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June 13, 2014 10:35 AM Getting Reacquainted With Iraq

By Ed Kilgore

Other writers can do as they choose, but I’m not about to pretend that I’ve been paying close attention to developments in Iraq since U.S. combat operations there ceased.

So the current crisis involves a catch-up, to be sure, but also a quick refresher course, as names and terms that were once an integral part of the daily news cycle come back like a recurring nightmare: Moqutada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, which may be reforming; Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has now called Iraqis to arms to resist the ISIS breakup of the country; the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, which just seized the oil city of Kirkuk that the semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government has long coveted; the “holy sites,” which Shi’a revere but that the ISIS would just as soon destroy as “idolotrous.” And yes, among the bad returning memories is the daily hectoring from John McCain about the need for U.S. troops in Iraq forever—this time, presumably, in a more explicit and highly ironic alliance with Tehran, which many of McCain’s neocon buddies would love to see reduced to radioactive ash.

The Obama administration seems to be treating the Iraq crisis as it would an adverse breakdown in the military balance in Syria, not as some sort of implicit repudiation of the U.S. decision to shut down its part of the Iraq War. That makes sense. But it will be interesting to see how U.S. public opinion reacts to any sort of return engagement with Iraq in all its complexity. The bad memories are just too recent to have faded entirely.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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