Mixed Reactions in War-weary US Over Supporting Kurds

By James Reinl 49 minutes ago – RUDAW NEW YORK – United States airstrikes to bolster north Iraq’s Kurdish forces have provoked mixed reactions in a nation that seeks to tackle Islamic extremism and stop genocide without getting bogged down in another costly war.

US President Barack Obama has been at pains to explain that strikes on Islamic State militants are limited to protecting US staff in Irbil and halting a genocide on Yazidis and other minority sects at the hands of Islamic State militants.

But aid drops and continuing US airstrikes come three years after US forces ended a costly Iraq invasion that began in 2003. They provoke controversy among former US soldiers, diplomats and analysts over Obama’s new Iraq campaign.

Matthew Hoh, an analyst at the Center for International Policy and a former marine who served in Afghanistan, noted that interventions in Libya and Afghanistan have failed to yield security gains in either turbulent country.

“If American bullets and bombs were the answer to civil wars and political disorder in the Muslim world, the situation would have been resolved when the US invaded Iraq in 2003,” Hoh told Rudaw. “The same is true with the Islamic State in Iraq – US military action is not the solution.”

Peter Van Buren, who served in Iraq during his 24-year State Department career, said it was “highly likely” that US Special Forces are already conducting reconnaissance missions and laser-designating targets for airstrikes – despite Obama’s official position of no troops being deployed.

“The US media is playing the meme that Washington is worried about an Iraqi Christian minority as a way to engorge the American people with blood,” the former diplomat told Rudaw. “The media fails to note that more than half of Iraq’s Christians were killed or fled during the US occupation.”

Others argue that Obama has overstepped his presidential powers. Paul Findley, who served for 22 years in the House of Representatives, said new Iraqi airstrikes are an “impeachable offense” without congressional approval.

“A tight rein on presidential war making is more important today than ever before,” said Findley, who drafted the War Powers Resolution, which limits the power of US presidents to wage armed conflicts overseas. Faysal Itani, an analyst at the Atlantic Council, a think tank, said US raids were prompted by the Islamic State’s rapid advance northwards into Kurdish areas and will not defeat the Sunni Muslim jihadis, who are also known as ISIS and ISIL. “Washington’s strategy remains vague and undefined,” Itani said. “ISIS will not make a costly, futile stand to resist US air superiority, and their substantial territorial gains in recent months offer plenty of room to retreat. Unless the group is targeted in northern and eastern Syria it will adapt and continue to threaten Iraq’s central government, Kurdish forces and rival Syrian rebels.”

Others object to all US intervention – even if it saves the lives of an estimated 20,000-30,000 Yezidis who are trapped on Mount Sinjar after fleeing militants who spread videos of their gruesome mass executions via You Tube.

“This gut-wrenching situation in Iraq does not justify the US escalation of the civil war, entailing certain if unknown disastrous unintended consequences,” said Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action.On Tuesday, the United Nations warned of a growing refugee crisis, in which the Kurdistan region has absorbed 700,000 refugees, including some 220,000 Syrians. US airstrikes and aid drops continued as politicians in Baghdad wrangled over appointing a new prime minister. Vice President Joe Biden said the US would work “closely with Iraq’s  next government to develop strategies to defeat ISIL and ensure that it can no longer pose a threat to the Iraqi people” in a phone call with an Iraqi official, the White House said in a statement.