Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Coming War in Iraq

As “the surge” of U.S. troops into Iraq shows no sign of effecting change, a new military strategy is becoming apparent. US troops are cooperating with Sunni militias against al Qaeda. This according to a Washington Post article (Partow, J.: U.S. Strategy on Sunnis Questioned. WP, 6/18/07). Both Kurdish and Shiite leaders are skeptical, hostile, and no doubt fearful about the strategy, especially the Shiite-led central government.

U.S. officials say that “…as long as the Sunni groups are watched closely and kept from mistreating people, the intelligence they provide about al-Qaeda in Iraq makes them valuable partners.”

Could the U.S. commanders really be this naïve? Are they just doing something for the sake of doing something? It seems pretty obvious to everyone (except possibly the military and the White House) that:

1. U.S. troops are going to start coming home soon, probably no later than January 21, 2009. Not all will come back, but the drawdown will begin.

2. It is only the U.S. that keeps the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds from each other’s throats, and we are doing an increasingly poor job of that.

3. The moment U.S. troops are out of there (or mostly out), there will be a full scale civil war, mostly between Sunnis and Shiites. Kurds will be content to establish and protect “Kurdistan.”

4. The Sunnis fully expect Iran to step in with weapons and money, if not with troops, helping them overwhelm the current Shiite dominated government, restoring Sunni rule as it was in the days of Saddam. This is the most likely outcome.

So why on earth would the U.S. be supporting Sunnis with training, weapons and money? An apparent reason is that they are trying to force the Shiite government to reconcile with the Sunnis. This U.S. Sunni partnership is ostensibly executed through the central government’s ministry of interior, but that is just a fig leaf. The central government is openly hostile to the strategy. Reconciliation is an American pipe dream.

Could the U.S. really believe that the main problem in Iraq is al Qaeda? Don’t they see the coming civil war makes al Qaeda irrelevant in Iraq?

When the the civil war has started in earnest, will we be tempted to engage a proxy war against Iran as we back the Shiite central government just as we backed the puppet South Vietnamese government some thirty years ago? If so, the Russians will side with Iran and it will be the cold war all over again. We can only hope it stays cold.

How blind, how stupid, can U.S. policy be? Why can’t we just let go of this invasion that served no purpose in the first place? Why not get out quickly and let Iran have its way in Iraq. Why would that be so bad? Loss of face? Faces can be repainted!

Or we can partition the country now, in a modified Biden plan, granting authority to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to administer the three factions. Let them fight the surrogate war, or stifle it, as they see fit.

Sure, there is risk of broader war, ultimately threatening our dear pals, the Saudis. We can respond to that if we are asked, and if we are not too busy in Afghanistan.

That’s probably the least awful way to extract from a miserable quagmire. Unfortunately, the current administration is so totally blind and arrogant that they probably will make the situation far worse than it is now, closing off even that exit strategy.

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