Obama's impotent foreign policy exposed

Opinion Journal:
Another day, another installment in what President Obama likes to call the "receding" tide of war. On Wednesday, John Kerry threatened to cut U.S. aid to Baghdad unless the Iraqi government blocks overflights of Iranian planes suspected of ferrying military supplies to Damascus. But Baghdad isn't budging. Welcome to the post-American Middle East, Senator.

"If so many people have entreated the [Iraqi] government to stop and that doesn't seem to be having an impact," said the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a confirmation hearing for the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, then it "seems to send a signal to me maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response."

The nominee, current Baghdad chargé d'affaires Robert Beecroft, agreed, saying he has "made it very clear that we find this unacceptable."

"Unacceptable" is a word the Administration often uses about behavior it doesn't like but isn't prepared to do much to stop: Think massacres in Syria, warfare in Sudan, mob violence against our embassies—or a nuclear Iran. Now add to the list the nonfeasance of an Iraqi government that calculates it has more to lose from confronting the mullahs than it does from rejecting entreaties from erstwhile friends in Washington.

That's not to say that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is right to let Iran use its airspace to help Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad remain in power—as Tehran now openly boasts it is doing. It's no secret that Mr. Maliki detests the regime in Tehran, which did so much to foment the insurgency in Iraq in his first years in office. Nor does Mr. Maliki love the Assad regime, which funneled so many jihadists to Iraq and gave safe haven to so many of Saddam's exiled lieutenants.

But Iraq will always have Iran and Syria as its neighbors, and it needs to choose its squabbles carefully. Nor could Iraq do much to stop the Iranian overflights even if it chose to. Iraqi airspace has been essentially undefended since the U.S. withdrew its remaining forces last year. In December the Iraqi government made initial payments for two squadrons of F-16s, but delivery isn't expected until 2014. What passes for an Iraqi air force today consists of a hodgepodge of Cessnas, Hueys, plus a few transport planes and helicopters.

The Iraqi Prime Minister must also wonder why Mr. Kerry—who until last year was Assad's best friend in Washington, or second best after Nancy Pelosi—should now strike such an indignant pose about the overflights. This is from an ally of an Administration that has consistently refused to intercede in Syria in any serious way beyond symbolic and fruitless diplomacy at the U.N. An America that prefers to lead from behind can't ask other countries to take risks we aren't prepared to run ourselves.

All the more so following America's complete pullout from Iraq, when the Administration could have negotiated to maintain a meaningful residual U.S. force. Gratitude is not a powerful operating force in the foreign policy of most states, including Iraq. Joe Biden, the President's point man for Iraq, now gets only the back of Mr. Maliki's hand without U.S. troops as his influence-multiplier.
Are Democrats finally seeing the results of appeasement and withdrawal.  I don't think they are that smart, despite what they try to call their diplomacy.   But clearly Obama's police of retreat and weakness makes it difficult for him to demand much of Iraq or anyone else.  What the Iraqis should be told is that we plan to interdict this flights.  Iran would then convey that message to Iran and the flights would stop.  But hey, that is far to aggressive for these guys.


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