Five Years On in Iraq, someone with a plan – Hillary.

070304_clinton_vmed_1p_widec "with the fifth anniversary of the start of the war approaching, some participants have provided in interviews their first detailed, on-the-record accounts of a decision that is widely seen as one of the most momentous and contentious of the war, assailed by critics as all but ensuring that American forces would face a growing insurgency led by embittered Sunnis who led much of the army.

The account that emerges from those interviews, and from access to previously unpublished documents, makes clear that Mr. Bremer’s decree reversed an earlier plan — one that would have relied on the Iraqi military to help secure and rebuild the country, and had been approved at a White House meeting that Mr. Bush convened just 10 weeks earlier."  Michael Gordon


Cheney and McCain are in Iraq today, evidently seeking assurance that the recent AQI attempt at a counter-offensive (See the AQI commander’s statement of his intentions in an earlier post) will not derail either Cheney/Bush’s remaining hope for a "legacy" or McCain’s hope for a future.  Given their personalities, I imagine that there is a good deal of menace in their interactions with "the people on the ground." Grrrr!  Don’t sweat it, boys!  AQI is not going to take over Iraq.  We have discussed this previously in this space.

I have cited below Michael Gordon’s article on the decision to disband the Iraqi Army.  He has documented the lack of consultation with the military command that led to that action. I was told at the time that this was the case, but to have the story laid out in detail in the NY Times is a useful thing.  The argument was made then that "the army had ceased to exist" in that the troops had gone home and that their cantonments had been looted into unusability.  Such an argument displayed a perhaps wilful ignorance of the truth that ground armies are social institutions with human infrastructure and unit traditions that can be harnessed for the purpose of recalling soldiers to organized units useful in situations like 2003-4.

The truth was that Bremer/Slocombe and those in Washington, who, like them, had drunk the Koolaid of neoconism were seeking a Cambodia "in the year zero" situation in which a brave new world could be built in the Middle East.  Motive?  Pick which ever one you may fancy.  Bremer knew next to nothing of the Middle East when he was picked for the job.  I suppose that and a certain ethical flexibility were his qualifications.  Henry Kissinger was probably behind Bremer’s appointment.  What was Kissinger’s role in the disbandment of the Iraqi military? 

Today, Senator Clinton made a comprehensive and forthright statement concerning her future policy with regard to Iraq.   Given the pattern of press coverage and the evident attention span of the electorate, it probably won’t get the coverage it deserves.  It hits all the bases, is clear, unequivocal and creates the skeleton for a policy in the Middle East that can lead us out of the morass.

I hope she gets a chance to carry it out.  pl

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48 Responses to Five Years On in Iraq, someone with a plan – Hillary.

  1. David Habakkuk says:

    The document mandating the removal of all ‘full members’ of the Baath, and the prohibition on their working in any government job, was called ‘Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 1’, was it not — the document disbanding the army, along with the ministries of Defense and Interior, ‘Order Number 2.’
    The famous ‘Order Number 1’ was that in which following the February 1917 Revolution the Petrograd Soviet instructed the soldiers of the Russian army to obey their officers only if their orders did not contradict the decrees of the Soviet.
    Leon Trotsky described it as ‘the only worthy document’ of the February Revolution.
    (See — although the entry does appear somewhat confused.)

  2. lily says:

    I saw Senator Clinton’s speech on cspan and I hope to God we are lucky enough to get her in the White House. She’s the only one even interested in leading.

  3. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I cannot believe that you take Mrs. Clinton’s pronouncements as viable policy.
    “UN…”? Iraqis despise UN.
    “Combat the Black Market in Oil…”? Iranian government had tried for years to combat that with little success in Iran – and the state is functioning in Iran.
    “Enlist the International Community to Stabilize the Region…” There is snow ball’s chance in hell of other states coming to help US pull her chestnuts out of fire; not EU, not Russia, not Japan, not India, and not China.
    And what could possibly Egypt or Saudi Arabia do; except sending their diplomats to Baghdad? And what of that?
    Conferences will achieve nothing more than has been achieved so far.
    Why do you regard her statements so highly?

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think your “criticism” is excessively negative. Plans exist for the purpose of creating a different future. The failures of the past shold not be allowed to prejudice the possibility of doing creative things in the future.
    I know her and find her both plausible and trustworthy. p

  5. Mo says:

    “This group will be composed of key allies, other global powers, and all of the states bordering Iraq.”
    A bold policy statement for a politician who has shown heavy handed antagonism towards 2 of the 4 biggest of those states that border Iraq. It will be also interesting to see Saudi reaction to this, if the US doesn’t want the Sunni/Shia power struggle being played out in Iraq.
    Maybe by then the transfer of said struggle will have been sufficiently exported to Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon.

