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Putting Lipstick on the Pig in Iraq
Saturday, 15 September 2007 15:28
by Larry C. Johnson

So where are we headed in Iraq? The fawning over General Petraeus by the most of the politicians and the media was so sickeningly sweet that diabetics were in danger of a coma. Petraeus was relatively low key and pulled off the pretense that his remarks were crafted without the input or coordination of the White House. The earnest school boy mien of Petraeus defused MoveOn.org’s clumsy attempt at painting the General as a traitor. But the error of MoveOn does not mean that Petraeus is a reincarnation of General Douglas MacArthur, at least militarily. Many would agree that, in terms of ego, he shares common bonds with MacArthur, but in terms of his actual record the hype does not match the actual performance. Brent Budowsky’s piece published on this blog last week presents chapter and verse on Petraeus’ so-called illustrious career.But Petraeus is the side show. Where are we headed in Iraq and how do we get out? Pat Lang weighs in with the following:
After listening to the president I think that those in Congress and among the presidential candidates who oppose the Jacobin neocon view of America’s destiny in the Middle East should adopt something like the following program:
  • There should be no treaty, agreement, SOFA or any other instrument that commits the United States to the defense of Iraq. The Congress should insist on its prerogative in such matters. Agreements of that kind would preclude a complete American withdrawal from Iraq.There should be no permanent American bases of any kind in Iraq. The president’s obduracy in insisting on what can only be seen as a commitment to a permanent American presence makes the public adoption of a policy of “no bases” inevitable. Permanent bases in Iraq will mean conventional or counterinsurgency war involving the US so long as the bases are there. Congress should insist that the “surge” force be completely withdrawn on the basis that Petraeus recommended and that the March, 2008 review should produce a schedule of withdrawal that will remove all US combat forces from Iraq by the mid-term election of 2010 with the following exception.Congress and the candidates should have in mind that if there remains any relationship to an Iraqi state after 2010, that relationship may require an ongoing training commitment to the forces of that government. Such a force of trainers will inevitably have to be fed, housed, transported, provided medical support and protected. A commitment of that kind would require a continuing presence for a few years, but the end point should be fixed. For the length of its existence such a presence might well consist of 30,000 people. On the other hand, if there is no continuing relationship, than all forces should be withdrawn by November, 2010.None of this should be seen as precluding a continuing effort at counter-terrorist operations or support of friendly elements in Iraq from outside Iraq.

  • This program of withdrawal should be matched with a determined, aggressive diplomatic effort intended to reduce the “temperature” in the Middle East. (See my article “Toward a Concert of the Middle East.”
There will be those who will say that having such a program is futile because of Dick Cheney. I disagree. Without a program you have no unified goal and path.

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Pat’s approach makes the most sense, but I do not believe the Bush Administration will embrace it or implement it. Iran remains the wild card with respect to the future of Iraq. Here are the factors that will influence the future:
  • The belief that Iran is killing U.S. soldiers. There is evidence that individuals with ties to Iran are active in Iraq and have provided support for attacks on U.S. soldiers. So far there is no convincing smoking gun. But if support to insurgents/terrorists was the criteria for defining our enemies then Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would quickly eclipse Iran. (That’s assuming we were basing our decisions on facts as opposed to our own twisted national security fantasies). Once there is sufficient evidence to point an accusing finger at Iran for specific attacks then we are likely to bomb Iran. If there is no such case then the possibility of war with Iran will lessen.

  • Iran’s role in Iraq. Imagine that Mexico was embroiled in an insurgent war being waged by radical Islamists with close ties to Bin Laden. Imagine that Canada has been invaded by Iran, who is supporting a government controlled by Protestants, who are battling Catholic reactionaries. And imagine that our country, smack in the middle, is controlled by Protestants. Would we be sitting calmly by twiddling our thumbs and ignoring the chaos on our borders? Hell no! Well, welcome to Iran’s world. When it comes to Iraq the primary goal of Iran is to ensure that whatever governmental authority exists that it does not pose a threat to Iran. So far Iran appears to have focused most of its efforts on building up intelligence networks, supporting Shia clerics, training and equipping militia, and taking an occasional poke at the United States. If the United States moves to weaken the control of Shia sympathetic to Iran then Iran will move to protect its interests. If the United State attacks Iran, Iran will defend itself using every resource at its disposal. And it is on this count that they can deliver some serious blows to the U.S. military and the U.S. economy.

  • The perception that the U.S. is siding with the Sunnis raises suspicions with Iran. All of the political spin in the United States about the so-called success in Al Anbar feeds distrust of U.S. intentions among the Shia and the Persians. Ignore the reality that the U.S. surge had absolutely nothing to do with the retaliation of Sunni tribes against Islamic extremists identified as Al Qaeda. Our claim that we are backing this effort is being interpreted by many Shia officials as a new double cross. Remember, they have not forgotten the call to arms issued by George Hebert Walker Bush in 1991 and our subsequent failure to back the Shia uprising when it came. We let Saddam slaughter their relatives. New entreaties to the old Sunni crowd, whether perceived or real, at a minimum will awaken distrust. It also could lead to something worse.

  • U.S. military disengagement. If the United States continues the current level of military action; including attacks on suspected insurgent strongholds, the insurgency will continue to grow and evolve. This year alone we have reportedly locked up over 60,000 suspected insurgents. Most of those individuals will probably be released in the next year simply because we do not have enough prisons to hold them and stay out of trouble with the Red Crescent/Red Cross. When they return to their hometowns most will be keen on seeking revenge against the “Crusader”. Alternatively the U.S. could decide to turn over most of these operations to Iraqi forces. That means most of the violence will be sectarian (85%of the police are Shia) but at least the United States will not be in the public eye leading the charge. If we are we will get the blame. If we are out of sight we are in a position to start disengaging.
Despite dire predictions that a U.S. withdrawal will lead to chaos in Iraq (and the current situation is what?), the withdrawal of foreign forces from key regions in Iraq will actually produce more stability. The locals will take on the task of protecting themselves. They will look to outside forces for assistance (e.g., weapons, training, money, etc). But a new equilibrium is likely to take hold.

In fact, the imposition of this kind of order in ethnically cleansed areas in Iraq will be perceived as further evidence that the Bush plan is working miracles. Do not be surprised if by spring, as Pat pointed out above, we will be looking at significant withdrawals of U.S. forces because “peace” is breaking out. Of course, this assumes we don’t do something stupid in Iran.
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