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US left with few options in Iraq mess

Iqap may split into three countries
Iqap may split into three countries
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The country Americans and our combat soldiers knew as Iraq no longer exists. It has been replaced by three uniquely separate states, according to former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden on Friday.

Hayden told Newsmax TV, "The state of Iraq as we know it is gone, and it's not going to be reconstituted. It's certainly not going to be reconstituted by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.''

What will be the U.S. strategy to help the Iraqis as they are now, without stepping on the toes of individual factions. The only way out may be “a science fiction-type scenario.” Hayden quipped. "I'd get in the way-back machine, go back three years and undo some incredibly unwise decisions that we made then. That's really the nub of the issue.”

The general is referring to President Obama's quick December exit in 2011, leaving no American personnel behind. Unlike other post war exits such as Germany, South Korea, etc., American military personnel was not left for the sort of chaos that now envelopes the country.

Hayden, a retired four star Air Force general added, "We've got three successor states there now. As much as we might look for opportunities to keep Iraq together, we need to be prepared for the reality that it's not going to stay together. We should snuggle up comfortable with the Kurds in Kurdistan, who have always been pro-American and actually have a functioning society and state right now. We should give help to the Maliki government, sufficient to settle the current conflict so it just doesn't turn into a humanitarian disaster."

These are tall orders without American combat boots on the ground. Hayden tried to be more specific. “For example, there's fighting around Beiji right now, the oil refinery north of Baghdad. Baghdad needs that for that part of the country to survive, and so we've got to settle the lines of this conflict in a way that Nouri al-Maliki's surviving state, which I'll call Shiastan, has Beiji within it.”

The situation becomes more complicated. The general continues, "Then we've got Sunnistan, and that's the state under the control of ISIS right now, and frankly, we've got to treat that as if it were a safe haven for terrorists and begin to think about it the way we had thought about Waziristan for the last decade-plus. That's a tough message, and I'm afraid that's where we are. Now we're at a point where we really don't have good options."

The criticism of the president is relevant in the removal of American combat troops. Some sort of force should have been left behind to keep the peace we had established at the cost of over 4,000 Americans. But we didn't and now the situation is so complicated, we have difficulty telling friends from foe.

Hayden said, "This is all going to be very, very hard going forward, and we frankly may have to limit our objectives. In other words, seek to achieve things less than we would have thought to achieve had we made different decisions a few years back."

There are no good options for America's interests in Iraq until the dust settles and one group declares “victory.” The U.S. hopes against hope the army they trained to fight before we left defeats the al Qaida forces advancing.

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