June 12th, 2014
11:06 PM ET

Who lost Iraq? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush

By Fareed Zakaria

The turmoil in the Middle East is often called a sectarian war. But really it is better described as “the Sunni revolt.” Across the region, from Iraq to Syria, one sees armed Sunni gangs that have decided to take on the non-Sunni forces that, in their view, oppress them. The Bush administration often justified its actions by pointing out that the Shiites are the majority in Iraq and so they had to rule. But the truth is that the borders of these lands are porous, and while the Shiites are numerous in Iraq — Maliki’s party actually won a plurality, not a majority — they are a tiny minority in the Middle East as a whole. It is outside support — from places as varied as Saudi Arabia and Turkey — that sustains the Sunni revolt.

If the Bush administration deserves a fair share of blame for “losing Iraq,” what about the Obama administration and its decision to withdraw American forces from the country by the end of 2011? I would have preferred to see a small American force in Iraq to try to prevent the country’s collapse. But let’s remember why this force is not there.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Iraq

soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Ferhat Balkan

    Obama made the right choice by withdrawing troops from Iraq. A military presence by a foreign country serves only to fuel the fire there. Shias, Sunnis, Kurds all want what we all want: To be in control of our own destiny. Al-Maliki had his chance for some 8 years he had an opportunity to unify the people of Iraq and failed miserably. The only solution that I can see for Iraq's future (with less violence and bloodshed) is a territorial split between Sunni, Shia and Kurds. This will in time curb out the violence and promote stability in the long run. As for the current threat by ISIS, the Kurds to the north have the capability to deal with them. An independent Kurdistan will be an incentive for them to engage the terrorists.

    June 12, 2014 at 11:35 pm |
  2. zcyrus

    let the iraqi people kick out the puppet of Iran (Al Maliki) from the government.
    They hate any foreign country interposing.

    June 13, 2014 at 12:33 am |
    • greg

      Thank you, zcyrus. I couldn't agree more!

      June 13, 2014 at 8:18 am |
  3. zcyrus

    Watch up the Iran revolutionary guards. They mullah sending them inside the Iraq to occupy it at end!

    June 13, 2014 at 12:36 am |
  4. francisssekitto

    Reblogged this on Ssekitto's thoughts.

    June 13, 2014 at 6:26 am |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I agree with Fareed Zakaria that it would have been better for the USA to keep troops in Iraq,
    Even a president as superb as Barack Obama can make a mistake, especially under pressure from citizens who think that money not spent by military forces will automatically end up in their pockets.
    Butter has a wonderful taste, but too much of it clogs arteries, especially in human beings who are not partial to physical exercise.

    June 13, 2014 at 7:42 am |
  6. Joseph McCarthy

    Iraq was never a closely knit country with it's diverse ethnic groups nor did the Iraqis "create" Iraq. That was done in 1919 by the British and the French. In fact, the British promised the Kurds that they will be allowed to set up their own home state only to be reneged on four years later in an Anglo-Turkish accord. Since it has become self-evident that the Shiites and Sunnis will never get along, the only sensible thing here is to let them part company!

    June 13, 2014 at 7:43 am |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    It is not 1919. Things change.
    To me, the "sensible thing" for the USA to do here is what is best for the USA.
    I prefer many things the way they were in 1919, but I cannot have them that way.
    Some folks will say it should be the way that things are now. Frequently, I say that some of our progress is a pity.

    June 13, 2014 at 8:07 am |
  8. Towel Heads

    Towel Heads is what Towel Heads do.

    June 13, 2014 at 9:11 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ "Towel Heads,"
      Why do you call some people "towel heads?" I think that you must hate them.
      Why would you hate those people? Some of the kindest and smartest people I know dress in that manner.

      June 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
      • Tell them

        Tell them to get into the 21st century.

        June 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
  9. The GOP Solution

    The GOP Prayer/Mantra/Solution: Dear God...With your loving kindness, help us to turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then, with your guidance and compassion, we will whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. God...Grant us the knowledge to then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. God...Give us the strength during our speeches to repeatedly yell........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!
    In your name we prey (purposely misspelled, or is it?)........Amen

    June 13, 2014 at 9:15 am |
    • Retired Military

      If you cannot engage intellectually, give it a rest. This is boring and lame.

      June 14, 2014 at 11:06 am |
      • Boring and Lame?

        But true.

        June 15, 2014 at 9:38 pm |
  10. NATO alliance

    Who lost in Iraq? Obama, Democrats, Washington DC.

    June 13, 2014 at 9:20 am |
    • banasy©

      You're funny.

