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article imageAdministration searches desperately for Middle East 'boots'

By Larry Clifton     Sep 12, 2014 in Politics
Baghdad - With midterm elections bearing down, the top Democrat is trying to convince a war-weary nation it needs to go back to war - not just in Iraq, but in Syria, where nearly 200,000 have died.
In 2008 Democrats, in particular their leader, Pres. Barack Obama, chastised and rebuked Republicans over the Iraq war, vowing to end it. They did so by 2011, only to watch Islamic State fighters decimate the fragile democracy left behind in Iraq. About 36 months later, the Obama administration has involved the US in a wider conflict that includes Iraq and Syria.
Al Qaeda, Islamic State and various other jihadist organizations recently seized large swaths of northern Iraq and have reduced cities in Syria to rubble. Now, the same Democratic president who promised to end the Iraqi war has started a new one, even though polls show Americans by a large margin disapprove of his handling of foreign affairs.
The president says there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq, even though mission creep is in full swing with 1,600 U.S. troops already sent to Iraq. The administration hopes to continue explaining the presence of boots on the ground in Iraq by distinguishing American support "special forces" troops from combat troops, even though they look identical in the cross-hairs of a militant's weapon.
Meanwhile, trusted American allies like the United Kingdom are not stepping up to enlist in the President’s coalition when it comes to deploying ground troops. By the time the White House reacted to what was going on in Iraq over the past year, the nation’s second-largest city, Mosul, had been seized by Islamic state fighters - as were many military bases, towns and civilian infrastructure like water reservoirs.
Arab governments complained in 2011 that Iraq would fall into chaos or under Iranian influence after the US departed. Now, predictably, they are balking at the administration’s request that they deploy the boots on the ground to route Islamic State fighters and other swarms of militants.
Nations that the White House is suddenly calling allies, like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, are busy expressing various reasons they are compelled to avoid specific commitments to President Obama’s expanded military campaign against Sunni extremists.
An Egyptian scholar put it like this: “As a student of terrorism for the last 30 years, I am afraid of that formula of ‘supporting the American effort,’ ” said Diaa Rashwan, a scholar at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a government-funded policy organization in Cairo. “It is very dangerous.”
Meanwhile, about the only Middle East head of state unconditionally supporting Obama’s war plan, which the administration refers to as a counterterrorism measure, Is Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Fayssal Mekdad, who told NBC News that Syria and the United States were “fighting the same enemy,” terrorism, and that his government had “no reservations” about airstrikes as long as the United States coordinated with it. He added, “We are ready to talk.”
Incredibly, the Obama administration as recently as last year blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for killing tens of thousands of Syrian civilians and gassing its own people. Now, the president wants to go to war against the Islamic State, Bashar al-Assad’s mortal enemy.
Even though Secretary of State John Kerry is largely getting the cold shoulder from many potential coalition members when it comes to specifics, there are a handful of Middle East nations offering conditional support. At a coalition-building conference in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, at least 10 Arab states signed a communiqué pledging to join “in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign,” but with the qualification “as appropriate” and without any specifics. Turkey attended the meeting but declined to sign.
Even though Mr. Obama says the Syrian/Iraq conflict will go on for years, his administration refuses to refer to it as a war, preferring to dub it a counterterrorism measure. “What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation,” Kerry told CNN’s Elise Labott in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The Administration may find it increasingly difficult to lead an international coalition to war in the Middle East or even solicit war-funding from Congress without eventually calling the conflict a war.
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