Sunday, May 27, 2007

Withdrawal from Iraq likely to begin in early 2008

After reading the article in The New York Times by Michael Gordon and Alissa Rubin entitled "Strife Foreseen in Iraq Exit, but Experts Split on Degree" it occurs to me that few people are really arguing against a start of withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in early 2008, but simply what degree of chaos will ensue as the withdrawal progresses.

Although in theory by the end of September we should have a fairly clear view of whether The Surge is working, it also seems that giving it a couple more months, tell the end of the year, is being generous to all parties, and that we're unlikely to see better results by maintaining The Surge beyond the end of the year. Either The Surge has achieved most of its goals by the end of the year, or it is unlikely to ever achieve those goals.

As the article makes clear, a lot of Iraqis who dearly want the U.S. to leave are also not in favor of U.S. troops leaving too soon or too fast.

There is now no significant geoplitical downside to letting everybody know that we will be giving The Surge until the end of the year, and then begin a negotiated withdrawal, not too soon, not too late, not too slow, and not too fast. The Iraqis themselves, including militia leaders, will collectively need to come to terms and dictate to the U.S. the pace of the withdrawal and what stages the process should go through.

It is exceedingly urgent that any U.S. withdrawal be on good terms with the will of the Iraqis. Overstaying our welcome has been a problem so far, but leaving too quickly would be a problem as well. The key thing is that the Iraqis should be comfortable that the withdrawal process. Our interest is in having "friends" in the Middle East, and it will be in our great advantage if the U.S. can be counted as having friendly relations with Iraq and the Iraqi people.

Premising withdrawal on "establishment of security" is a truly lost cause. We have already given the Iraqis more than enough time and resources to "spread their wings" and "leave the nest", but our ongoing and intense presence actually deters them from actually "taking wing" and establishing a civil order that makes sense for the realities of their society.

What we here in America need to do is stop trying to micromanage the process for the Iraqis and simply do what makes sense for our common interests and work with the Iraqis on their own terms, subject to the reality that a withdrawal of U.S. forces is inevitable and likely to begin in less than a year.

The single most fascinating thing I found about the article is that in all of this discussion of Iraq and security and stability and regional issues, there was not even a single reference to Iran. That is a very interesting... um... "oversight." The simple fact is that the administration, hawks in Congress, and the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby are extremely focused on Iran and are intensely committed to staying in Iraq to deter a spread of "influence" by Iran, so for them any talk about leaving Iraq is 100% about Iran. But, here, in this highly analytical piece, we see not even a hint of the role Iran will undoubtedly play in the future of Iraq, its closest neighbor. I wonder what the reporters originally wanted to say about Iran, and how the editorial process led to not even a passing mention of Iran.

One simple truth is that the administration will likely go along with starting a withdrawal from Iraq next year, provided that there be a significant U.S. presence in Iraq for many years to come, precisely as a deterrent to the spread of Iranian Influence.

Another simple truth is that this administration simply won't have any say about the U.S. and Iraq and Iran or anything for that matter after January 2009 when the Democrats take over the White House and the Pentagon. But, I strongly expect that there are enough "realists" In Washington even in Democratic circles who understand the value of having at least a limited U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Ultimately, I think the Iraqis probably will be content to have a limited U.S. presence, at remote "bases", as long as the cities and towns and streets and highways and infrastructure are completely under control of the Iraqis themselves.

No matter what, it now looks very likely that at least a partial withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq will be underway by this time next year, if not sooner.

And, of course, there will be some accompanying level of chaos, but that is par for this type of course.

-- Jack Krupansky


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