Events over the past few days have given some reason to hope Iraq might be able to form an inclusive government with the will to defend itself against the radical Islamist forces running roughshod over large swaths of its territory.
Unfortunately, it took the intervention of the U.S. military to at least stall the momentum of the ISIS army that previously had met with little or no resistance as it moved unchecked through the northern portion of Iraq.
The swift ISIS advance seems to have caught the U.S. and its allies off guard. In fact, the situation in Iraq had deteriorated to the point where a military response -- once ruled out -- became necessary.
But when President Barack Obama last week gave the OK for limited air strikes against ISIS forces bent on the annihilation of a religious sect and threatening to overrun the major Kurdish city of Irbil, it came with the promise not to reintroduce U.S. boots on the ground.
The U.S. and some of its Western allies have also instituted airdrops of food and water for the thousands of refugees forced to flee their homes.
We believe the president’s military and humanitarian directive strikes the right balance.
It gives the Kurds in the north time to regroup their forces, which now are being bolstered with U.S. arms. In conjunction with U.S. support from the air, the Kurds have already regained some lost ground.
In Baghdad, the reign of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose refusal to assimilate Sunnis doomed any chance of an effective, cohesive government, appears to be coming to an end.
The U.S., long frustrated by al-Maliki, must be encouraged by the decision of the largest coalition of Shiite political parties to choose the deputy prime minister -- not al-Maliki -- to form a new government.
This could be messy in the short term since al-Maliki won’t cede power without a fight.
But if the move to replace him is successful, then perhaps a government could be formed that could earn the confidence of both the people and its demoralized security forces.
It’s a complicated scenario, but the presence of a U.S. deterrence through precision air strikes, in addition to keeping ISIS at bay, might buy enough time to establish a new conciliatory government in Baghdad.
We believe this might be Iraq’s last chance to save itself.
And considering thousands of U.S. lives lost and wounded there, we should help give them this last opportunity.
~The Lowell Sun