The President Has Taken the Right First Step on Iraq

The President's decision to send 300 more U.S. military advisors to Iraq is a key first step in dealing with the crisis. It ensures that the United States as well as Iran will have a presence on the ground, while any U.S. use of airpower alone would have effectively empowered Iran's Revolutionary Guards because they would have been present with Iraqi forces.

It gives the United States the kind of direct contact with Iraqi forces that allows them to judge their strengths and weaknesses, and act as a check on sectarian abuses, as well as help funnel U.S. aid to the units that will use it against ISIL and other extremist forces, rather than encourage sectarian attacks and Civil war. It keeps up the right kind of pressure on Maliki and any successor, and still helps Iraq deal with an all too real threat of extremism. With the right kind of quiet dialogue, it will also assure Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE that the United States is not giving Maliki a blank check.

It will also establish the expert presence to make any future U.S. use of airpower more effective, and avoid sectarian targeting and abuses. With luck, it will also open up a path to both rebuilding the force Maliki did so much to turn into a tool of his own power, corrupt, and push into sectarian abuses, and open up a path to bring moderate Sunnis back into the Iraqi Army.

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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