Response in Iraq shows impulse to intervene still stronger in US FP Estblshmnt than impulse to refrain. When u have a hammer. . .
— Stephen Walt (@stephenWalt) August 8, 2014
In a press conference today White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House was looking for a new government in Iraq that could unite and integrate the country as well as inspire confidence in the national military. It was a not-so-subtle announcement that President Obama wants a different Prime Minister than Nouri Al-Maliki to work with and may make the use of US military power contingent on who is in charge when it comes to the national army – Earnest said the White House had already “increased the flow of arms and assistance” to the Kurdish security forces known as the Peshmerga.
When asked if President Obama wants to work with Maliki specifically, Earnest dodged the question but reiterated the government has to be unified and representative to succeed.
The Maliki government proved so unrepresentative and divisive that the Sunni tribes that were previously part of “the Surge” joined with ISIS to fight the Iraqi National Army. Maliki purged many Sunnis from the national government creating anger among what is 30% of the population in Iraq.
Earnest also disclosed there was “no end date” nor time frame for US military action in Iraq. The one limitation Earnest did offer was that President Obama was clear that no ground troops would be used. Whether that pledge holds is hard to say given the immensity of the announced objectives – thwarting ISIS in Kurdistan and stopping a genocide against the Yazidis.
The White House said it will be complying with the War Powers Act and is currently consulting with Congress. Earnest said the Obama Administration plans to file notification requirements but was unable to say whether or not the White House planned to go to Congress after 60 days to seek authorization for action in Iraq. There is some question as to whether the Bush-era Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) is still in effect vis-à-vis Iraq.