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Time To Leave Iraq
Politicians of all persuasions insist that for U.S. forces to simply leave Iraq and turn it over to the Arabs who live there would be a disaster for all kinds of reasons -- terrorism, regional instability and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Disengaging from Iraq, the argument goes, could lead to a replay of an August 1914-style slide into regional war. Photo courtesy AFP
Politicians of all persuasions insist that for U.S. forces to simply leave Iraq and turn it over to the Arabs who live there would be a disaster for all kinds of reasons -- terrorism, regional instability and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Disengaging from Iraq, the argument goes, could lead to a replay of an August 1914-style slide into regional war. Photo courtesy AFP
by Douglas A. Macgregor
UPI Outside View Commentator
Washington (UPI) Dec 06, 2006
More than two thousand years ago, a Spartan king resisted pressure to go to war saying, "I am less afraid of the enemy's strategy than I am of the mistakes we will make." Today, no one in the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group would question the Spartan King's wisdom. It is painfully obvious that in Iraq, American power defeated itself.

The notion that a Muslim Arab country with no middle class or a culture that supports the rule of law could be transformed by Westerners in short order into anything resembling an Anglo-Saxon Democracy was fundamentally flawed. But applying the "if we break it, we fix it" paradigm to Iraq, occupying and governing it directly with thousands of conventional U.S. combat troops under generals whose only strategy was brute force was even more disastrous. No nation wants foreign troops to police their country and Muslim Arabs loathe occupying Christian armies, especially brutal ones.

Any Arab, Sunni or Shiite, rebelling against such an occupation would always be able to cloak himself in nationalism, patriotism, and traditional religious values -- even if they were no better than criminals. And this is precisely what happened in Arab Iraq.

But this problem shrinks to insignificance next to the strategic blunder of defaulting to "the Shiite strategy," establishing with American military power in less than three years what the Iranian armed forces could not achieve in nearly a decade of war with Iraq: Shiite domination of Iraq's army, police and administration.

Fearing the consequences of an Iranian-backed government in Baghdad, the Bush administration is turning to the Sunni Arab states that fear Iranian power. It makes sense. Sunni Arab leaders in Cairo, Amman and Riyadh understand that Iran aspires to be the core state of Islam, something Islam has lacked since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. For them, Shiite-dominated Iraq is a regional Frankenstein's monster.

Unfortunately, it's also a waste of time. Though Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have a stake in curbing Iranian influence inside Iraq, they have no interest in allying themselves with an American military occupation that is illegitimate in the eyes of the whole Muslim World. Until U.S. forces leave Iraq, cooperation with them is a non-starter.

Given these developments, disengaging from Iraq would seem imperative. But the desire on both sides of the political divide, Democratic and Republican, to conceal the true scale of the disaster created by the American military occupation of Central Iraq makes immediate withdrawal unpalatable.

Instead, politicians of all persuasions insist that for U.S. forces to simply leave Iraq and turn it over to the Arabs who live there would be a disaster for all kinds of reasons -- terrorism, regional instability and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Disengaging from Iraq, the argument goes, could lead to a replay of an August 1914-style slide into regional war.

Whether true or not, an American military force that cannot stop firefights or kidnappings on the streets of Baghdad, a force that is increasingly under attack from all sides, can do little to prevent a regional war, especially a conflict whose real issue is the Shia-Sunni struggle for control of Mecca and Medina and leadership of an Islamic movement that both Sunni and Shia Islamists believe will, once unified and purified, conquer the world.

Of course, if this is the regional war that is likely to occur, the real question is not how to stop it, but why U.S. forces should participate in it? Unless, America's regional Sunni Arab partners ask for assistance, how would American involvement in such a conflict advance American security interests?

The answer is simple. It would not.

While Washington policymakers look for political cover on their way out of Iraq, the myth of American military omniscience and omnipotence, of limitless economic resources harnessed to a perpetual "Wilsonian crusade for democracy," is dying in Iraq along with American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

Meanwhile, knowing that nothing with American fingerprints will survive the withdrawal of U.S. forces including Iraq's corrupt and ineffective government, the most vexing question for the Iraq Study Group is not whether anything can be done to prevent the United States from looking ridiculous when the "Green Zone" is overrun, looted and destroyed by enraged Arabs. It's how fast we can end the U.S. and British military occupation of Iraq, an occupation that is both an enormous strategic benefit to Iran and a liability to the West and the Arab World.

Commentary: Iraq exit via Iran -- Act II
by Arnaud De Borchgrave - UPI Editor at Large Washington (UPI) Dec 07, 2006 The audience at the Arab World Strategy 2006 conference in Dubai suddenly parted like the Red Sea. Iran's national security adviser and chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani strode through the throng of Gulf notables like a visiting head of state. But what Larijani had to say from the rostrum was not only unambiguous -- but also frightening. His harsh message left nothing to the imagination. Some in the audience even suggested it sounded like an ultimatum from the Gulf's dominant power.

