Obama arrived in Iraq on Monday for what is described as a fact-finding mission. However, it’s hard to believe Obama is actually searching for facts in Iraq, nor will the facts he finds change his position. The position he chose for himself, as well as all the comments he has made so far about Iraq, reflect a disregard for facts, and there is no reason to expect a change now.
This visit, for Obama, is just a necessary evil — part of an electoral campaign and not a sincere fact-finding mission. The fact that Obama made Afghanistan his first stop (after arriving in Kuwait, just next door to Iraq) suggests that it’s his electoral campaign that sets his priorities when it comes to the war on terrorism, not the actual map and course of the war.
Obama is lucky in that his host, Prime Ministe Maliki, is also going through an election season. He’s even luckier that Maliki has been convinced by the close circle around him that Obama is going to win the American presidential race. The state-owned Al-Sabah quoted a senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, as saying: “The change in the prime minister’s position has to do with his own perception of the political developments in the United States…Maliki thinks that Obama is most likely to win in the presidential election and that he will withdraw his country’s troops from Iraq as he pledged in his campaign.” The official added that Maliki sees that “he’s got to take preemptive steps before Obama gets to the White House.”
This is why both men have appeared to be in perfect harmony recently; one lending generous support to the other. But this is not solid harmony because both men are acting like this due to mere speculations and/or flawed advice from their aides during critical moments in election seasons. Maliki, for example, knows very well that had Obama’s vision for Iraq been adopted two years ago, he wouldn’t be enjoying the position and power he does today, and the progress in Iraq wouldn’t have been achieved.
The call for disengagement in the way Obama proposes (and Maliki cautiously endorses) is based on a vision that goes no further than the upcoming elections in both countries and thus an indicator of dangerous selfishness. The two men are gambling with victory against true enemies of their nations in the hope of achieving victory against personal electoral foes. The obvious confusion in Maliki’s recent statements forced government spokesmen and top officials to appear several times to correct or retract what he said. This indicates that much of what Maliki is saying these days is for personal/partisan electoral purposes and does not represent the strategy of the state of Iraq.
The problem with Obama’s vision for the future of America’s role in the region is that his understanding of the war and the consequences of victory or defeat is stagnant and superficial. He hasn’t changed his proposed policy despite all the changes on the ground over the course of the war. He says that Afghanistan, not Iraq, is the main front in the war on terror and backs this claim with the recent increase in violence over there. This raises the question of why he didn’t see Iraq as the main front when Al-Qaeda was wreaking havoc on Iraq and not only redirected almost all of its resources and fighters to the country but even declared it an Islamic state.
“The road to Quds [Jerusalem] passes through Karbala,” Khomeini said in the 1980s. “We must not forget that Jerusalem is a stone’s throw from Baghdad,” Zawahiri said two years ago.
History proves that every terrorist and extremist in the region sees Iraq as the epicenter of their war. Neither Khomeini nor Zawahiri had Jerusalem as a priority. The priority has always been Iraq; that’s why one wanted to export the revolution and the other sought to establish the Caliphate in Iraq.
Obama insists that he wants to end the war, as if that would achieve victory. This too indicates a lack of understanding of the nature of the war. Victory in a war on terror requires first and foremost that the ideology of extremists be made unattractive in the hearts and minds of the peoples of the region. The people are the center of gravity in a war of this type, and the winner is the one that attracts the people to his side. This goal can only be achieved by presenting a successful model for stability, liberty, and prosperity; a model that proves beyond a doubt that the people have a path that can lead to a bright future — a choice other than status-quo dictatorships and suicidal ideologies of extremism.
Terrorism cannot be defeated by killing Bin Laden or even killing every single existing member of Al-Qaeda, especially considering the decentralized structure of terrorist organizations. Terrorism can be defeated by offering a model for a bright future that gives people who have suffered for so long hope and saves them from despair.
Iraq is now closer than ever to becoming this model, and victory in this chapter of the war is within hand…unless Obama succeeds in ending the war his way.