A bad bet in Iraq

From an editorial Wednesday in the Washington Post:

Two persistent failings of U.S. foreign policy have been an overdependence on individual leaders, who frequently fail to deliver on American expectations, and a reluctance to accept that an established status quo can’t hold. The Obama administration has committed both those errors in Iraq – and it has done so more than once.

In its zeal to withdraw all U.S. troops in time for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, the administration threw its weight behind then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with disastrous consequences. Maliki’s Shiite sectarianism fractured the fragile political system and opened the way for the Islamic State. In 2014, having pushed for Maliki’s removal, the administration bet on Haider al-Abadi; now, in its impatience to reduce the Islamic State before Obama leaves office, it clings to a prime minister unable to govern the country or reconcile its warring factions.

Abadi’s impotence was revealed most dramatically over the weekend, when Shiite supporters of anti-American firebrand Moqtada al-Sadr stormed into Baghdad’s walled-off Green Zone and invaded the parliament.

The latest crisis should prompt a reconsideration. Kurdish leaders are now openly saying that Iraq’s post-2003 political structure has collapsed; the United States should be forging closer ties to their regional government. Continuing to center U.S. support on a single Iraqi leader is a recipe for more failure.