The time has come to expel the U.S. military from the region, Larijani said. And after that, Gulf Arab states -- the six Gulf Cooperation Council members -- must form an alliance with Iran. Meanwhile, Iran is presumably speeding up its nuclear timetable.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad already sees himself the way the late Shah did in the early 1970s; inter alia, the Gulf's dominant power. Despotism tempered by assassination seems to be Iran's magic potion.

Gulf statesmen -- there are no women among them yet -- say privately they are deeply concerned about the Iranian military buildup in the Gulf. They have spent scores of billions of dollars on defense since the 1973 oil embargo, but they also know they could not put up a credible defense without the United States. And this at a time when the United States is under great domestic pressure to cut its losses in Iraq where the Baker-Hamilton bipartisan commission of ten notables now concedes Iran is the dominant power, more influential than the United States.

Larijani's offline corridor conversations with an American journalist and a visiting Harvard professor exuded charm and reasonableness. If the Americans set a timetable for leaving Iraq and Washington then opted for a new strategy of interdependence that recognized Iran's primacy in the region, then Iran would, for starters, help stabilize Iraq as well as its other neighbor Afghanistan. Presumably, this would not be one of the cherries President Bush decides to pick from the 79 recommendations made by Baker-Hamilton.

It would also prove indigestible. The president's neocon supporters would see this as another Munich. A prominent neocon columnist, speaking privately at one of Washington's pre-Christmas bashes, said, "we should bomb their nukes before they nuke Israel."

With Bob Gates ensconced at the Pentagon, the military option against Iran's facilities, while still on Mr. Bush's table, seems highly unlikely. The neocons call the commission's 160-page report a recipe for a U.S. surrender to its self-avowed enemies. They still have one of the president's ears through Elliott Abrams, deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for democracy strategy. The other ear is now listening more attentively to Bush 41's perennial wisemen headed by James A. Baker III and Brent Scowcroft, who tried but failed to stop the invasion of Iraq. So more plausible now is what Time described as the biggest U-turn of the president's political life.

Iran is making clear to friend and foe it could no longer be contained. Even Lee Hamilton was saying Iran has more influence in Iraq than the United States. It is, he said to a worldwide audience as the commission's report was unveiled, "a grave and deteriorating situation," which has cost the U.S. taxpayer so far the staggering sum of $400 billion. Which could even rise to over $1 trillion, according to Hamilton.

Iraq already has an Iran-leaning Shiite government. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for a regional conference with Iraq's neighbors, but rejected U.N. chief Kofi Annan's idea that it be held outside Iraq. Iraqi ministers are frequent fliers to Tehran. Iran's Revolutionary Guards are also frequent fliers to Iraq where they supervise, fund and equip two powerful Shiite militias -- the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army, which Maliki says he would like to disarm, but is powerless to do so.

Mahdi Army chief Muqtada al-Sadr, who holds 30 swing votes and hates America, got consigleri Nasar al-Rubaie to collect signatures in parliament for a petition that calls on Maliki to draft a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. He got 115 to sign on out of 275 parliamentarians, not quite a majority.

Syria, the connecting conveyor belt for Iranian missiles and rockets to Hezbollah, is also on the Commission's roster of bad guys the United States must talk to. Hezbollah, meanwhile, has paralyzed Beirut with up to half a million anti-government demonstrators who are demanding a larger share of government power. The pro-Western government is totally isolated by Hezbollah and there is much speculation about a resumption of a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990 with neither victor nor vanquished.

Syria could conceivably be weaned away with a deal with Israel that would return the Golan Heights to Syrian control. But the multiple traumas of the evacuation of Gaza only to be shelled in return, the election victory of Hamas that refuses to recognize Israel, and more recently the 34-day war with Hezbollah which ended in a Mexican standoff, have left Israel in a pessimistic mood about the future. Not exactly conducive to more territorial concessions in occupied Palestinian lands.

Yet the Baker-Hamilton Commission made clear U.S. goals would remain elusive until the U.S. uses diplomatic heft to deliver what President Bush pledged would be "a viable and contiguous Palestinian state." On a scale of one to ten, that's a two.

(Retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas A. Macgregor, PhD is lead partner in Potomac League, LLC. He is the author of "Breaking the Phalanx." Macgregor served in the first Gulf War and at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe during the Kosovo Air Campaign. he was an adviser to the Department of Defense on initial Second Gulf War plans and is an expert on defense policy issues of organization and transformation.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

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