When demonstrators took to the streets in the aftermath of the arrest of the Iraqi finance minister's bodyguards in December 2012, they were carrying Ba'athist flags. Some were even waving al-Qaeda flags. And then in January 2013 Saddam Hussein's former deputy and surviving ranking member of the Ba'ath, Izzat Ibrahim al Douri, made an appearance on television, supporting the demonstrators.
Meanwhile, across the border in Syria, the al-Qaeda franchises Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham are growing in strength. Iraqis see the evidence for this on YouTube every day. The resurgence of the Ba'ath party and the resurgence of al-Qaeda, for Iraq’s Shia politicians, is all of their nightmares at once.
Perhaps his longevity can be explained by a relationship to the US of some kind (double agent) or perhaps it's due to something he knows that could be harmful. Whatever the answer seems destined for future history books.
Meanwhile in America people have forgotten Iraq--for good reason--but this surge in chaos could conceivably become a ticklish political problem for Obama due to his much-trumpeted departure and even more visibly, the optics of America siding with AQ in Iraq over Syria while the president opens rhetorical cans of whoop-ass on AQ franchises everywhere else around the globe (except Benghazi).
President al-Maliki has been in Washington this week pressing the flesh and urging a break in the bottleneck of military hardware his country has ordered that was designed to help fight terrorism. He met with the president today, something described by both sides as discussing a long-term security relationship, so here's Jay Carney tap dancing around the obvious questions...
Short version, Iraq was a dumb war and we ain't going back, even if AQ attacks America from Iraq, at least as long as Obama is president. It's Iraq's job to fight our war on terrorism against AQ in Iraq and besides, we are busy using our resources chasing people like Joseph Kony.
Of course this construct won't last forever. Should Team Billary get elected in 2016 would they have the same qualms about sending special operators if necessary? After all, neither have firmly apologized for their tough stance on Iraq over the years. How are they going to combat the criticism about her vote, especially if the country itself is still in chaos? Will Hil finally apologize and blame Bush, which still leaves her vulnerable for siding with Bush, or will she or Bill authorize somebody in the know to leak something about Saddam's past actions that makes her vote look much better in retrospect, which would also rescue Bush's long term legacy? Should be interesting.