• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Politics Trumps Security in Obama's Bungled Troop Negotiations with Iraq

    After denying last week that the negotiations to extend the U.S. troop presence in Iraq were failing, the Obama Administration pivoted on Friday as President Obama announced that the U.S. troop presence would not be extended.

    The President sought to turn a dangerous outcome for Iraq’s security and the war against terrorists into a political boost for his reelection campaign by declaring in a televised speech: “Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.”

    The rapid drawdown of the U.S. military presence will undermine U.S. security interests in Iraq by severely limiting bilateral U.S.–Iraqi cooperation in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq and radical pro-Iranian Shia militias. The U.S. military pullout will also weaken efforts to contain Iran by leaving a partial power vacuum that Iran will exploit to expand its own influence.

    There are now about 39,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq, who are withdrawing at the rate of about 500 per day. Up until Friday, the Obama Administration had insisted that negotiations were on track for extending the presence of a small residual force that U.S. and Iraqi military leaders agreed were necessary to support Iraqi operations in key areas such as counterterrorism, air support, intelligence gathering, logistics, and training. But Friday, in a hard-hitting article posted on The Cable blog, Josh Rogin reported that the Administration had bungled the negotiations.

    Rogin reported on a decision made by State Department lawyers to press for immunity for U.S. troops by going to Iraq’s parliament—a notoriously ponderous and fractious body—to negotiate an agreement rather than taking an easier path through Iraq’s Foreign Ministry by making U.S. military advisers part of the U.S. diplomatic presence. He quoted Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, managing director at the Institute for the Study of War, as criticizing the narrow political focus of the Administration’s Iraq decision making:

    From the beginning, the talks unfolded in a way where they largely driven by domestic political concerns, both in Washington and Baghdad. Both sides let politics drive the process, rather than security concerns.

    The New York Times reported that White House officials repeatedly clashed with professional military advisers on Iraq policy. Although the Pentagon had sought approval for a residual force of up to 10,000 troops, National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon and his deputy, Denis McDonough, prevailed over the Pentagon in internal Administration deliberations in August and reduced the size of the force to 3,000 to 5,000.

    Negotiations with the Iraqi government stalled in part because Iraqi political leaders balked at taking political risks to approve an unpopular extension of immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops. It was clear to them that the Obama Administration was eager to exit Iraq and lacked the stomach to confront Iran, which has exerted growing influence over Iraq’s majority Shia political parties.

    The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano concluded, “Now the Obama Administration’s policy for the Middle East is moving from leading from behind to watching from the sidelines.”

    Key congressional leaders are also increasingly concerned about developments in Iraq. According to the National Journal, House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R–CA) warned the Administration on Friday:

    I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of U.S. forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be. Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity. These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.

    Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney blasted the Administration:

    The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.… The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.… President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women.

    Last month, 42 conservative foreign policy experts wrote an open letter to President Obama expressing strong concern over the course of the negotiations. Given the ignominious collapse of the negotiations, there are sure to be more letters and scathing commentaries as the debate over Iraq heats up in the run-up to the presidential elections.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Politics Trumps Security in Obama's Bungled Troop Negotiations with Iraq

    1. LibertyAtStake says:

      The Revoilutionary Guard has begun reviewing detailed maps of Baghdad.

      d(^_^)b http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/
      “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

    2. Bruce Freshley says:

      As bad and totally political this decision is, it is also impossible. There is now way logistically to get all of our personnel and gear out of Iraq by Christmas, less than two months from now. It's an obvious lie. We have bases, infrastructure, gear, classified technology, weapons and ammo all over the country. What are we going to do…just leave it all and hop on a C17? Either by ineptitude or design, I fear this administration is doing all it can to take a hard won victory and turn it into a long term defeat, by thinking only about short term politics.

    3. Prfssrpah says:

      Purely political. Everything O has done in the last 8 months and everything for the next 12 months is aimed at securing his reelection in Nov 2012. He does not care if it comes back to bite him in 2013 or 2014 as long as he can take advantage of "troops coming home by holidays" to firm up his liberal base and gain him another 4 years. No concern for US, for the troops, or for the future. It is all about him and 2012.

      • R. Mcglashen says:

        I do believe you are correct about his aims, but I do not think it is a personal matter for himself alone.He is working for a higher power that demands he remain as commander in chief in order to gain control of this country. He is merely the tool to get the job done. The power behind the throne, in this case, is militant muslims and marxist regimes that demand full control and domination of the world. Whatever Obama needs to do to secure his re-election will happen, regardless of our constitution or republican democracy.
        If this man is not stopped in his tracks, there will be nothing left of the American way of life, capitalism, democracy or free enterprise. We will become a socialist country with only a few prospering and the rest of the people barely surviving in a third world nation that once was a glorious, free and respected United States of America.

    4. rannan3 says:

      The truly scary thing is, the MSM touts both Obama's " leading from behind " strategy AND this new " watching from the sidelines" crap. All that was accomplished in Iraq, and the huge sacrifices made there , will disappear when Iran takes over — and Obama is fine with that.
      He can blame Bush — before, during and after — and the corrupt media will help him do so.

    5. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      I read in the paper yesterday that Bush negotiated the 12/31/11 withdrawal date back in 2008. It was buried pretty deep in the column and mentioned rather off-hand almost as if the AP felt they had to give Bush a little shout out to be fair. If early withdrawal is good, then doesn't Bush deserve credit, and conversely, doesn't he deserve blame if Iraq gets worse?

      I'm confused. Did Obama really want to negotiate a longer, limited U.S. troop presence? Did he only feign so to cover his backside like he does with all other policies?

      As much as I would like our troops to come home from Iraq, I want the sacrifice of them all, especially the 4000+ dead, to have lasting, positive effects in the region and the world. I've only met the families of a few and believe that maybe their only comfort is that their loved ones death made the world a better place.

    6. steve h says:

      Let's review foreign policy and anti-terror/anti-dictator policy under Bush and Obama:

      Under Bush – we had worst terrorist attack in US history, two wars where we've lost thousands of US troops and trillions of dollars.

      Under Obama – no terrorist attacks, Al Qaeda leaders hunted down and killed, 3 dictators overthrown (Libya, Egypt, Tunisia) – and the people were able to overthrown the dictators themselves and have the pride of doing so.

      Enough Said. There is no comparison – one did horrible job, one has done an amazing job.

    7. Tom Padamonsky says:

      On the other hand, perhaps this is what Obama wants. This is in line with muslim doctrine of world domination. Take note that Libya announced that they are installing an Islamic state govt with Sharia law. Another point is why have the media ignored the fact that several yrs ago Obama visited Libya and he and Ghadafi embraced each other. And Ghadafi said they were family.

    8. Bobbie says:

      please impeach this man. he's deliberately reckless everywhere while no one stands to hold him accountable! he has no sense of human decency! AT ALL! ANYWHERE!

    9. flyonthewall says:

      Obama is undoing all President Bush accomplished for the Iraq people.Bet the enemy is watching our Military leave and laughing their butt's off. They will move in shortly after we are gone and the Men and women Obama put in Afghanistan will be in more danger. So many have died in Afghanistan and been maimed since Obama took over and that will get worse.
      All the lives lost and the horrible injuries will have been in vain.The damage done toour Country and people in less than three short years is unbelievable.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.