Dissecting Obama's Iraq policies

US President Barack Obama at a press conference on 19 June, 2014. Image copyright Getty Images

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For more than eight years, US troops attempted to bring peace and democracy to a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. With the emergence of the Islamist extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which continues to successfully seize Iraqi weapons, oil refineries and cities, critics are not only pointing fingers at the architects of the Iraq War, but at President Barack Obama, as well.

"Sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama's Iraq policy has been a disaster," writes Peter Beinart for the Atlantic. "The White House has been so eager to put Iraq in America's rear-view mirror that, publicly at least, it has given [Iraq Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki an almost-free pass. Until now, when it may be too late."

The Obama administration stressed a need for inclusiveness between the various political groups in Iraq, writes Beinart - but in order to achieve an inclusive government, the US would have had to work hard to push a reluctant Mr Maliki toward sectarian integration.

This would have meant "investing time and energy in Iraq, a country it desperately wanted to pivot away from".

Following the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, the Obama administration's attitude toward the nation tended toward non-interventionism, says Beinart. In short: "let Maliki do whatever he wants so long as he keeps Iraq off the front page".

Not all critics agree with Beinart's take on Mr Obama's policies, however.

"Any critic of Obama's Iraq policy now ... must credibly explain how those troops would have redirected Maliki's arrogant and mistrustful political energies toward consensus or inclusiveness," writes Major Garrett for the National Journal. "They wouldn't have. Period."

But perhaps any action would have been better than inaction, argues Beinart.

"By ignoring Iraq, and refusing to defend democratic principles there, [Mr Obama] has helped spawn the disaster we see today," he concludes.


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Media captionMichael Wahid Hanna: vendettas are being played out in Egypt

Court in al-Jazeera case ignores international outcry - The sentencing of three al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt took many by surprise, leading critics to question how the country could have ignored the international calls for their release.

"Clearly the international outrage has had no practical impact in terms of changing the decision-making of Egyptian officials and clearly has not had an impact on changing the trajectory of events within the criminal justice system," Michael Wahid Hanna, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, told BBC's Katty Kay on World News America on Monday.

Despite the surprising verdict, Mr Hanna said that not all Egyptian government officials agreed with the outcome.

"I think there was a lot of internal disagreement within the state and very senior officials," he said. "I think we should see what's happening not as top-down decision-making structure. There are rivalries within the security establishment and within the state and a lot of vendettas that are being played out."


Excommunicating the mafia - Even with the Mafia's violent reputation, the Catholic Church historically has not expressed clear opposition to the Italian mafia crime organisations, writes Alexander Stille for the New Yorker. That is why he says the Pope's excommunication of the mafia this week came as somewhat of a surprise.

In the early 1980s, hundreds of murders and assassinations in Italy began to "turn the public and Church officials away from a see-no-evil attitude toward the mafia," he writes.

During and after this wave of violence, however, many in the Church continued to turn a blind eye to the mafia's violent ways.

By 1993 the problems with the mafia had reached Vatican ears, and John Paul II became the first Pope to reproach the mafia, calling on its members to repent.

Nearly 21 years later, "something is clear," says Stille: the Vatican will turn a blind eye to the mafiosi no longer.


Prime minister's mother/father greetings under the microscope - Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay caused a stir with his two very different email tributes on Mother's Day and Father's Day, writes Jennifer Ditchburn for the Canadian Press.

"By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you've already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner," Mr MacKay wrote in his Mother's Day memo, concentrating on women's role in the home.

But his Father's Day memo left out any mention of child-rearing responsibilities, other than his opinion that fathers were "shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders".

She quotes one critic as saying the stark difference in language is "demeaning to both mothers and fathers".

South Africa

The ghost of South Africa's World Cup - South Africa had hoped that the 2010 World Cup would boost its economy and perhaps even enable the country to overcome persistent apartheid-era boundaries. Four years later, however, the memory of the World Cup is but a cautionary tale, writes TO Molefe for the New York Times.

He cites Cape Town's Green Point Stadium, which was built specifically for the 2010 games. The $600m (£353m), 55,000-seat stadium still stands, but "symbolises the worst of Fifa's legacy in South Africa," Molefe writes. "It is a superfluous megastructure unwanted by the wealthier, mostly white residents nearby, and it is far away from the areas where soccer fans, who are mostly black and coloured, live."

Although the 2010 World Cup still "evokes a hallowed glow of national pride," South Africans are also well aware that the event "failed to deliver the promised boost to [the] economy".

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

The press in Turkey, a country with a sizeable Kurdish minority, as well as commentators in the Middle East mull the possibility of Kurdish independence in Iraq.

"At this point, you would expect that Turkey would be the first to prevent an 'independent Kurdistan' to be established in Iraq. In the 'new Middle East configuration'. Turkey's closest ally, however, is Iraqi Kurdistan. Who could possibly think that Turkey could be the midwife of an 'independent Kurdistan'?" - Cengiz Candar in Turkey's Radikal.

"Iraqi Kurds, who were seen as a threat or even as an enemy … have turned into a friend, or even a kind of 'strategic partner'. We know that these strategic relations, whose economic dimension is very strong, have discomforted Baghdad." - Rusen Cakir in Turkey's Vatan.

"Kurds can no longer afford to remain spectators, especially when Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has deliberately pushed Iraq towards disintegration and division... Over the course of eight years, he forced a key component of Iraqi society, Sunni Arabs, to launch a revolution and demand the toppling of his government. It was he who pushed the Kurds to pursue independence." - Salih al-Qallab in Jordan's Al-Ra'y.‎

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