Seven months after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s much-vaunted offensive to clear Mosul of insurgents, the killing continues. An excellent piece by Sam Dagher in today’s New York Times predicts things will get even worse, as the Kurds and Arabs vie for power in the devastated city (see this blog’s header). Interestingly, the U.S. military has all but decided to sit this one out:
Worry is so high that the American military has already settled on a policy that may set a precedent, as the United States slowly withdraws to allow Iraqis to settle their own problems. If the Kurds and Iraqi government forces fight, the American military will ‘step aside,’ General Thomas said, rather than ‘have United States servicemen get killed trying to play peacemaker.’
I find this approach problematic. It’s exactly this kind of “stepping aside” while playing kingmaker that lead to chaos in 2003. The U.S. can hardly claim to be a disinterested party in the dispute after propping up Maliki politically and having his back in every military operation his poorly performing army has undertaken in Mosul. You need to clean up your own mess, guys — even if it means taking casualties while keeping the Iraqis from ripping each other’s throats open.