Question: What will it take to extract our forces from Iraq with honor?
Answer: Forget about the honor. In order to leave Iraq militarily we must stop incorporating it into the so-called war on terror. We fought a war in Iraq and it ended gloriously with the fall of Baghdad, the deaths of the despicable Uday and Quesay and the eventual capture of papa Saddam. What has happened afterward has been a failed pacification effort.
In order to get out of Iraq we will have to be asked to do so by their elected government. From the latest internal polls that should not be too hard politically to accomplish. At that point we shall begin the withdrawal and try to get Iran to agree not to exploit our departure by further radicalizing the existing Shia militias.
This is all obvious to James Baker and Lee Hamilton and their “independent study group.” The fact is that there hasn’t been much need for study in the first place. It’s all been clear from the start and the classified analysis had already been done by several reputable think tanks many months ago.
Tehran is waiting for us to make an offer, an offer that will get us off their nuclear backs. We, in turn, are trying to get them to help us extricate ourselves from an Iraq to which we feel a responsibility (but wish we didn’t) at the least possible political cost.
All this is more appropriate for a psychiatrist’s couch than it is for an international political/military forum. There is no cheap way for us to “bug out” of Iraq. The Republican leadership knows this. The Democrat leadership knows this. And one hopes the White House has come to realize this.
The price we are paying now — beyond the deaths and maiming of our magnificent men and women in military service — is loss of leverage on Iran at a time when a maximum effort has to be made to coerce and cajole Tehran out of their rush toward nuclear weapon development.
The Iranians know we need their help and also know that this gives them the upper hand in negotiations on their nuclear plans. We will not be able to obtain Iran’s help in our problems with Iraq without granting Tehran’s objective of becoming the first Persian Gulf nuclear super power.
Therefore the real question facing the Bush Administration, the new Democrat majority in both legislative houses, and the Iraq study group is whether the United States is willing to step away from its effort to corral Tehran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons. Are we willing to make that trade off? Does getting out of Iraq mean that much to us?
That will be the price unless Iran loses its Russian and Chinese patrons. James Baker’s group is asking that question right now. What do we have to give to Moscow and Beijing to get them to abandon their protection of Tehran’s political and military desires as embodied in the Iranian nuclear weapon development?
If an acceptable answer can be agreed upon, Iran will lose it’s current leverage over the United States in the Iraq matter and a new Middle East chapter may be begun. At the same time, however, it must be realized that the Sunni political and tribal leadership in Iraq has no intention of putting down their arms to join hands with their Shia brothers. Iran’s possible political assistance in Iraq stops at the western borders of Baghdad in al-Anbar Province.
A deal must be evolved guaranteeing the Sunni portion of that country its share of the oil revenue. That’s where the wealth of their Sunni brothers in Saudi Arabia may come into play as financial guarantors. Certainly that’s a play right into Jim Baker’s and George Bush’s Texas strength.
Each step along the way toward the United States getting its troops out of Iraq is balanced on another action that is impacted. But there’s nothing new in that either. It’s what good old Henry Kissinger would refer to as Realpolitik. The real question is whether the current Washington generation is tough enough and smart enough to play in that arena.
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