Two stories have largely dominated the news from the Middle East the last couple of weeks. The first was the Turkish invasion of northern Syria and the second has been high profile public protests in Iraq.
In what we in the West know to be a rarity, there was good news coming from the Middle East recently as well. Bakr al-Baghdadi, the longtime leader of the Islamic State, was tracked and killed in a confrontation with the U.S. military.
Bakr al-Baghdadi was pure evil. Under his leadership ISIS would seize control of entire cities in Iraq and Syria and inevitably carry out shocking brutality. His followers turned female captives into sex slaves and executed prisoners by stoning, hacking or burning them alive, often recording video or broadcasting the heinous acts live on the Internet.
As civilized people everywhere celebrated the end to this brutal monster, there was no shortage of praise to go around.
President Trump thanked our intelligence officials. He thanked our elite military team. The president thanked (name redacted), a dog that participated in the operation. All deserve great credit.
One plaudit seems to have been inadvertently left out. In the years that followed the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the United States has developed a close alliance with the new Iraqi leadership and with a wide variety of Iraqis on the ground. To describe them as friends would be completely accurate.
Ringo Starr and three of his pals once sang about “Getting By with a Little Help from My Friends.” The Trump administration should be singing the praises of our friends in Iraq as a key part of our recent victory in the fight against ISIS.
Most scholars would tell you that Iraq has suffered more than any other nation in the region at the hands of ISIS. Thus, the Iraqis’ incentive to assist the United States in bringing down the Islamic State is clear. As it turns out, Iraq was indeed a great friend when it came to America’s pursuit of al-Baghdadi.
Iraq’s ambassador to the United States, Fareed Yaseen, issued a statement following the raid on al-Baghdadi’s hideout. “Today justice prevailed. The brutal leader of ISIS, the most evil terrorist organization of today, has met his end. We would like to express our gratitude to the U.S. military personnel who carried out the daring raid in Syria that led to this outcome.”
Ambassador Yaseen continued, “No country and no people have suffered at the hands of ISIS more than the people of Iraq, particularly Iraq’s religious minorities that were singled out for the cruelty of ISIS. It is therefore with a sense of pride and duty fulfilled that I would like to mention the role of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service whose officers were able, through diligent and dangerous, work to provide key information, as we have throughout our partnership with the United States, which contributed to identifying the whereabouts of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the success of this raid.”
Obviously, diplomacy in the Middle East is a delicate thing and perhaps there were reasons why President Trump and/or the Department of Defense didn’t give Iraq’s role a higher profile in the post-operation victory lap. It would seem, however, that after an estimated 4,486 Americans died in the Iraq War, the U.S. public should know that the Iraqi’s are working hand in hand with the United States and it is paying dividends.
Iraq’s ambassador looks forward to more cooperation, “Our government will continue to work with the United States as they analyze and act on the valuable intelligence gathered in the operation.”
Iraq is walking a tightrope of sorts. On one hand, Iraq certainly wants to continue to cultivate and nourish its relationship with the United States. The economic, military and political implications of such a relationship are essential to its growth and success.
On the other hand, however, Iraq is located in a tough neighborhood. It would prefer to have a civil relationship with its next door neighbor, Iran, an avowed enemy of the United States.
It is that other hand that makes Iraq’s willingness to participate and provide intel that helped the United States take down the top leadership in ISIS so much more impressive. Credit where credit is due. Kudos to our brothers in Iraq for making this victory in America’s fight against ISIS possible.