The image was posted on a militant news Twitter account on Thursday, June 12, 2014 shows militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant removing part of the soil barrier on the Iraq-Syria borders and moving through it. (AP Photo/albaraka_news)

As the Middle East moves further from an Arab Spring congenial to Western interests, the tinderbox returns. In the tinder box, one rarely gets to choose the folks one likes; one has to work with whomever one can to achieve one’s strategic interests. It is not about likeability; it is about strategic success.

When there was the chance to negotiate an agreement with the Iraqis to leave a residual force able to execute air strikes working with Iraqi forces, the difficulties with the Malki government, based largely on how unlikeable this chap truly is, meant that no status of forces agreement was reached.

What could have been done is not a termination to the mission but a significant transition in the mission where the air component of power could evolve in Iraq under US and/or Western influence. This was not done, so when the moment came when the insurgents (who are even more unlikeable) started ripping through Iraqi forces, there was no ready set way to strike the insurgents.

One could note that the French in Mali used air strikes without hesitation when going after the insurgents in order to restore enough order on the ground to help the Mali government. When using airpower, time is of the essence to ensure effectiveness; waiting until the insurgents have grabbed the centers of power makes it a full blown operation or nothing.

Iraqi Developments

One of our colleagues provided this report received earlier this week from an American in Iraq about the situation seen from is vantage point in the country.

The last two days I got stuck on the main road between Kirkuk and Baghdad due to car bombs and gun fights in Kirkuk province.

I had no choice but to come back to Erbil last night. As of yesterday, Mosul province is under total control of Sunni armed group called Daish

Over 50 thousand (4 divisions) of Iraqi army and IP forces that were in charge of protecting and defending Mosul province, threw their guns and changes their uniforms with civilian clothes and ran away from fighting Daish forces that entered Mosul city yesterday.

Now, Daish armed forces are fighting to take over big cites in Salaheldin, Kurkik and Diyala provinces.

PM Maliki asked the Parliament to prove his request for “emergency law” all over Iraq as of tomorrow.

Yesterday, Jabar Yawar the minister of Peshmerga in Kurdistan called all 13 peshmerga brigades to report to their posts of duty. Peshmerga forces surrounded Kurdistan provinces to prevent any attacks.

Iraqis in general are hoping and calling for the immediate present of American soldiers in Iraq because they lost trust and hope in IA & IP forces. Iraqis are blaming President Obama for pulling American soldiers from Iraq and leaving Iraqis under the mercy of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the armed groups they support.

It is a big bloody mess….

According to a recent New York Times report, the Iraqi government had earlier requested from the White House airpower support.

As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials.

But Iraq’s appeals for a military response have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.

Iraq is Not a Solitary Issue

Not only could airpower make a difference, Iraq is part of the Tinder Box.

Rather than the piecemeal, one issue at a time Middle East policy being followed by the West, it is crucial to think about the region as a whole.

Western governments are following an a la carte policy in the Middle East policy, pursuing whatever is the easiest and lowest hanging issue; for dealing with hard issues takes time effort, and money and creates cultural tensions.

Ostriches, not Eagles seem to be resident in the Middle East, at least from the Western side.

Turkey is facing Syria and Iran; Iraq is facing Iran and Syria, the Egyptians are being affected by Muslim fundamentalist threats (yes they are a military government but….) and the Israelis are dealing with chaos.

It would be interesting to know if the White House consulted Turkey with regard to Iraq because spill over from either Syria or Iraq is an Article V contingency for NATO.

This means that the Crimean seizure and Iraqi implosions are indirectly affecting NATO’s direct defense and security interests, even before we get to a broader policy question of Middle Eastern developments.