For over 20 years, senior Pentagon leadership operated on the understanding to never disrupt the balance of power in the Middle East. In a very volatile environment, the countries served as counter-weights to each other.
Despite being an immoral and unethical dictator, Saddam did keep religious extremists in check and ensured Al Qaeda had no footing in Iraq. All that changed in 2003 when Coalition Forces seized control of Iraq, opening its borders to a variety of terrorist organizations and exiled opportunists.
George W. Bush’s invasion resulted in complete meltdown of the region, with 4,489 American service-members killed and 30,000 wounded. The American surge led by General David Petraeus stabilized Iraq. President Obama’s withdrawal of American forces threw the country back into chaos, further taking the entire Middle East with it.
The expression “Petraeus won the war and Obama lost the peace” holds merit.
While serving in both Iraq and the Pentagon, I was always amazed at the lack of knowledge American political leadership had, and willfully neglected to overcome, in dealing with the region. This failure still has not been resolved. From Libya to Afghanistan, the American government has not missed an opportunity to get it wrong.
Aside from the invasion, the biggest mistake made by both Presidents Bush and Obama in Iraq was supporting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. As head of government, Maliki, a former Damascus street vendor with loyalties to Iran, opened up a campaign of genocide against the Sunni population in northern and western Iraq.
Maliki was determined to build an empire centered on himself. By skimming American money coming into Iraq, he became a billionaire. Maliki ensured American military equipment being given to his country was provided to forces loyal to him rather than to Iraq’s defense.
In 2014, all this came to a head with the invasion of ISIS. Instead of fighting a far-inferior number of ISIS members, the entire Iraqi Army disintegrated, leaving northern and western Iraq undefended.
Failing to put military resources to maximum effectiveness, President Obama worked for diplomatic solution through the corrupt Maliki government. Serving as point man on this endeavor was State Department’s Ambassador Brett McGurk. Iraqi parliamentarians commenced referring to McGurk as “Maliki’s American lawyer” because he put so much effort into defending and covering up the antics of the corrupt Prime Minister. I have personally witnessed Brett intentionally lying to the U.S. Senate. President Trump’s decision to keep McGurk on as his ISIS expert was extremely flawed, an award to someone for a problem he helped create.
The recent revelations from Talal Silo, a senior commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces who defected to Turkey, are extremely disturbing. General Silo is not holding back. If he is speaking the truth, his exposé is a modern-day combination of the Vietnam War’s Pentagon Papers, Iran-Contra Scandal, and the U.S. Government’s “Fast and Furious” gun-running debacle. The name General Silo continually mentions is Brett McGurk.
Now from General Silo we are learning about selective arming of resistance fighters, creation of shell organizations, routing of oil convoys through ISIS-held territory, attempts to militarily gain sea access for landlocked Kurdistan, and playing the Kurds and the Turkish government against each other.
The greatest tragedy is going to be in Kurdistan. For three decades in a row, the United States has given the Kurds just enough weaponry and support to fight America’s enemies. When the final battle is over, the United States always backs out and the result is brutal slaughter of Kurdish people. This has already been done twice.
As long the Iraqi military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Shia militias are taking orders from Tehran; the Kurds will not develop their own country. Furthermore, considering Turkey’s sensitivities on the Kurdish issue and its ongoing fight against PKK terrorist organization, it is highly unlikely to expect any support from the Turks. Unless, the U.S. decides to play a constructive role to help address its NATO ally’s concerns and sensitivities over PKK, U.S. policies will continue to fail Kurds in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. meddling and political jockeying in the region has resulted in hundreds of thousands killed and a million people displaced all the way to Europe. The Middle East is in total chaos with no immediate hope of improving. Once again, the American Government is not missing a chance to get it wrong. A thorough investigation, followed by in-depth Congressional hearings and development of a realistic Middle East strategy, is long overdue.
Colonel Wes Martin served as the senior antiterrorism officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq and Commander of Camp Ashraf.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.