February 27, 2015
The 2003 Iraq War remains one of the most controversial US foreign policy and military decisions made in the last century. While pundits across the political spectrum continue to debate the past, the reality is that Iraq remains on the frontlines of the Middle East’s sectarian and ethnic fault lines. Far from bringing peace and stability to the region, the 2011 withdrawal created a vacuum which exacerbated sectarian tension and enabled Iran to augment its influence inside Iraq. Clearly, Iraq will not go down as one of Obama’s “great achievements” any more than it was George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished.” Whether any new president likes it or not, he or she will be confronted with several key decisions that will define the US-Iraqi relationship and directly impact regional security for years to come.
1. Will you put boots on the ground in Iraq?
The Iraqi army—or at least a coalition of sectarian militias—appears ready to march on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. But, pacifying Mosul will be easier said than done. Air strikes have had an effect, but few analysts believe they will be enough to defeat the Islamic State completely. The Iraqi army remains poorly trained, and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga have failed to live up to their vaunted reputation. If American advisers are necessary to call in airstrikes, mentor and retrain Iraqi or Kurdish units, or provide logistical support for Iraqi partners, will you support their return to Iraq? If so, what, if any constraints, will you put upon them? Do you believe a permanent US presence is necessary to deter aggression, as with US forces serving under the United Nations banner in South Korea? Will you put any timeline on any renewed American presence, or will you make it mission dependent?
Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Iraq edition