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Airstrikes in Iraq a way out for Obama?

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Barack ObamaAirstrikes in Iraq a way out for Obama?

Barack Obama has been facing criticism for months. For a clear majority of Americans, he has reacted too slowly when it comes to US foreign policy. But the airstrikes in Iraq may silence his critics.

US President Barack Obama wanted to be remembered as the president who finally ended the US military mission in Iraq. Instead, after a long hesitation, he has now decided on military intervention and this week ordered airstrikes on fighters with the militant group "Islamic State" (IS). This makes him the fourth successive US president to be responsible for military operations in Iraq.

US military jets launched several airstrikes on Friday on targets in northeastern Iraq"You don't have to have a ton of insight to know he feels reluctant," said Douglas Ollivant, a former Iraq adviser for Obama, in an interview with the "New York Times" on Thursday (07.08.2014). "He wants the Iraq problem not to exist." But recent events have forced him to make some sort of decision.

The president has long been criticized at home for his reluctance to act. "I think he is in a weak position," said Samuel Brannen, a security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in Washington D.C., speaking to DW. "There is growing discontent by Republicans and by Democrats on how he is handling foreign policy."

Republicans calling for airstrikes in Syria

In a joint statement, top Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have criticized Obama's decision for not going far enough. On Friday, they called on the president to order airstrikes not only in Iraq but also in Syria. Brannen, however, believes this opinion is not shared by many in Washington.

Behind closed doors, he says, many high-ranking supporters of Obama have also been growing frustrated with his policies. Like many Republicans, they have criticized Obama's foreign policy for "too much talk and not enough action." Even public opinion of the president has hit record new lows. In a recent survey, 60 percent of Americans said they were dissatisfied with current US foreign policy.

Fight over political legacy

Brannen: But there may be a silver lining on the horizon for Obama. "There's always the rally-'round-the-flag response in the US," pointed out Brannen. "When the president decides to use military force, the country gets behind him."

Brannen said that the humanitarian suffering of civilians in northern Iraq, along with reports of what Obama has called the "barbaric acts of the 'Islamic State'" are things that the American people will have no trouble using force against. "So you will see strong support for these military operations."

If he wants to avoid further political pressure on the domestic front, Obama must now be decisive and prove that the US is still able to exert its influence in a crisis anywhere in the world - in Ukraine, the Middle East or even in Iraq. It's the only way he can save his political legacy.

Date 09.08.2014

Author Jan Fritsche / cmk

Editor Richard Connor

Source: Deutsche Welle



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