President Obama can’t catch a break. With the world melting down and leading Democrats and ex-officials in his own administration criticizing key decisions he’s made, the President must have hoped that he’d get some rest and a chance to unwind on Martha’s Vineyard.But it’s not working out as planned. President Obama’s vacation may not have survived its first day, as initial reports indicate that Iraq’s wily and dictatorial Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be launching a coup. Soldiers loyal to him seized key points in the Green Zone after the PM delivered an incendiary speech on national television at midnight Baghdad time, vowing to hold onto power in face of rising opposition. Reuters reports:
In a speech on state television, Maliki accused Iraq’s Kurdish President Fouad Masoum of violating the constitution by missing a deadline for him to ask the biggest political bloc to nominate a prime minister and form a government.“I will submit today an official complaint to the federal court against the president of the Republic for committing a clear constitutional violation for the sake of political calculations,” said Maliki.
Iraq is unraveling fast. If reports of fighting between Maliki’s forces and troops loyal to President Masoum turn out to be correct, it means that the factional fighting that has torn apart the provinces has now spread to the capital—even as ISIS waits outside, licking its chops.The fact that President Obama thought that the day of an Iraqi coup was a good time to hang on the Vineyard and get on the links is bad news. Either the President blew off warnings from his advisors, or the intel community got blindsided again. Both possibilities reflect badly on the management of the nation’s affairs.The unraveling of Iraq under the grimmest of circumstances is a major policy challenge for this president and for the United States as a whole. There’s nothing wrong with a president wanting some down time with the kids, but President Obama needs to be and be seen to be taking control of events. Going on vacation as the tanks roll in Baghdad and as Americans fly back into combat over Iraq is not where a leader needs to be. The President is apparently planning to return to DC midway through the vacation; if Baghdad doesn’t settle down quickly, he may need to return sooner and stay longer than planned.