In the Middle East, the End of the Beginning
The coming fall of the artificial nation-state called "Iraq" should come as a surprise to exactly nobody. There never was such a place, other than in the minds of the British Foreign Office, which carved it and other equally imaginary countries out of the rump of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. Now, an "insurgent" group nobody had even heard of two weeks ago, known by the pretty Egyptian-flavored acronym of ISIS, has gone and done the West a favor, if only we are smart enough to understand it, accept it and deal with it.
The Iraq wars, begun and not concluded by President George H.W. Bush, continued half-heartedly by Bill Clinton, disastrously expanded by George W. Bush and cravenly abandoned by Barack Hussein Obama, are coming to a close. The real war, against a unified and motivated "caliphate" of vengeful anti-Western Islamist Muslims, is about to begin. If anything argues more forcefully against a continuation of the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton cycle of elections, this alone ought to do it. No Jeb, no Hillary, nohow, never. Mene, mene tekel upharsin.
Meanwhile, back in the real world beyond the Beltway, "Iraq's borders are disappearing," writes Tom Rogan in the Telegraph. Britain's Tory newspaper; "this is a disaster." But is it, really?
The Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS) is shredding Iraq. After seizing the northern city of Mosul on Monday, on Tuesday ISIS stormed down Iraq’s route 1 highway to take Tikrit. This victory has left them emboldened and only 110 miles from Baghdad. The Iraqi military seemingly overrun, Nouri al-Maliki's government is greatly concerned.
Unfortunately, the disaster isn’t confined to Iraq. After all, ISIS isn’t interested in Iraq per se. Instead, it seeks a caliphate that stretches from western Syria to Iraq’s eastern border with Iran. A dominion preserved under an iron fist of brutality (think Fallujah 2004) and a base from which to export global terrorism.
What's happening in Iraq and Syria today is the nightmare that drove George W Bush to gamble everything on his January 2007 surge. He knew that Iraq’s collapse might enable Al-Qaeda in Iraq to rip the Middle East apart. And today Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s successor – ISIS – have never been closer to their dream.
The crack "Iraqi security forces," trained at so dear a cost by the American military and then abandoned to their fate by the Obama administration when it failed to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Maliki government, apparently are fleeing the battlefields. As the Independent reports. "Sunni insurgents advancing on Baghdad after taking Mosul have captured the city of Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein, as government forces disintegrate and fail to offer resistance. Iraqi soldiers and police are reported to have discarded their uniforms, changed into civilian clothes and fled after firing only a few shots." Brave Sir Robin, indeed, but about what we've come to expect from Arab armies whose hearts are clearly not in the fight.