Dick Cheney: Again in the Saddle as Iraqi Crisis Escalates?

Former vice-president of the United States Richard Cheney, the main architect of the British-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, is meeting the Republican congressmen on the issue of Iraq. Cheney is trying to make political capital on the plight of Iraq again, as the country is invaded by Islamist terrorist from the organization Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, or ISIS. Will people forget that ISIS started its operations in Syria, fighting the Syrian president Assad with full support of leaders of the EU and the United States, including Mr. Cheney?

Studio guest Vladimir Kozin, Adviser to the Director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Andrei Baklitsky, the Director for information projects at the Moscow-based PIR-Center, shared their opinions with Radio VR.

Do you think that a political comeback for Richard Cheney is possible now?

Vladimir Kozin: No, I don’t think so, because of his age, because all the vacancies are filled in and, probably, other figures will appear after the next presidential election in the US.

He looks like the most outspoken critic of Mr. Obama on the hawkish side. Don’t you find it strange that after so many wars, there are still people in the US who say that we didn’t bomb too much, we bombed too little and we left too early?

Vladimir Kozin: Well, sometimes, when any person steps down from his or her official position, they become either hawkish or dovish, because they are free of bureaucracy constraints and staying disciplined.

Would you say that Dick Cheney may be making a political capital on the plight of Iraq and you actually see any future for him?

Andrei Baklitsky: I really believe that the foreign policy is not the biggest issue in the American politics and, definitely, not the one that you can really build the political capital at the moment. Going to the midterms this fall, we will be hearing more talks about the immigration issues, economic recovery. There will definitely be some talks about the foreign policy, but still, it will not be the major issue.

There is a clear support for the bigger American stance in the world, that American should continue being strong and one of the leaders. But, at the same time, the US citizens are not really willing to compromise their security or invest heavily in the spending for foreign actions.

Obama said yesterday that the US would bomb the IS not only on the territory of Iraq, but also on the territory of Syria. And this stirs a lot of debate in the US. Do you think that Mr. Obama is risking a lot intervening into the countries which are both in the state of a civil war?

Andrei Baklitsky: Talking about the limited airstrikes, I don’t see any big problem for Obama. They will be spending some extra money, but, frankly speaking, they also operate such campaigns in Pakistan, from time to time in Yemen. So, he is not losing a lot. And the border between Syria and Iraq at the moment is a little bit fuzzy. With this IS in place you can’t really tell where Iraq and Syria starts at the moment. And he wouldn’t see great problems from the countries themselves, though Syria would not definitely be happy. But as today Barack Obama is attacking the IS – the enemies of Bashar Assad – probably the response would be mild.

Do you think that this issue could become a new point of tensions between Moscow and Washington?

Andrei Baklitsky: Definitely, as I said previously, the Moscow’s stand is that every country should have its sovereign right over its territory. And the attacks on the Syrian soil by the US are seen as the violation of this. But there is a consensus in the world that the IS is an enemy, and it is an enemy of pretty much all of the major powers. So, I wouldn’t say that this is going to be a major problem, unless the US will try to target some bases or the military of the Syrian regime, which it will probably not be doing.

What about the responsibility? I think the case of Mr. Cheney’s almost triumphal come back to Congress shows that there is an almost complete impunity. You may make mistakes but you will never be brought to justice.

Vladimir Kozin: Certainly, we are always responsible for our mistakes. But in this particular case, in terms of Syria, I'm very much concerned, if bombing will actually take place, because there is no specific UN Security Council resolution to this effect.

Andrei Baklitsky: Definitely, for the moment, the majority of the US elite probably believe that the Iraq operation was a mistake in the first place. Talking about the Republicans, especially in the Congress, I guess a lot of them really believe that, yes, that was a good thing to do and the hawkish part of the Republicans will be supporting Dick Cheney. But, frankly speaking, I don’t think that Dick Cheney will play any major role in shaping the American foreign policy.

You’ve mentioned that there is no resolution for these air strikes. But the IS is known for their brutality. What else could Obama do?

Vladimir Kozin: Any bombing and any air raids, and using missiles, and bombs, and rockets against certain territories will have side-effects, collateral damage. It is unavoidable. So, I specifically would like to stress that the UN Security Council relevant resolution is badly needed for such an air strike. But I very much doubt that such a consensus will be reached at the UN.

Could there be a consensus at the UN Security Council?

Andrei Baklitsky: Talking about Iraq, I believe there might be a consensus, because the Iraq Government will be willing to accept such sort of help. And some sort of coalition between, say, the US and Russia and, maybe, even Iran is possible, because all of them are having pretty much the same interest – to stop the IS, to return control to Baghdad.

Talking about expanding it to Syria, we are getting in the field where these powers have so different visions and interests, that there is no possible way that could happen.

Cheney accused President Obama of lacking the will and courage opposing the IS. But he said this the day before Obama delivered his speech authorizing new strikes. Do you think that this Obama’s step changed Cheney’s opinion?

Andrei Baklitsky: I don’t think so. The Republicans generally don’t like Mr. Obama’s foreign policy and he’d probably say that limited airstrikes would be not enough and you would to have some sort of physical presence. But Obama has a very little room for maneuver, because he promised that there will be no boots on the ground. So, pretty much what he could is to launch airstrikes, which he already previously did in Iraq.