      June 13, 2014 at 9:47 am |
    • j. von hettlingen

      The question "Who lost Iraq" is seen as cynical out of political point of view. The greatest losers are the innocent civilians, who have to flee their home-towns, not in fear of the Jihadists, but out of fear that Maliki, the prime minister and defence minister would shell their homes mercilessly, to get rid of the Islamists.

      June 16, 2014 at 11:24 am |
  11. chri§§y

    @ Joey so you think people that dont want the US to be in a perpetual war are only thinking of the military budget ending up in their pockets??? Seriously? It couldnt be that US citizens are maybe war~weary? Or tired of losing loved ones in wars that are senseless? How very 1% of you sheesh!

    June 13, 2014 at 10:22 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      Seriously, @ chrissy, different persons gave different reasons for wanting or not wanting things.
      Your concept of "wars that are senseless" is interesting. Would you agree that some wars are not senseless?
      I know that we would agree that we don't want our loved ones drafted to serve in a senseless war.
      Since the USA has no drafted persons in military service, we are spared that worry. When a man or woman volunteers for military service, does he or she expect to perform that service only in the absence of military conflict?

      June 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        Oh, @ chrissy, by the way, thank you for calling me "very 1%."
        I do my best,

        June 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

        Je pari que vous ne pouvez pas parler ni lire francais. Ai-jai raison?

        June 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
      • banasy©

        Faux JIF: others can.
        Manger de la merde et mourir.

        June 13, 2014 at 9:51 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        @ My Troll, 3:45 PM:
        Review forms for asking questions in French before you try to hijack me.

        June 14, 2014 at 7:41 am |
  12. Tea Party Patriot

    We need to get back in there and find the Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    June 13, 2014 at 10:38 am |
    • George patton

      Well said, Phunnie boy. Thank you! We can all use a laugh now and then.

      June 13, 2014 at 11:04 am |
  13. chri§§y

    Good luck @ Tea Party Patriot...hope your friends are going with you because you could be there a very long time. No one else has found any so far but hey, knock yourself out!

    June 13, 2014 at 11:08 am |
  14. N2IT

    Lets hope Obama makes no desicion! The ones he has been doing this term have all been Idiotic and lack good judgement.

    June 13, 2014 at 11:27 am |
  15. bobcat2u

    Who lost Iraq ? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush.

    Whoooeee !!! Fareed, if your article showed up on Yahoo, you be the biggest egg suckin' dawg that ever sucked an egg.
    But the thing is I agree with what you said. The turmoil in Iraq is a direct result of our removing of the only stabilizing factor in that country. Now our president is going to get dogged out because we will most likely be making a deal with Iran to help stabilize the situation, which in some peoples minds, reinforce their beliefs that he is in bed with terrorists. Another lose, lose for President Obama.

    June 13, 2014 at 11:40 am |
    • bobcat2u

      One amendment to my comment.

      I disagree with his comment of troops being needed to remain there. We had already done all the damage we could do there, and the continued presence there would have done nothing more than add to our dead and maimed citizens.

      June 13, 2014 at 11:50 am |
  16. sandsttorm

    you p u s s y obama you want fight come over here we turn your childrens bones to dust you and the all of your allies will pay by blood i cut your n i g g e r head off you irish ghanian trash.

    June 13, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
  17. chri§§y

    Lol @ sandstorm you talk a big game behind a computor screen dont ya little man? Good grief s t f u!

    June 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm |

    O.K. Il y a t'il quelqu'un qui peut me dire ce que les U.S.A. font au Moyen Orient...Ils supportent les forces Sunnites contre Assad en Syrie et ils combatent les forces Sunnites en Iraq pour sauver Baghdad!!!!! Les armes fournies par les USA aux Sunnites du nord de la Syrie servent maintenant à conquérir le Sud de l'Iraq en provenance du Nord!!!! Et plus étrange, les forces Iraniennes aident maintenant le gouvernement central de Bagdad contre les Sunnites? Ne pas oublier qu'il y a déjà eu une guerre entre l'Iraq et l'Iran du temps de Sadam.
    O.K. Is there someone that can explain to me what the USA are doing in the Middle East. The are helping the Sunnists against Assad in Syria and they are fighting the Sunnists in Iraq and supporting Bagdad. On top of this the Iranian forces are helping the central government in Bagdad against the Sunnists. Remember that Iran and Iraq had a war under Sadam. So at this point Teheran and Washington are on the same side against the Sunnists in Iraq and on opposite sides in Syria because Iran is supporting Assad.

    June 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Bien dit, Jacques. Merci beaucoup! Nous n'avons aucun doit d'y etre! Pas du tout!

