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The Five Iraqs
Posted on Dec 30, 2007
By Scott Ritter
The fourth Iraq is the Iraq of the Sunni. The first three years of the American occupation were dominated by violence emanating from the Sunni heartland as those elements loyal to Saddam, and those opposed to Shiite domination, worked together to make the American occupation, and any affiliated post-Saddam government derived from the occupation, a failure. To this extent, elements of the Sunni of Iraq, drawn primarily from the intelligence services of the Hussein regime, facilitated the creation and operation of al-Qaida in Iraq. The work of this Iraqi al-Qaida has been successful in destabilizing the country to the point that the United States has been compelled to fund, equip and train Sunni militias in an effort to confront al-Qaida, as well as to make up for the real shortfalls of the central Iraqi government when it comes to security and stability in the Sunni areas. The newfound relationship between the Sunni and the United States, especially in Anbar province, is cited as a major factor in the success of the surge.
The fifth Iraq is that of the Kurds. Long hailed as a poster child of stability and prosperity, the fundamental problems inherent in post-Saddam Kurdistan are coming to a head. The inherent incompatibility between the “sanctuary” created by the United States through the northern “no-fly zone” and post-Saddam Iraq is more evident today than ever. The Kurds, pleased with their status as a “special case” in the eyes of the Bush administration, have made no honest effort to assimilate into a centralized system of government. Furthermore, the false dream of an independent Kurdish homeland has not only poisoned relations with the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad (witness the conflict over oil deals in Kurdistan and the Iraqi national oil law), but also between the U.S. and its NATO ally, Turkey. The Iraqi Kurds’ ongoing support of Kurdish nationalist groups in Turkey and Iran has led to increased instability, the most current manifestation of which are the ongoing cross-border attacks into Iraqi territory by the Turkish military. And, given the high level of emotion attached to matters pertaining to Kurdish nationalism, the likelihood of the situation de-escalating anytime soon is remote.
Five Iraqs, and one Iraq policy ill-suited to the reality of any single situation, yet alone the whole. The success of the surge is pure fantasy, a fancy bit of illusion that would do David Copperfield proud, but not the people of Iraq or the United States. The surge addresses events in Iraq based upon short-term objectives (i.e., reducing the immediate level of violence) without resolving any of the deep-seated, long-term issues that promote the violence to begin with. It is like placing a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound. The pink, frothy blood may not be visible on the surface, but the wound remains as grave as ever, and because it is not being directly attended to, it only gets worse. Eventually the lungs will collapse and the body will die. This is the reality of Iraq today. Thanks to the surge, we do not see the horrific wound that is Iraq for what it truly is. As such, our policies do nothing to cure the problem, and in doing nothing, only make the matter worse.
History will show that this period of relative “calm” we attribute to the surge is but the pause before the storm. Hillary Clinton is correct to label the surge a failed strategy. But her motivation for doing so rests more with her desire to position herself politically on the domestic front than it is a reflection of a thoughtful Iraq policy. So long as American politicians, regardless of political affiliation, seek to solve the problem of Iraq from a domestic political perspective, then the problem that is Iraq will never be resolved, either “quickly” or “responsibly.” Iraq is an unpopular war. There are, therefore, no “popular” solutions, only realistic ones.
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The five-dimensional problem embodied in post-Saddam Iraq cannot be bundled up into a neat package. America, and its leaders, must do the right thing in Iraq, not for Iraq, but for America, even when doing so requires making some tough decisions. Narrow the problem set from five dimensions to two, and the problem becomes more manageable. For my money, I choose working with the Sunnis and al-Sadr to create a viable coalition, and then cutting a deal with Iran that trades off better relations in exchange for encouraging the current failed Iraqi government to step aside in favor of new elections. And the Kurds? Autonomy or nothing.
My loyalty is first and foremost to the United States, and when we look at the situation in Iraq from a genuine national security perspective, there is no threat worthy of the continued sacrifice being asked of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. As such, the only policy option worthy of consideration is that which brings our troops home as expeditiously as possible. Politicians who embrace a different policy are simply using the sacrifice of our service members as a shield behind which to hide their ignorance of Iraqi issues, and their personal cowardice, which manifests itself any time brave young men and women are allowed to die in order to preserve someone’s political viability.
As we in the United States celebrate this holiday season, let us not forget those who serve overseas in uniform, and the sacrifices they make in our name. And as we approach the coming election season, let us never forget those politicians who would have these sacrifices continue in order to safeguard their individual political fortune. This applies to all who seek the nomination for the office of the presidency, even those like Hillary Clinton who claim to embrace an anti-war position but whose words and actions strongly suggest something else.
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