Monday, July 09, 2007

Is the Iraq "surge" working or not?

The jury is still out on whether the U.S. troop surge in Iraq is gaining any traction. The real issue is not whether U.S. troops can bring the level of "sectarian stife" down to zero, which I think is a non-starter, but whether the surge can buy Iraqi politicians enough time so that they can gain the confidence necessary to come to a robust and durable political compromise over the structure of Iraq as a country. That is the big question for which the only answer right now is "Maybe, maybe not."

September, when the U.S. commander must give his big report to Congress, may seem as if it is just around the corner, but two months is really a dog's age in this kind of rapidly evolving political situation, both at home and in Iraq. I don't have high expectations for what will transpire by September, but I do think that it is important to keep an open mind. When confronted with extreme positions, I find that the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

Although September will be a turning point in U.S. politics, I do believe that the surge and political maneuvering in Iraq will have until the end of the year to come to something resembling an end point. Regardless of the maneuvering in Washington, Iraq will evolve on its own through the Fall. Again, I do not have high expectations, but I don't have high confidence that the extremes will come to pass either.

In any case, I do believe that some sort of troop drawdown will commence early in 2008. It will either be because the surge worked (dramatic reduction in sectarian strife) or because all parties (Congress and Iraqi politicians) agree that it is the proper thing to do even in the face of ongoing sectarian strife.

The real bottom line is that at least the surge is getting a chance to answer the previous question of whether a surge would work. By the end of the year we will have the answer and we will have eliminated the situation of endlessly debating whether a surge would work.

The big wildcard is that the ultra-hawkish Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby are unlikely to go quietly into the night and are likely to begin a campaign to find some way to drag Iran into the picture to give the impression that maintaining a strong presence in Iraq is vital to "confronting" Iran and its so-called "nuclear ambitions." These guys are hunkered down and biding their time for the moment, but expect a full-bore "whispering" campaign against the concept of a large-scale withdrawal from Iraq to begin in earnest in September. This part of the story is a real sleeper as far as media coverage.

-- Jack Krupansky


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