Mosul will be Obama's first chapter of his Middle East legacy, not his last

Martin Jay
Martin Jay is a veteran foreign correspondent now based in Beirut who works on a freelance basis for a number of respected British newspapers as well as Deutsche Welle TV. Previously he has worked in Africa and Europe for CNN, Euronews, CNBC, BBC and Reuters. Follow him on Twitter @MartinRJay
© Alaa Al-Marjani
President Obama’s policy in the Middle East will be remembered for his dithering in Syria and in Iraq which led to the rise of ISIS. But don’t worry. He has a Churchillian plan to re-write history and it all starts with the fall of Mosul. And Nicholas Cage.

Winston Churchill said at the end of WWII that history would be kind to him as he would be the one who writes it or something like that. But what will those with the poised quill write about Barak Obama as he leaves the stage? Few will remember what Obama did either to counter terrorism or to bring harmony to the Muslim world. Killing Osama bin Laden doesn’t cut it. Many argue now in hindsight that taking the Al-Qaeda leader alive would have been far more sensible; conspiracy theorists even claim he wasn’t killed at all.

But like Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq will always eclipse his two other successful campaigns – in Kosovo and Sierra Leone – the US president will be tarnished by his lack of courage in Syria and how during his term ISIS grew into an international jihadi organization that beheaded many American and British aid workers and journalists in a period of breathtaking impotence in the region. More recently, few in Obama’s administration talk of regime change in Syria; President Assad has won the longer game. Obama couldn’t even defy Assad in the end and drop a few dozen bags of rice out the back of a C-130 to the starving besieged towns in that wretched country, such was his comical cowardice.

But neither Mosul nor Hillary can save Obama. Nor will it play into the hands of Clinton when her spectacularly corrupt foundation pays back the Gulf Arab states for their contributions so she can spoon feed her servile cackle of journalists who faithfully reprint her contrite ramblings on women’s rights – paid for by countries which condone men beheading their wives in the street after they have a quarrel in cities which don’t have balconies as this might lead to women being viewed from afar.

You can’t make it up. Iraq is now in the midst of a war to rid itself of ISIS fighters in Mosul and with US help crush this terror organization. US media has collectively decided that Hillary’s colossal corruption and lies can be swept aside in preference for her political swagger and confident venire. Yet her ideas about Mosul and the region are worrying. Already the madness has begun in the push for Mosul with the Turkish military – who previously were fighting US backed Kurds in Syria – now fighting alongside their ‘enemy’ in Mosul, although if you believe local media and the despots which control it, apparently Turkey is not fighting in Mosul.

For Obama though, you have to question the timing of Mosul. Were his advisers telling him that the fall of this historic city could be in a matter of days and that he should plan for this at the end of October? US soldiers pulled out of Iraq in 2011 under Obama’s watch and it must seem a bitter pill to swallow knowing that this decision allowed ISIS to grow so quickly and take root in Saddam Hussein strongholds like Mosul – which means ‘junction’ in Arabic. True, it was his predecessor George W Bush’s decision in 2003 when US troops took control of the country to effectively dismiss half a million men from the Iraqi army, which was legendary in its stupidity. This gargantuan error led to many – Sunnis of course – putting their weapons to good use to feed their families while American soldiers sank into a bloody self made quagmire of confusion and dismay.

But Obama could have stayed in Iraq. It might have made a huge difference so Mosul is special to him as once it falls, he will no doubt rush to the podium and claim that the war on terror is a slow one and he who reaps with patience gathers much in the killing fields of Mosul, Raqqa and Aleppo.

When Colin Powell left public office he was asked what his next big task was. According to a colleague, he answered with just one word: “Money”. For Obama, his job after November the 8th can be also summed up simply by the word ‘legacy’.

Mosul, I‘m told by colleagues in Beirut will take months. Some think it might even take a year or two. No matter. Unlike Blair who is still dogged to this day by his own mistakes in Iraq, or David Cameron’s suicide pill of Brexit, Obama has both time and cunning. The cabal of sycophants and the PR machine itself which is already gearing up for the books, documentaries and merchandizing of Obama will no doubt spend good money on papering over the cracks of a craven policy which created the failed states of Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen – the latter a war that Washington can’t be bothered to brief journalists on so therefore won’t be covered. Or perhaps they just can’t grasp who’s fighting who. I’ve lost count of the number of times US journalists call the Houthis “Hutus”. Rwanda, Yemen, whatever.

Failure will be turned into success by the erroneous auditing of those who have a vested interest as Barack Obama entirely reinvents himself in the Middle East. If Tony Blair can rake in hundreds of millions from Gulf Arab states while advising them – don’t laugh - on governance, then Obama should be able to take that ludicrous act to the next level. He will, in short, be the best thing the Clinton Foundation ever had in convincing the Arabs to buy more US guns, allow CF companies privileged access to their markets, while getting up to their necks in IMF loans. Obama will be that oh-so-smooth used car salesman who spots you filling up your clapped out Ford at the pumps and entices you into the air conditioned showroom, where just moments later you’re wondering how you’re going to tell the wife that you’ve just signed a hire purchase contract on a new ‘beamer’. Think Nicholas Cage playing Viktor Bout in ‘Lord of War’. Once the genius strokes played by Obama was calming Saudi fears over the Iran deal. By selling them $5bn worth of US missiles. Priceless.

Obama’s magic touch is, like just a few weeks ago, to send the US air force to bomb ISIS in Syria but they end up bombing Assad regime soldiers. And that was a mistake.

I’ll let that sink in.

But why did Clinton’s emails not see the light of day though and were covered up by the FBI? Was it because if they were discovered they would have brought down Obama? Was that the start of a beautiful relationship and why these two are watching each other’s backs? Mosul will be the starter’s pistol on a new relationship with the Middle East as it will be the first victory from Washington for a very long time. But it will be a small one. The real victory of Mosul is not its capture but it’s sustained endearment of Sunnis in an Iraq whose Shia leaders marginalized them in the first place and neither Obama nor Clinton really have any Churchillian ideas about who’s going to write that book.

Martin Jay, for RT

Martin Jay is a veteran foreign correspondent based in Beirut who works on a freelance basis for a number of respected British newspapers as well as Deutsche Welle TV.

@MartinRJay

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.