The Campaign Spot

Another Foreign-Policy Crisis Catches the Obama Team by Surprise

Big, busy Morning Jolt today:

Oh, Hey, No Big Deal, Iraq’s Just Being Taken Over by Terrorists, That’s All

Most Americans never want to hear the word “Iraq” again, and our president is happy to oblige, no matter how bad it gets.

And it’s getting pretty damn bad, as Eli Lake points out:

Two and a half years after the last U.S. soldier departed, an al Qaeda offshoot is in control of Mosul and headed for Baghdad — and Iraq’s prime minister is requesting U.S. air strikes.

It seems like only yesterday that Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was celebrating as the last American soldiers left Iraq. Now, with an al Qaeda offshoot threatening to take Baghdad, Maliki’s government is quietly asking at least some troops — specifically airmen and drone pilots — to return.

These guys — too vicious for al-Qaeda! — are taking over city after city. And the forces we trained to keep order . . . apparently just aren’t up to the task:

Soldiers in Mosul threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as Sunni insurgents approached and raised their black flags on Tuesday, allowing the city to fall after just four days of fighting. Terrified residents were streaming out of the city.

The fall of Iraq’s second largest city to Islamist extremists Tuesday sends an alarming message about the deterioration of a country where the U.S. spent eight years, 4,500 lives and $1.7 trillion. Mosul, a city of 1.8 million located in the far north of the country, long cultivated a reputation as a military town. But Iraqi soldiers threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as the insurgents approached on Tuesday, according to officials stunned by the collapse of its defenses.

I know this will shock you, but it appears the Obama administration was caught flat-footed by quickly developing events:

The quickly unfolding drama prompted a White House meeting Wednesday of top policy makers and military leaders who were caught off guard by the swift collapse of Iraqi security forces, officials acknowledged . . . 

Some military officials now believe ISIS is the single greatest terrorist threat the U.S. and its allies face — stronger than the al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen or Africa and far more powerful than al Qaeda’s central leadership in Pakistan. Other senior U.S. officials say ISIS has yet to carry out any attacks directly targeting the U.S.

“It makes you want to kill yourself,” a senior U.S. official said of the intelligence on ISIS, which was presented by U.S. and Gulf allies during the May meeting in Jeddah.

The Obama administration, unable to operate openly in Iraq since the U.S. withdrawal and unwilling to intervene in Syria for fear of getting pulled into another conflict, has left itself few options to directly confront the growing threat, according to senior U.S. defense and intelligence officials.

Watch for movement on this front in the next 24 to 48 hours:

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is preparing contingency plans to evacuate its employees if necessary now that one of the deadliest Islamic militant groups in the region has taken control of large swaths of Iraq, a U.S. official told TheBlaze.

The State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq, following several days of bloody clashes between insurgents with the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Iraqi military forces. ISIL has taken control of Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah and aims to create an Islamic state across the Iraq-Syria border.

Coming to Baghdad soon?

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