Arm the Kurdish enemies of the ISIS and longtime friends and supporters of the United States. That wouldn’t be prudent. Obama is always willing to step up and arm people who want Americans dead but arming long-time allies is just a bridge too far.
The gains over the weekend by ISIS heightened the problems faced by American officials in Washington as they weigh how to respond to the crisis in Iraq. But decisions about a possible broader American military role in Iraq have been largely put off as Iraq’s politicians struggle to form a new government after April’s national elections.
The Kurds, who have been longtime American allies, recently asked for military assistance from the United States to fight ISIS. American officials, determined to keep Iraq together as one country, are reluctant to supply weapons to the Kurds without the approval of the central government in Baghdad. That is unlikely to happen given the worries by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated leadership that the weapons would further embolden the Kurds to form a new state.
Instead, American officials are hoping to see Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite who is struggling to secure a third term, replaced by someone who could persuade Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to form a national unity government. According to Iraq’s constitutional timeline, Iraq’s Shiite parties must choose a nominee for prime minister by Friday. The prime minister would then have 30 days to form a new government.
Maybe the simple reality is that Obama’s allies are not America’s allies and America’s allies are not Obama’s allies.