With their good cop/bad cop approach to foreign policy, it is hard to know exactly how far President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will go in order to achieve the administration’s frequently conflicting goals of a peaceful world and a United States detached from it. Up until now, we haven’t seen much success with this approach.
For example, we saw problems develop in the Middle East, where America’s supposed even-handedness appeared to morph into a prejudgment of the outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, leaving no one satisfied. We saw the development of other problems in Eastern Europe, where fiery rhetoric from Washington catapulted Ukraine into a civil war, but the U.S.’s failure to back up its rhetoric gave Russia the room to annex Crimea. And there are more examples, including in Egypt and Syria.
Now, we are seeing a similar development in Iraq, from which Kerry told interviewers Monday that he is pressuring Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’a, to make political changes in order to give Sunnis and Kurds better places at the table of government. According to Kerry, these changes would blunt the ascent of ISIS, a Sunni terror group that even al-Qaeda considers extreme. We aren’t sure where this proposed approach comes from. Just last week, Kerry’s Iraq plan included the trial balloon of bringing Iran into the mix, as he announced that discussions with Tehran — a close ally of the al-Maliki government — would help the U.S. and Iran coordinate efforts to stabilize the situation in Iraq.
In any event, the plan may be too little, too late. ISIS — according to some estimates, the most highly funded terror group in history — has already made its move and has seized control of much of northern Iraq. And the ISIS designs on Baghdad are just part of a larger religious war that began in Syria, could spill into Jordan, and — like al-Qaeda before it — threaten the United States. Even President Obama acknowledges this, saying last week that developments in Iraq pose a medium- to long-term threat to our national interests.
For all of these reasons, we are at a loss to explain the administration’s questionable overture to Iran and can’t help but wonder what they were thinking. Iran remains a sworn enemy of the United States and an enemy whose nuclear aspirations are wholly unchecked. In the circumstances, what the situation in Iraq demands is American determination and resolve, not uncertainty and equivocation.