The United States must “destroy the Islamic State” (ISIS) in Iraq and must “prevent a new terrorist state from emerging in the Middle East,” former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton said Thursday.
“It is simply not enough to block the group’s threat to the Kurds or other vulnerable minorities in the region,” Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said in an op-ed piece in National Review. “The risks of even a relatively small ‘state’ … are chilling.
“Leaving the Islamic State in place and in control only of its current turf in Iraq and Syria … would make it viable economically and a fearsome refuge for terrorists of all sorts,” he added. “Just as Afghanistan’s Taliban gave al-Qaida a base of operations to launch terrorist attacks culminating in 9/11, a similar result could follow if the Islamic State successfully erased and then redrew existing boundaries.”
Bolton’s piece came amid increasing pressure on President Barack Obama and within the Pentagon to increase airstrikes against ISIS in response to the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
Senior officers at Central Command, which controls military operations in the Middle East, have called on the Pentagon to expand the list of possible target sites in Iraq, several officials told The Military Times.
In his op-ed, Bolton slammed Obama’s “belated, narrow authorization” for targeted airstrikes earlier this month – saying that they do not “constitute a coherent response, let alone a comprehensive one.
“The president seems curiously inactive, even as American influence in the region collapses and, not coincidentally, his political approval ratings suffer,” Bolton added. “From the outset of the Islamic State’s campaign, his policies have been haphazard and confused, especially the halting, timid decision to intervene militarily.
“And, based on his record as president, there is no reason to believe a strategic vision of the Middle East’s future will ultimately emerge from his administration.”
The former ambassador, who is considering a GOP run for the White House in 2016, said that Obama’s decision to pull out of Baghdad in 2011 caused the rise of ISIS in the first place.
“By so doing, he eliminated a considerable element of U.S. leverage in Baghdad, one that had significantly limited Iran’s ability to expand its influence inside Iraq,” Bolton said.
“With substantial U.S. forces still present, Iraq’s various ethnic and confessional groups were more likely to make progress knitting together a sustainable national government and to lessen their profound, longstanding mistrust, which existed well before the Islamic State erupted from Syria.”
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