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US Withdrawal Likely Unless Iraq Violence Falls

Because a US withdrawal was likely to increase sectarian violence, the RAND study said there was an argument for maintaining US presence if it helped reduce violence. But it said, "The US commitment to Iraq should not be open ended." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 09, 2007
A US withdrawal from Iraq may be "impossible to resist" unless violence against civilians falls substantially, a study funded by the US Air Force warned Wednesday. The study by the RAND Corporation said that reducing violence against Iraqi civilians should be the primary objective of US strategy as long as US forces are in Iraq. And it said the United States was likely to continue its approach to stabilizing the country "until and unless violence escalates to the point that US officials decide that withdrawal is preferable."

But it added that "we are not optimistic about success in the near term" and warned that pressure to withdraw US troops will become more and more difficult to resist if they cannot reduce the violence.

"If the number of Iraqis who die violently does not fall substantially by the summer of 2007, domestic political pressure to withdraw US forces may become impossible to resist," the report said.

US military officials say the surge in US forces this year has dampened the violence.

But figures compiled by three Iraqi ministries and seen by AFP show that civilian deaths rose to 1,652 in July -- a third more than the previous month, and slightly more than in February, the first month of surge.

Olga Oliker, the lead author of the RAND report, titled "Policy Options for Iraq: a Reassessment," said the current levels of violence in Iraq suggest that the surge is not reducing violence.

"Look, Iraqis continue to die at a very high rates, thousands leave the country every single day," she said in a telephone interview. "I would say violence remains unacceptably high."

Oliker was part of a six-person team who spent over a year visiting Iraq and interviewing officials and experts. Their report, which was funded by the US Air Force, offers a broad assessment of US options and strategies in Iraq through the early part of his year.

Among the options considered were the use of overwhelming force to impose order, partition along ethnic lines, choosing and backing a winner in a civil war, or just leaving Iraq and waiting to see who emerges from the conflict.

But they concluded that those did not appear likely to be implemented or to succeed, the report said.

Because a US withdrawal was likely to increase sectarian violence, the study said there was an argument for maintaining US presence if it helped reduce violence.

But it said, "The US commitment to Iraq should not be open ended."

"If US forces cannot reduce the violence in Iraq, their continued presence and the further expenditure of US treasure and lives will prove unsustainable, even if their presence is achieving other objectives," it said.

The report said that even before deciding whether to withdraw, the US government should "prepare to manage the repercussions of withdrawal and a continuing and expanding conflict in Iraq."

The study said the Iraqi government should be consulted beforehand, as should US allies; Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, should be informed; and Washington should assure regional partners that it will maintain its security commitments.

"Withdrawal should be conducted with no sense of haste," the report said.

"If US forces are harassed they should strike back hard as a warning to insurgent forces. Facilities should be turned over to Iraqi forces, they should not be left empty, an invitation to looters," it said.

The United States should provide assistance to surrounding countries to deal with refugee flows, and set up programs to help Iraqis who worked or helped the United States emigrate, it said.

A US withdrawal "could well result in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees seeking asylum in the United States," it said.

The study recommended against trying to retain control of Iraq's oil, and urged that relations be maintained with the Iraqi government even if it is unfriendly.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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The Good The Bad And The Ugly News From Iraq
Washington (UPI) Aug 07, 2007
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now "hunkered down with a small group of sycophantic cronies, increasingly detached from the business of running a government." Speaking not for attribution, this was the message conveyed by a former ranking Iraqi government official in London over the weekend. The current drift at the top, he said, could only be reversed by "a strongman at the top." Asked if there was such a potential pro-Western leader in the military, he said, "One can always be found.







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