Iraq: Don’t cut and run but change course

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Iraq is much too important to Western interests to be abandoned. The US and its allies – and far too few countries consider themselves to be US allies with shared interests – must not give in to calls to weaken its presence in Iraq. The Baker Commission’s recommendations are playing to US public opinion which longs for a change of course in Iraq and a soon withdrawal of US troops. However, the Commission does not offer reasonable solutions to address the current Iraqi quagmire without abandoning vital interests.

Transferring security tasks to Iraqi forces and withdrawing combat brigades to camps within Iraq or outside is highly illusive and will not work. It is highly unlikely that Iraqi military and police forces will be able to quell both terrorist cells, Sunni insurgency and sectarian strife and killings. The Iraqi forces are infiltrated by sectarian militias and do not reflect Iraqi interests but those of ethnic and religious tribes. Furthermore, the Iraqi military is under-equipped, under-funded and not sufficiently trained. In addition, the Maliki-Government is both unwilling and unable to strengthen its grip on the military and demobilise the sectarian militias.

The second main suggestion by the Baker Commission – to start talks with Syria and Iran about the stabilisation of Iraq – is futile as well. Both Syria and Iran will demand US returns for their help. These appeasement offers could be accepting Syria’s continued influence in Lebanon, pressing for negotiations between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights and starting negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme without any preconditions.

Furthermore, why should these rogue regimes help the US out of its current quagmire now that the US is utterly weak and dependent on outside support and assistance? The argument, that neither of the two is interested in the dismemberment of Iraq is true but not yet a factor pressing Iran and Syria to assist the US or the Iraqi government. As of today, they stand to gain more from prolonging the current state of affairs in Iraq. But even if these two countries would agree to help the US in stabilising Iraq it is far from certain that they would be able to deliver.

Strong US leadership should reject both ‘cut and run’ suggestions and ‘graceful exit’ recommendations. The US and its allies stand to lose strongly by the dismemberment of Iraq as this would invite or press neighbouring countries to intervene. An indirect, let alone a direct, confrontation in Iraq between Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran to get control of parts of Iraq is a scenario much too dangerous to western interests.

Europe needs to understand that the US must not lose in Iraq in order to forestall disastrous consequences for western interests. European allies – except for the UK – however lack courage, leadership and resoluteness to commit military forces and financial support for the stabilisation of Iraq. It is highly important to bolster western military presence in Iraq. This can not be done by the US military alone. US need European troops to help. If Europe does not respond it fails to understand its own vital interests.

Furthermore, it is futile to set strict and public benchmarks for the Maliki government. It is highly necessary to push Maliki to do a better job as Iraq’s leader, but not in public. It is, in addition, illusionary however, to expect the current Iraqi government to deliver results in due time and meet western expectations. It is far too weak for meeting these expectations.

Iraq needs more Western troops and increased financial commitments to rebuild the country. The true danger is, that the US is following the European lack of responsibility and opts for an allegedly graceful exit which is nothing more than the abandonment of vital security interests, the wrecking of western credibility and a major defeat in the military struggle against terrorism.

4 thoughts on “Iraq: Don’t cut and run but change course”

  1. I bow to your wisdom, Dr. Mangott, although with a heavy heart. Our hope rests with the appointment of the new defense secretary, Mr. Robert Gates.
    His bipartisan approval in Congress bids well for the leadership and the new course you have alluded to.
    Furthermore, I also hope that Europe will join the US allies in a substantive way and bring about a positive change in Iraq.

  2. I do hope that it will be possible to prevent Iraq from further going down the road of civil war based upon religion and ethnicity. Boosting US and allied military presence can make a difference however only, if the Iraqi government does not take increased military support as an excuse for further inaction by itself.

    Furthermore I do agree with General Abizaid that military action alone will not suffice to deal with the Iraqi crisis. We do need a comprehensive approach by allied countries which is political, economic, diplomatic and military.

    I do however truly believe that lack of European support for this task is deplorable.

  3. Could you please address the subject of Islam as it is an integral part of the difficulties to overcome in Iraq.
    I understand that the chism of Islam between Sunni and Shia is a paramount struggle. As I found out, the point of contention between these two brands of Islam is the line of succession. The Shia proclaim that the angel Gibriel had made a mistake and appointed the prophet Mohammed erroneously as such. They believe that it should have been Ali, the cousin who was 50 years junior 
    to the prophet Mohammed, who should have guided the faith. This represents a chism of approximately 1300 years in the making. Since Sunnis and Shia are the predominant forms of Islam, how could their warfare be abated?
    What do you predict to be the future of Islam in its intransigent nature?
    Furthermore, how can tribal perspective be replaced with a utilitarian approach toward society?

  4. I hesitate to comment on the Islamic schism between the Sunni and the Shia communities. I am no expert on that topic. However, it has to be stated that the clashes between the two camps in Iraq is both a civil war and a proxy war between Sunni and Shia states in the region, primarily between Saudia Arabia and Iran. This latent conflict between the two camps could well turn into an open inter-state war if the allied troops were to withdraw too soon.

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