Escalating protests in Baghdad threaten the Iraqi government as Shiite Muslim factions battle for control for the country, and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney says Iran could soon wield all the power in Iraq unless the U.S. changes course in significant ways.
He is also reacting to ISIS killing a U.S. Navy SEAL, who was assisting the Kurdish Peshmerga against ISIS.
In recent days, protesters have stormed government buildings, protesting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s decision to replace members of his cabinet. Al-Abadi said the move was to root out corruption and bring in reformers. The protesters believe it was designed to lessen the influence of different ethnic and sectarian factions.
And an old U.S. nemesis is right in the middle of it.
“What you’re seeing right now is that (radical Shiite cleric) Moqtada al-Sadr is responsible for creating a greater wedge when the current Iraq prime minister wanted to make Iraq more independent from Iran,” McInerney told WND and Radio America.
“You have a combination of Iranian Shiite and Iraqi Shiite competing as to who controls the government and who controls Iraq. That’s the bottom line of what’s going on over there right now,” he added.
Al-Sadr is loyal to Iran. He and his forces are responsible for the deaths of many American troops during the sectarian uprising in Iraq. Al-Sadr then fled to Iran when U.S. forces gained a decisive edge.
McInerney said all of this upheaval can be traced to the Obama administration’s decision to wash its hands of Iraq.
“When we pulled out, this administration fundamentally gave Iraq to Iran,” McInerney said.
Now the Iraqi government is feeling much greater heat from Shiite factions more loyal to Tehran than to Baghdad in addition to the threat posed by ISIS in the north. ISIS still controls Mosul and other swaths of territory in Iraq and is still within striking distance of the capital.
“Unless we have strong allied and U.S. leadership over there, then we are in danger of clearly losing Iraq completely to Iran,” he said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney:
McInerney is not in favor of bringing huge contingents of ground forces back to Iraq, but he said the U.S. could end the ISIS threat very quickly if it would just use its overwhelming and largely unchallenged air power.
“I would have a very aggressive air campaign,” McInerney said. “Not eight (sorties) a day. I’d have hundreds a day. I would take out ISIS right away. I would absolutely destroy them and everything around them, and I would accept the collateral damage that goes with it because it would be a very short and intensive air campaign. That would show our strength.”
His air campaign would include decimating ISIS headquarters and other critical infrastructure in Syria as well as spotting and eliminating weapons and fighters in the desert. He said crushing ISIS would end the dream of the caliphate and stop the flow of radical ideologues to the area.
“Only then can we start reasserting our strength and position in the region,” McInerney said.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the death of a U.S. service member as a “combat death” in Iraq. Later identified as a Navy SEAL, the American was officially “assisting” Kurdish forces.
According to Fox News, ISIS was breaking through the Kurdish line when about 20 SEALs swooped in to “heroically” beat back the ISIS forces.
McInerney is not at all surprised that American “advisers” are engaging in direct combat with the enemy.
“Although the administration does not want to admit it, I think it’s obvious when you’re putting those kinds of numbers and those kinds of forces in there as advisers, particularly at the battalion level, that you’re going to have these kinds of incidents, particularly if you get a breakthrough,” McInerney said.
But he said it never should have come to that sort of ground action.
“Where was the air power to stop that effort?” he asked. “Why didn’t we know what was going on down there? That’s my concern. We should have planes airborne 24/7 that could immediately respond to these kinds of attacks.”