At the start of classes one year ago, I was having to explain to my students why the United States appeared to be on the verge of going to war against the Syrian government. At the beginning of this semester, exactly one year later, I'm having to explain to my students why the United States may be on the verge of going to war against Syrian rebels.
With Nouri al-Maliki agreeing to step aside, Iraq may have passed its first hurdle on the way to forming the kind of government that will be needed to defeat the Islamic State (IS). Passing this hurdle may also serve to vindicate the cautious approach the Obama Administration has taken in addressing the IS crisis.
Northern Iraq is rich with oil and natural gas and what is playing out is a battle for these resources by the Kurds and Sunnis in the wake of the departure of Baghdad's control and army. In effect we have become the Kurdish Air Force in protecting the gains the Kurds have made since this crisis began in June.
The president was correct in announcing humanitarian action yesterday in Iraq. He will be helping to prevent genocide. But, more than that, his announcement of limited military action, both to overtly protect US troops and installations, and tacitly support the Kurds in their fight against the Islamic State, is the correct move. In fact, today's air strikes against Islamic State forces outside Irbil serves two purposes. First, it protect U.S. interests in a city we cannot afford to lose, lest we see another Benghazi-type situation there. Second it help the Kurds, our best ally in the region, in their efforts to prevent genocide. This kind of action is the right call. Here's why.