Obama will find it tough to keep promise

August 08, 2014 11:53 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 05:44 pm IST - Washington:

With the resumption of direct U.S. military action against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq three years after the American engagement there was officially declared over, President Barack Obama appeared to be treading cautiously to avoid a full-scale embroilment in the troubled politics of that nation while not turning a blind eye to a burgeoning humanitarian crisis and regional instability.

Even as U.S. aircraft rained down both bombs and food-water-packages in different segments of Iraqi territory on Thursday and Friday the President made it clear that he would hold firm to his promise that “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq.”

How long Mr. Obama is able to keep that would however depend upon circumstances, which may be beyond the control of the U.S. administration.

The White House would be reluctant to adjudicate on the sectarian struggle at the heart of the unrest, which stems from the country’s three main ethnic groups being far from reaching any agreement regarding a national unity government.

This seemed clear from Mr. Obama’s remark that “Iraqi leaders need to come together and forge a new government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis, and that can fight back against the threats like [IS].”

Similarly while justifying the air strikes, Mr. Obama underscored the limited nature of U.S. involvement when he said, “There’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.”

Washington will also likely not intervene further, militarily or otherwise, as long as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains in office, and this too was reflected in the President’s statement, “Iraqis have named a new President, a new Speaker of Parliament, and are seeking consensus on a new Prime Minister. This is the progress that needs to continue in order to reverse the momentum of the terrorists who prey on Iraq’s divisions.”

Yet there are forces that may compel the President to move in the opposite direction, including the criticism from some quarters that his sudden willingness to have the U.S. military step into Iraq implies he is ready “to use American military might to protect Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities but not to prevent the slaughter of Muslims by other Muslims.”

Domestic U.S. politics too may push the President deeper into a war scenario in the region, particularly with the mid-term elections looming in November and Republicans calling for a broader battle against IS.

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