The US is making a dire mistake allowing Iran and its allies to move in Iraq

The US is making a dire mistake allowing Iran and its allies to move in Iraq
I’ve been following the Kurds over the past two weeks, trying to understand and make sense of our nation's once loyal and dependable ally. The State Department is useless, and they still have the same Obama administration team players in charge of policy, so there is a growing divide between the White House and the State Department.
 
The events over the past two days are a devastating blow to the Kurds, and to the reputation of the United States. The Kurds have been a faithful, unwavering ally since 1991-92 when we first arrived in Northern Iraq. They were instrumental in crafting the Iraqi constitution and getting it passed by the parliament in 2004. They are exercising their rights to self determination. This late referendum vote, to open a dialogue with Baghdad, has been coming for almost two years. The State Department ignored the issue until two days before the scheduled vote, when Bret McGurk released a statement saying the referendum was “ill advised and poorly timed.” That's what passes for policy at State.
 
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The president just articulated the broad outline of the new Iranian policy last week. Yet the State Department and coalition stood by as PUK leadership abandoned its defensive position and allowed Shia forces operating American vehicles, such as M1A1 Abrams tanks and MRAPS, to enter Kirkuk and take over strategic positions around the city. Iranian Quds force leader Gen. Qasem Soleimani is reportedly at the forefront of the effort.
 
 
The U.S. government stood by and watched as yet another hostile government in Baghdad mounted a military operation against the Kurds, the exact same thing Saddam Hussein did during his reign of terror. The United States sacrificed over 5,000 dead and more than 52,000 wounded in order to unseat Saddam Hussein — only to allow a Shia government, controlled and directed by an Iranian general, to take over the country.
 
Once again, in downtown Erbil, Sami Abdullah Rahman Park is filled with Kurds, Kirkuk residents, sleeping on the ground, having fled their homes in Kirkuk to escape a military attack from Baghdad. This is exactly what went on under Saddam.
 
This is a day of shame, disgrace and betrayal. When is Secretary Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo jokes he'll be secretary of State until Trump 'tweets me out of office' Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February MORE going to take control of the State Department? This event was the perfect opportunity to put the White House's new Iran policy to the test. How long will the State Department under its new leadership remain missing in action?
 
Moreover, where do we go from here? The president’s new approach to the Iran policy is correct. We must re-establish the respect, and the trust, that our allies have in the United States and engage politically, militarily and with our intelligence capacity to combat Iran's influence and its Shia proxies.
 
State should immediately engage, with new leadership and representatives, to assist and facilitate a dialogue between the Kurds and the Baghdad government. We must make an effort to understand the complex history of Iraq, and specifically the history of Kirkuk and the Kurds who lived there before Saddam took over the city and drove them out. The United States government has some work to do, today, to recover from the events of the past 48 hours.
 
Where do we go from here? The president’s new approach to Iran is correct. We must re-establish the reputation of and trust in the United States with our trusted allies and engage politically, militarily and intelligence capacity to roll back Iranian influence and their Shia proxy militias and PMU’s back in Iraq and Syria. State should immediately engage, with new leadership and representatives, to assist and facilitate a dialogue between the Kurds and the Baghdad government. We must make an effort to understand the complex history of Iraq, and specifically the history of Kirkuk and the Kurds who lived there before Saddam took over the city and drove them out. The United States government has some work to do, today, to recover from the events of the past 48 hours.
 
Several factors indicate that the National Security Council and State Department are asleep at the wheel.
 
1. State has no strategic vision, and their world view stagnant. State seems unaware that we are at a turning point in history. Decisions made 100 years ago (Sykes-Picot) are being proven untenable by demographic and ethnic imperatives. Dramatic change is inevitable, but rather than try to control or steer that change to protect our long-term strategic interests, the ignorant deep-state technocrats who control our policy are clinging to 20th century fallacies, such as the notion of a unified Iraq and a strategic alliance with Turkey.
 
2. They cling to the naive notion that Iran can be persuaded to moderate its behavior, cease its inexorable drive to establish itself as the dominant power in the region, and join the community of civilized nations. State’s position is not grounded in reality.
 
3. The USG has a narrow window in which to control or at least steer the course of events in the region to protect our long-term interests and those of our natural allies. In short, the events in Iraq are an opportunity to change the course of history. Our actions in theater are weakening the United States and the office of the President. Russia, Turkey and Iran are out maneuvering us on the field. The administration should expect a sudden move by Turkey to suspend U.S. flight operations from Incirlik and Erdogan to follow that move by announcing Turkey intends to withdrawal from NATO. The Iranians, led by Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force (labeled a terrorist organization by the State Department), is reported to be within 15 kilometers of Erbil proper. Appeasement and hope are not strategic policy.
 
Secretary Tillerson and the primary architect of our current Iraq policy, Brett McGurk, are in Riyadh visiting with the Saudis and with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi discussing Iranian influence in Baghdad. This meeting may provide some political cover for Tillerson (after all, he is doing something), but it will not erase the policy calamity that State was handed. Few seem to appreciate this debacle rolled out shortly after the President clearly articulated his intention to begin to roll back Iranian influence in theater. Tillerson and McGurk should fly to Erbil, visit Sami Abdel Rahman park, and get a first-hand view of the reality of their policies. Decisions made in cubicles in Foggy Bottom look a bit different when you are standing on the ground among the people dealing with your decisions.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is author of the brand new book, "Reawakening Virtues." He served as an adviser and spokesman for Dr. Ben Carson's 2016 presidential campaign, and is on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern.