arabia). Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari criticized Saudi Arabia for not issuing a condemnation of the massacres committed by ISIS. Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan warned against US air strikes that would kill large numbers of innocents. Muslim televangelist Yusuf al-Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood, based in Qatar, defended the revolt of the Sunnis of northern and western Iraq. Usually al-Qaradawi condemns al-Qaeda. Iraqi Sunni speaker of the parliament, Usama Nujayfi, said that the aid being received by the Iraqi army should not be turned into a political football.

Likely that aid will eventually include drones. Obama says he believes the drone program produces few civilian casualties, but in Pakistan they appear to be 15% or so of deaths. Pictures in the Iraqi press of women and children droned to death are a propaganda bonanza for al-Qaeda.

In the end, of course, Obama is doing very little about a situation regarding which very little can, practically speaking, be done. And as Will Rogers would have said, that is what the American people elected him to do.

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Related video:

The White House: “President Obama Speaks on the Situation in Iraq”

32 Responses

  1. Obama may not be old enough to remember Vietnam, but isn’t that why we have books? There’s really no excuse for parrotting 1964 in 2014.

    • aren’t you forgetting “1984″?
      War is Peace
      The troops we are sending are not ground troops
      we just need to train the troops we trained for 10 years
      a Pentagon study shows our drone strikes are effective.
      BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

      • If drones are so effective, why they were not deployed in “Crimea” or any other parts of Ukraine?

        Is Crimea not important? Why you let it join Russia? Or you are afraid of Russia?

        One day Qubec & Scotland will be independent countries. Will the drones strike there? Or, in Basque country of Spain or Barcelona, a Catalan country?

        • Maybe the Russians know how to spot and down drones… As for Québec becoming independent, it will most likely not happen, or it will take two to three decades. Québec youth, i.e. Québec’s future, has other concerns, and for some time.

  2. Very sad state of affairs, indeed. Probably the most chickenshit method of waging war yet invented, but it seems “chickenshit” has rapidly become the US of A’s middle name.

    Before you start dumping on my “unpatriotic” ass, take a look at the Corporations (and states in which they have operations) reaping the profits of drone warfare: Boeing (WA), General Atomics (CA), Lockheed Martin (CA, FL, GA, MS, NC, PA, SC, TX, WV), Northrup Grumman (CA, CO, DC, IL, MD), AeroVironment (CA), General Dynamics (AZ, CA, CO, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, TX, VA). There’s big money in them thar drones. Don’t believe it? Then check out the smiling faces of congress-critters on the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus (link to unmannedsystemscaucus.mckeon.house.gov) lusting for their piece of the corporate pie.

    To what deficit do you refer, Paleface??

    • You are “unpatriotic” just like Thomas Paine, Eugene Debs, Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and all those young people who burned their draft cards during that other debacle in the 1960s.

  3. “President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he will send 300 Green Beret Army special operations soldiers to Iraq.”

    With the potential of being the lead contingent in another march of folly.

    “The Long March of Folly in Iraq: The Perils of Cluelessness and Ineptitude” by ANDREW LEVINE – link to counterpunch.org … “If you are powerful enough, you don’t have to be smart.”

  4. Obama could be just plain incompetent or devilishly clever, with the intent to do as he said in his original campaign, ‘Transform America.” More than that, he seems to be intent on GLOBAL transformation, joining other nations by ignoring their atrocities and overflowing our borders from the south. Perhaps he has global leadership aspirations.

    • “Devilishly clever” gets my vote. Obama did the same thing in Afghanistan with his “war of necessity” propaganda to make the public think the the Taliban and al-Qaeda were basically the same outfit.

      No Republican could have done the same thing. Obama is a master of doublespeak and a great politician. He’ll do what the Republicans want but make it sound like their polar opposites. Obama just slows everything down.

  5. I was frightened by Obama’s remarks. It seems Obama has adopted the Neocon fantasies 3.0 that have lead us into the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq.
    When he stated that our troops died fighting for Iraqi Democracy, and the room didn’t break out laughing, I realized that this is the Washington Line now.
    We spent ten years and Billions of dollars training and equipping the Iraqi army and it fell apart in it’s first engagement. So Obama wants to send advisors to train the Army we trained.
    In 1967 I went to Vietnam as a bright eyed young Marine ready to slay the evil foe and “Kill a Commie for Christ”. It took about a week and one firefight to figure out everything I had been told about Vietnam was a lie, but until the last helicopter left the Embassy roof the Washington lie machine was still going on about the light at the end of the tunnel.

  6. “Pictures in the Iraqi press of women and children droned to death are a propaganda bonanza for al-Qaeda.”

    And an unconscionable stain on the withering heart of the American people.

    • The next Cole post has some neat ptimary- colored maps of what our Rulers called Syria and Iraq. There are many similar maps of what you call “America,” marking the more substantial boundaries and divisions that lie beneath those window-shade McMillan maps that grade school teachers pointed to, to teach us the myths of “America.” Welcome to the reality of weapon-and-tribe-demarcated socioeconomicopathology…

  7. “In May 1961, [President] Kennedy sent 400 American Green Beret “special advisors” to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers in ‘counter-insurgency’ to fight Viet Cong guerrillas.”

    link to pophistorydig.com

    As rabrophy mentioned, we all know how that turned out.

  8. What happens if ISIS pulls back and consolidates its control of northern Iraq without attacking Maliki and the Shiites?