      June 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Clem

    Now- what about Afganistan! That Govt will need a force of US troops kept there or will face the same instability. But they want control over Us troops by having ability to charge, try and apply thier court's justice to US troops – that question is still not settled.
    The same reason we had to pull US troops out of Iraq, the Iraq Govt would not make the deal.

    June 13, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
  20. sandsttorm

    hey n i g g e r obama you are still going to get killed we slice you ugly n i g g e r face and spit in your n e g r o eyes you f i l t h y n i g g e r s c u m.

    June 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • banasy©

      May the love you give be returned to you a thousandfold.
      You shall perish alone.

      June 13, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Bien dit, sandstorm. Moi aussi, je partage vos sentiments envers Barack Obama!

      June 13, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
      • banasy©

        Faux JIF, Votre mere aurait hinge de vous.

        June 13, 2014 at 9:54 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        I did not write anything in French yesterday. Ma domani...
        Domani, il mondo.

        June 14, 2014 at 7:19 am |
      • rupert

        V otre bien dit. We?
        hinge de vous. Haha. Hehe. Lol
        Oh je. Partage. Si? Bien vous. Je .

        June 14, 2014 at 11:16 pm |
      • rupert

        Lol. Mondo? But we.

        June 14, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
    • Armed and Progressive

      You've missed about a months worth of anti-psychotic medication, eh? Get back on the pretty pills. You'll sleep better.

      June 13, 2014 at 9:14 pm |
  21. B-dawg

    Isn't Fareed the guy that said "We're living in the twilight of the Islamic Reformation."? He's way off base. This reformation is going to be around a while. Isn't that supposed to be his area of expertise?

    June 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
  22. chri§§y

    Lmao @ Joey yes i would agree some wars are necessary...however that does NOT mean it is necessary for the US to be involved in every stinkin onf of them! And i just cant figure out how the US can justify giving weapons to the very group that they now wish to take out! And i cant help but be angry that certain warmongering individuals in congress initiate the drive to be at war continueously with whatever country they wish just to fatten their bank accounts!!! And you know as well as i do that its all about the money to them and their special interest groups! They have little to no regard for the suffering it causes for people. Whether its citizens in this country or those in other countries! ITS ALL ABOUT THE MIGHTY DOLLAR!

    June 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
  23. chri§§y

    And yes when people join the military they do expect they may be at war at some point. But....i believe when they join knowing they may be in combat, they think they will be protecting their OWN country! Im sure they dont sign up to fatten bank accounts of people that are too lazy to perform even menial labor tasks!

    June 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
    • Frank Anderson

      You nailed it, Chrissy. Thank you!

      June 13, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
  24. chri§§y

    Oops meant~every stinkin "one" of them.

    June 13, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  25. Armed and Progressive

    Wait a second Zakaria! Obama tried to keep a force in Iraq but they refused to have any American troops remain. After over 100,000 dead civilians, I can understand their hesitancy. It's disingenuous to say that Obama made a mistake and pulled all troops. We are asked to leave and we did.

    June 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm |
  26. chri§§y

    Pretty pills? Lol they have those now too? Damn lol

    June 13, 2014 at 10:30 pm |
  27. Matt

    During the Arab Spring he said he would seek a third term, now he thinks over he will. His solution is more US fire Power to attack the Sunni tribes that make up the core of al-qaida fighters. It is a political problem. That is why we don't have any troops in country, pulled back in, 50 becomes 80, becomes 160,000. I told David P before Obama was President elect don't listen to the generals on the residual force we will get drawn back in and the troop requests would start coming. Everyone is shoot at us anyway and we are backing tyrant in suppressing a minority. The Iraqis leave their post to numerically inferior numbers because they don't believe in their orders or what they are fighting for.

    June 13, 2014 at 10:54 pm |
  28. Matt

    It stands to reason if violence is pre surge you need a post surge force of 160,000, not 20 or 50 it starts out that way then the situational reports start coming in more meat, more meat, I need more meat.

    June 13, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
  29. theexpertisin

    Blaming 2014 Iraq on Bush is akin to blaming World War Two on Herbert Hoover. It is asinine, unless the template is to relieve President Obama from the burden of his past five plus years of failures in practically every aspect of American foreign and domestic policy.

    Then, it makes perfect sense.

    June 13, 2014 at 11:33 pm |
  30. chri§§y

    Ya know what...the stars in the sky looked a little bit crooked tonite...im sure its Obama's fault. I mean who else has that much control over every damn thing? Seriously that just sounds too stupid doesnt it? So does that post prior!

    June 14, 2014 at 12:23 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      I support President Obama completely. That does not mean that he cannot make a mistake: there are no perfect human beings or presidents.
      We cannot blame recent White House decisions on either Bush presidency.
      HILLARY 2016!

      June 14, 2014 at 7:11 am |
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