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The Surge Is On In Iraq

Syria and Iran, much as the administration dislikes to face up to, hold the keys to the problems and solutions of Iraq's dilemma. Or in any case, they hold enough sway over the parties concerned to matter. Failing that, the violence in Iraq is only likely to continue, gathering momentum -- and innocent lives -- until it reaches the breaking point, all-out civil war and the dismemberment of Iraq, a situation which will bring with it a whole new set of problems to the conflict. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 06, 2007
In response to President George W. Bush's surge of additional U.S. troops to help secure the Iraqi capital, insurgents have responded with a surge of unprecedented violence. Over this past weekend close to 200 people were killed in sectarian-driven violence, most of it centered around the capital, Baghdad. The deadliest attack occurred Saturday, when at least 130 people were killed by a suicide bomber in central Baghdad who blew up his explosive-packed truck in a crowded market in a Shiite neighborhood.

And Monday, as U.S. and Iraqi forces readied to launch a massive crackdown in Baghdad, at least another 30 people died in sectarian violence.

Hoping to quell the sectarian killings -- at least in Baghdad -- President Bush introduced his new strategy on Iraq Jan. 10, when he said the United States would dispatch 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

It is of course too early to tell if the American president's new plan will work or not, but many observers are calling Bush's surge a last ditch effort to try and salvage something from what has turned out to be a disastrous misadventure.

If the past four years of conflict in Iraq offer any insight into what the future may hold, it should be clear that the only solution to the crisis lies in a political settlement. Sheer military force alone is unlikely to bring about an end to hostilities. In fact, as was demonstrated this past weekend, it may only accentuate the violence.

Another important point to remember is that in fighting a guerrilla war it is not necessarily the numbers that will help achieve final victory. Faced with overwhelming firepower the insurgents may chose to go underground for a while, possibly even for an extended period of time and to play the waiting game; to wait until U.S. forces leave the area before resurfacing.

Which is why a negotiated settlement is by far more favorable -- and achievable -- than a military solution. Bringing all warring factions to the negotiating table, along with the parties influencing the principal stakeholders, may be the only salvation, the only hope, for a peaceful way out of the current morass.

That, of course, would mean establishing lines of communication with Damascus and Tehran, something the Bush administration has so far been reluctant to do.

Syria and Iran, much as the administration dislikes to face up to, hold the keys to the problems and solutions of Iraq's dilemma. Or in any case, they hold enough sway over the parties concerned to matter.

Failing that, the violence in Iraq is only likely to continue, gathering momentum -- and innocent lives -- until it reaches the breaking point, all-out civil war and the dismemberment of Iraq, a situation which will bring with it a whole new set of problems to the conflict.

Consider that a divided Iraq would mean three unsustainable entities, unable to survive as independent states, falling either willingly or by default under the tutelage of a more powerful neighbor.

The southern third of the country, the oil-rich area dominated by the Shiites, would find itself overpowered by their co-religionists in Iran, who already command and control either directly or by proxy much of "Shiitistan." The vast majority of Iraq's Shiite clergy have established close ties to Iran where they spent decades in exile during the years when Saddam Hussein was in power. Those mullahs are now in positions of power in Iraq.

The center, controlled by the Sunnis, will fight the most for unity seeing that cut-off from the north and south it becomes a land-locked, oil-less emirate where its only export is likely to be Islamist extremism.

The northern third of the country, also rich in oil, is controlled by the Kurds, who for all intents and purposes already enjoy autonomy from Baghdad. But just across the border on the Turkey side, Ankara is keeping a very vigil eye on what transpires in the Iraqi Kurdish region. Turkey is unlikely to accept the official independence of a Kurdistan on its doorstep lest it should revive similar inklings among the Kurdish population living in Turkey. For that, Turkey would be willing to go to war, if need be.

The recently publicized National Intelligence Estimate -- or NIE, as they are more commonly referred to -- predicts a possible Turkish military incursion into Iraq, despite what Turkish journalist Tulin Daloglu says, that "Turkey is trying desperately not to be pulled into the war."

The NIE, a joint report filed by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, makes it clear that Iraqi security forces are incapable of providing security. The report also stipulates that in the event of an American withdrawal, the "Iraqi Security Force would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution."

"Therefore," writes Daloglu, "transferring security responsibility to the Iraqis means more terrorist attacks for Turkey."

Daloglu goes on to quote John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who recently stated that "there may well come a day when Iraq divides along sectarian lines and that may not necessarily be a disastrous outcome."

That may be about as much an understatement as Bush declaring major combat operations over a mere three weeks into the war.

(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)

Source: United Press International

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