(CNSNews.com) - Several experts on Middle East politics say the terrorist advance in Iraq is extremely troubling -- another major U.S. foreign policy failure.
“We need to be very concerned about the situation in Iraq,” said former CIA intelligence analyst Kenneth Pollack, who is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
“Worst-case scenario is that there'll be a horrific civil war, it will have an effect on the global economy and could cause a very significant recession in the developed world. It will spawn new terrorist groups and it will destabilize the region. This is a very serious situation,” Pollack told Australia's public television network Thursday.
The al-Qaida-linked Sunni Islamists who stormed Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul on Tuesday have now taken control of Tikrit and they are moving on to Baghdad, the seat of Iraq's Shiite government.
“They pushed with really rapid momentum all the way down to the outskirts of Baghdad and we've seen the Iraqi security forces almost literally melt away in front of them," Pollack said.
“This is a very disconcerting situation.” Pollack described Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, as “a really nasty group.”
“They are as radical, if not more so, than the rest of al-Qaida. It is likely that what we are seeing is the beginning of a new civil war in Iraq, and while that is probably not likely to lead to a rapid takeover by al Qaeda, the fighting there could have a very serious impact not only on Iraq's stability but on the stability of the rest of the region and on the global supply of oil.”
Although he's been warning of such a scenario for years, Pollack said he's surprised by the speed with which ISIL has seized control of two Iraqi cities.
“Clearly they have been secretly husbanding and building up their strength in a way that escaped any of the Western intelligence services or even the Arab intelligence services. I think that both the strength that ISIL has shown and the weakness demonstrated by the Iraqi security forces have both been very surprising.”
Asked how President Obama should respond to this latest foreign policy crisis, Pollack said the U.S. “needs to step up and recognize that Iraq is too important to American interests, to western interests, quite frankly to the entire global economy, to simply allow it to drift the way that the Obama administration has.
"It's very late in the day. Saving Iraq is going to be extremely difficult; and what we need to recognize is that the kind of incremental half-steps that this administration has typically (been) favoring throughout the Middle East just aren't going to cut it. It is going to require some very dramatic steps.”
Those steps include some level of military action, Pollack said. He mentioned unmanned air strikes and – if Iraq’s Shiite government allows it – he recommends sending “several thousand advisers into Iraq” to “rebuild the Iraqi military” that has been “politicized” by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
U.S. rebuilding would reassure the Iraqi people that the Iraqi security service is “not just a militia in the service of the prime minister, which unfortunately is what it's really become,” Pollack said.
According to Pollack, “President Obama has steadfastly insisted that the United States doesn't need to deal with the problems of the Middle East. I think that it was always a mistaken bet, and I think we are now seeing, as we say, those chickens come home to roost. I hope that he is willing to reverse course, but quite frankly I've not seen any indication that he is ready to do that.”
(A White House spokesman on Wednesday said, "The situation in Iraq is grave, and we're actively working with Iraqi leaders in support of their efforts to implement an effective and coordinated response to address this crisis. We'll continue to provide all appropriate assistance to the government of Iraq, to assist it in our common fight against the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq in the region.")
Buck Sexton, a former CIA officer who worked in Iraq, described what’s happening there as a “nightmare scenario.”
“This is as bad as anybody could have thought it would get after the decision was made by this administration to completely evacuate all real and military presence out of the country,” Sexton told Fox News's "The Kelly File” Wednesday night.
"The war does not end for the global Jihadist. It has not ended in Afghanistan and as we see, it has not ended in Iraq, either.”
Sexton noted that the Iraqi security forces have dropped their weapons and run. “You can imagine the psychological damage that does to all the civilians around them who were expecting to be protected by them."
The terrorists are well-financed and they are moving in convoys of 60 vehicles down Iraq’s major highways, Sexton said.
“This is essentially an al-Qaeda invasion force, and they are many steps down the road towards taking over the entire northern, western half of this country.”
'One of the single greatest failures in American foreign policy'
Pete Hegseth, the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, says what's happening in Iraq -- where he fought -- is makes him sick: “You watch the coverage of this and you're resigned to the reality that we're watching one of the single greatest failures in American foreign policy unfold before our eyes.”
Americans need to wake up, he told Fox News's Megyn Kelly Wednesday night: "They need to wake up to the reality that, as Buck said, these wars just don't end. The problem is, everyone's war-weary... Iraq, whether you think it was the right idea or not...the reality is right now, because of decisions that have been made for a long time, al- Qaeda is on the march to take over huge swaths of land that they will control…”
ISIL aims to choke off Baghdad, and prevent Iraq's security forces from regrouping, Hegseth said. "They have a strategic intent ... which is to maintain a caliphate from which to operate, plan, train and export jihad, which is exactly why Buck and I and so many of this generation were deployed."