Seven years and 4379 American casualties
after the American invasion of Iraq, our withdrawal might finally be
around the corner. President Bush, and later President Obama, pegged
the removal of American troops to the Iraq parliamentary election that,
after several postponements, is scheduled for March 7. But could the
difficult political and security situation in Iraq scuttle plans for
withdrawal? A major Sunni political party is boycotting
the election--a disturbing echo of similar boycotts in 2005. General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in the country, suggested
that the U.S. may be forced to stay if violence or political chaos follows the election. Defense Secretary Robert Gates quickly noted
that only very serious security deterioration would alter U.S. plans.
But the Iraq-watchers, ever wary of the country's fragile politics,
are worried that the U.S. may not be able to meet its withdrawal goals.
- Why We Have To Stay In The New York Times, Iraq expert Thomas Ricks suggests
that Obama keeping troops in Iraq "probably is the best course for him,
and for Iraqi leaders, to pursue." Why? "For good or ill, this is
likely the year we will begin to see the broad outlines of
post-occupation Iraq. The early signs are not good ... The political
situation is far less certain, and I think less stable, than most
Americans believe." Ricks warns against "trying to pass responsibility
to Iraqi officials and institutions before they are ready for the
task." He argues the U.S. must keep between 30,000 and 50,000 troops in
Iraq "for many years to come" to avert a return to total civil war.
- How Iraq Could Go Wrong The New York Times' Thomas Friedman explains,
"The two scenarios you don’t want to see are: 1) Iraq’s tribal culture
triumphing over politics and the country becoming a big Somalia with
oil; or 2) as America fades away, Iraq’s Shiite government aligning
itself more with Iran, and Iran becoming the kingmaker in Iraq the way
Syria has made itself in Lebanon." Whatever American involvement is, it
should prevent those two scenarios.
- Iraq Matters Too Much To Leave Yet Foreign Policy's Peter Feaver cautions,
"The desire of the political community to put Iraq in the rear-view
mirror is understandable, but misguided. The national security
challenges that are receiving front-burner attention -- especially
Afghanistan and Iran -- are integrally linked to the policy trajectory
in Iraq. Since the fateful surge decision, the Iraq policy trajectory
has been far more positive than anyone, academics or practitioners,
thought likely. But the progress remains reversible and if Iraq
unravels, then all of the other national security problems will get
that much more difficult to address."
- Iraq Will Become New Lebanon The Atlantic's Brian Till foresees
a situation similar to Lebanon, "a brokered democracy that, while
subject to the occasional violent skirmish, somewhat frequent political
assassinations, and a fractious government continuously dissolving and
forming again from the ashes, somehow nobly endures." Till says
Americans should realistically pursue a Lebanon-style Iraqi
government and then get out.
- Dissenting View: Iraq Doing Better Than You Think NYU professor Nir Rosen writes
in Foreign Policy, "the militias are finished, the Awakening
Groups/SOIs are finished, so violence is limited to assassinations with
silencers and sticky bombs and the occasional spectacular terrorist
attack -- all manageable and not strategically important, even if
tragic. Politicians might be talking the sectarian talk but Iraqis have
grown very cynical." He states that "the sectarian phase is over" and
with it the foreseeable possibility of sectarian conflict.
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