President Obama during the 2012 presidential election repeatedly touted his administration’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, proclaiming often before vast crowds that he had successfully ended America's “longest war.”
“In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did,” the president repeated at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in 2012.
“I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have,” he added. “We've blunted the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014 our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.”
Of course, the present situation in Iraq is not exactly the rosy picture Obama painted ahead of the 2012 election.
Al Qaeda is definitely alive and kicking, the Iraqi government is embroiled in a messy regime change, and the ultra-violent terrorist group Islamic State is on the move, slaughtering all who stand in its way.
In short, Iraq is a mess.
It is in such a state of chaos, in fact, that Obama has distanced himself from earlier claims that his Iraq policy has been a success. The president was forced last week to authorize airstrikes to protect the limited number of U.S. personnel he had dispatched to the war-torn country to help avert the present crisis.
Now, as Iraq devolves even further into violence and disorder, Obama, who is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, has delegated the chore of resolving the crisis to Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama's second-in-command on Monday called Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi to “congratulate him on his nomination to form a new government and develop a national program pursuant to Iraq’s constitutional process,” the White House said in a press release.
“The Vice President relayed President Obama’s congratulations and restated his commitment to fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi government, particularly in its fight against [the Islamic State],” it added. “The two leaders also discussed practical steps towards fully activating the bilateral Strategic Framework Agreement in all of its fields, including economic, diplomatic, and security cooperation.”
This isn't the first time Biden has attempted to resolve a crisis in Iraq. Recall that it was Biden, not Obama, who stepped in to handle Iraq's messy 2010 election.
“Biden, appointed by President Barack Obama to take the lead on Iraq issues for Washington, was expected to hold talks with Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the top vote winner in the election, ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi,” Reuters noted at the time.
The United States downplayed those tense negotiations, saying Biden's participation was just business as usual.
The last time Biden visited Iraq was in the run-up to the March 7 parliamentary election, when Shi'ite politicians tried to ban Sunni candidates by claiming they were linked to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party.
Biden has long been the White House's lead man on Iraq. He was there to handle the Sunni-Shi'ite feud and he was there to sort out the contentious 2010 elections.
Now, he's taking charge once again to deal with the Maliki regime change and the threat posed by the Islamic State terrorist army.
It's nice to know that someone in the White House is being proactive on the Iraq issue, but maybe Biden is not the best choice to guide Iraq through these difficult times. The vice president has been along for the ride since the Obama administration started to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Under his watch, the government in Baghdad has gone through several upheavals and the Islamic State has gained territory, power and influence in Iraq.
Maybe Biden's not the solution to Iraq's problems. Maybe he's part of the problem.