    • You have to wonder at the dynamics of this particular horde. Interesting question, I wonder if its wars leaders have thought about it. Maybe they have already gone “a bridge too far,” but maybe the gunmen have to be fed a steady diet of new “victories” to keep all their guns and RPGs pointed in the same direction. Easy to turn loosre the pogrom sentiments and exultations of violent combat and life-and-death power over beaten opponents and noncombatants. Something else to redirect that into occupation and rule. Like cancers, invasive and more quickly mortal the more malignant they are…

      • ISIS winning in Baghdad against the Mahdi army would be the tallest of orders, IMO. Today’s Mahdi military parade in Sadr City must have been quite a show–BAD HOMBRESWITH BIG GUNS. Plus, If ISIS does attack Samarra or Baghdad that’s a green light for Obama to attack them with drones not to mention Iran sending in Revolutionary Guard troops.

        I just can’t imagine ISIS would make such a blunder. Their best strategy is to pull back into Sunni areas and just wait for Maliki, Obama, Iran, Sadr etc. to make a move. Taking control of northern Iraq means ISIS has already accomplished a great deal so moving south into Samarra, Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala would definitely be “a bridge too far.” They would go from liberators to occupiers in Shia parts of Iraq, especially if Shia shrines were damage or destroyed.

        Everybody is waiting for a big battle, but what if it doesn’t happen? The neocons are already chomping at the bit for mo war. THEY CAN HARDLY WAIT FOR THE BOMBS TO START DROPPING.

        • p.s. I could also be flat wrong. According to reports, ISIS is making a major push in Anbar province all headed towards Baghdad. Dunno where all this is going.

          I don’t understand what capturing the crossing into Syria really means. How can they move heavy artillery and other weapons into Iraq when they can be attacked from the air?

          ISIS CONVOYS WOULD SEEM QUITE VULNERABLE. TRIPLE OVERTIME PAY FOR ALL DRIVERS WOULDN’T BE ENOUGH.

  9. Meanwhile someone somewhere in Washington is drafting the President’s remarks on the first deaths among American military personnel sent to Iraq, lamenting deaths of Iraqi civilians killed in “an unfortunate, isolated incident” involving drones, acknowledging an increase in the number of American contractors in Iraq, expressing satisfaction with recent events, denying deep disagreements with the Iraqi government, hailing the signing of a new Status of Forces agreement protecting the growing number of American advisors…….heck there are enough drafts necessary that it is not a single individual but an entire office!

  10. As drones can not carry heavy bomb loads,it will be enlightening to see how their use will pay out in a real serious fight,between two rag tag armies one in Toyota pick ups and the other bumbling fools with serious military equipment…

  11. I can only conclude that US presidents are now taking a secret oath of office where they promise to start as many wars as they can, lose as many as they can, kill as many innocents as they can, outrage as many people as they can and piss away as many greenbacks as they can.
    By this standard American foreign policy is an outstanding success.

  12. I’m probably just naive, but is it possible that the Iraqi army soldiers are less than enthusiastic about killing fellow Iraqis for the sake of a corrupt sectarian government, and the corroded fantasies of US hegemony?

    The MIC is lulabying Obama with “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – link to youtube.com – and he’s having a problem putting his coat on. (Just a romantic interlude.).

  13. “To the extent that Obama is likely paving the way to US drone strikes on ISIS in Iraq, he is mysteriously failing to take his own advice. ”

    Obama would also do well to take the advice of Patrick Cockburn and tell his neocon and empire-building advisers to take a hike: “The Propaganda War in Baghdad: Why US Airstrikes Won’t Stop ISIS” by PATRICK COCKBURN – link to counterpunch.org

    But Obama won’t so, most likely, “Good morning, Vietnam” in Iraq.

  14. I have previously noted that the Biden Plan for Iraq years back is now being implemented de facto and on terms we should not feel at all comfortable with. And neither should Iran or Syria or the Shia of Iraq.

    These facts suggest a strategy that Juan has endorse ie some sort of cooperative arrangement with Iraq, Iran,the US and I would add with Assad.

    This is what Biden;’s academic adviser , Les Gelb, recommends today:

    link to thedailybeast.com

    N.B – the Biden Plan didn’t call for a partition of Iraq as popularly summarized in mass media. Rather Biden called for semi-autonomous Kurd, Sunni and Shia regions in a unitary state

    I didn’t think much of the plan when proposed. I was wrong.

  15. In addition to keeping an eye on the Sunni-ISIS fighters it looks like our “advisers” will also need to pay attention to some Shia. “Iraqi cleric threatens US military advisers” link to thehill.com

  16. “More than 400 US military drones crashed in past 13 years, report says: Of 418 major drone crashes since 2011 identified by the Washington Post, about half happened in Iraq and Afghanistan” by Tom Dart – link to theguardian.com

  17. “More than 400 US military drone crashes” – the middle east is a testing / proving ground for this technology. Not only for the US, but for all other parties who want to play drone warfare.

  18. @Jack: “How can they move heavy artillery and other weapons into Iraq when they can be attacked from the air?”
    You don’t believe the US propaganda saying that immense amount of money were been given to the Iraqi soldiers to equip and train them properly, do you? It is the same like all kind of European “subventions” -the money arrive in the pockets of the politicians and the few smart enough to figure the weakness of the system (having the US involved and knowing but not carrying as long as local politicians go their way the US way, this is form of subtle bribe if we can call it so). Same happened in Iraq, now that the troops are under real war conditions in reality they are unequipped, untrained and flat broke.

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