Criticism of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy is no longer restricted to the president’s usual opponents. Former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta – the latest in a series of departed senior officials to go public with their misgivings – now suggests that the president’s own policies helped make possible the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “When we stepped out of Iraq,” Panetta observed in a recent interview, “we created this vacuum” – and ISIS is currently filling the space.
Can the same administration now make good its mistakes and repair the damage? Will a strategy limited to coalition aerial bombardment and ancillary assistance to local fighters be sufficient to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, or are the U.S. military officials and regional allies who argue that ground troops will be required correct? In either case, to what extent are longstanding, region-wide issues – like the anti-Sunni policies pushed by Iranian assets in Iraq and Syria – a fundamental obstacle to complete success against ISIS?
To address these and other directly related questions of Middle East strategy and diplomacy, Hudson Institute hosted a timely discussion on October 17 with Lee Smith, Andrew J. Tabler, Michael Pregent, and Hussain Abdul-Hussain.
Event hashtag: #HudsonISIS