  6. BOOHALL says:


  7. lina says:

    She may be “plausible and trustworthy” to people who know her, but she can’t win with 43 percent of the national electorate in November. Should she pull a rabbit out of a hat and win the remaining primary states with 60+ percent of the vote, she won’t carry any additional states not won by John Kerry in 2004.

  8. lina says:

    Don’t worry. That “heavy handed antagonism” was all for show. Political expediency is the order of the day when it comes to Sen. Clinton and foreign policy. She needs to look like Margaret Thatcher charging into the Falklands if she wants to get elected in the USA.

  9. NEd MArdin says:

    How difficult is it to leave Irak, Turks did it so did the Brits.
    If they come over the border anywhere, fight them there as the Turkish Army does currently. WOuldn’t it be cheaper in terms of money and lives? Leave them to their own devices, in the Middle East, everything levels out eventually.

  10. jeff roby says:

    I followed your link and then looked up Hillary’s position on Israel/Palestine affairs. Her position is so one-sided pro-Israel that I can’t imagine her having any credibility at all with the players who would have to be brought together to bring peace to Iraq and the rest of the region.

  11. Andy says:

    Col. Lang,
    I think I have to mostly side with Babak on this one. To begin though, I do think HRC deserves a lot of credit for putting forth a plan – or rather, the outline for a plan – with this much detail. However, I think the plan’s foundation rests on sandy assumptions.
    First is the illusion that factions within Iraq, including the current government, the CLC’s, etc. can be made to reconcile through threats of withholding assistance, which is essentially what she proposes here:

    As President, Hillary will pursue a strategy that seeks to empower local leaders, but she will prioritize national accommodation, which is essential to stability. She will do this by using U.S. and international influence and assistance as leverage to press the Iraqis to reach agreement on key issues, including provincial elections, the hydrocarbon law, and on the overall nature of federalism. Hillary will press the United Nations into a central role in this effort.

    Similar statements have been made regarding Pakistan and it’s frankly vexing to see the extent to which the Democratic candidates believe that aid can be used as a coercive instrument in this region. HRC in particular should be aware of such limits given her husband’s experience in south Asia.
    And then there is the UN, which Babak notes above. The UN will not operate without security and whatever mandate the UNSC delivers is meaningless without security – particularly since the only nation that’s capable of implementing such a mandate is the United States. Improving security in her plan really rests on reconciliation, but the $10k question is what she will do if reconciliation is not achieved and reduced force levels lead to more violence and less security.
    Additionally, it’s interesting she cites Bosnia and East Timor as examples to follow for a couple of reasons. First, both essentially legitimized partition as a valid option – is Hillary suggesting that some form of partition is on the table in Iraq (a concept I’m personally amenable to)?
    Secondly, and more problematic, is that Bosnia and East Timor were both dependent and enabled by the intervention of large numbers (relative to the population) of foreign troops. How HRC and the UN will manage a similar feat in Iraq while reducing force-levels is unclear, particularly if that force-level reduction results in less stability and more violence, thereby preventing any non-military institution from operating there. For example in Iraq we have a population-to-force ratio of approximately 180. If troop levels drop to about 50k, then that increases to 540. IFOR, by comparison initially had a ratio of 74 but after more than a decade of peace and stability it’s 1600. East Timor’s population is only about a million, Bosnia 4 million compared to Iraq’s 27 million. Similar force-to-population levels cannot be achieved in Iraq.
    So it seems like HRC is betting the farm on being able to implement a political solution independent of security provided by the US military. I wish her the best of luck, but the cynic in me suggests that “political” reconciliation may not come quickly if at all.
    Still, there is some good as well. Engaging Iraq’s neighbors more than the Bush administration is long overdue – I just hope Iraqi interests are not sacrificed to assuage the parochial interests of its neighbors.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Andy, Babak, JR et al
    OK. What’s your “plan” or policy or whatever you want to call it? elect Obama? If that is your plan, then tell me what he is going to do.
    There are no serious American political actors who are any less “in bed” with AIPAC than she. pl

  13. Mick says:

    “Enlist the international community to stabilise the region” – what does that actually mean? An international conference perhaps – the Concert of Nations which Col.Lang once suggested – with representations from the main Arab powers, Iran, Turkey, the EU,(or at least the UK and France) China, perhaps India and Pakistan – and Israel? “The region” to be stabilised being – where? Mesopotamia alone? The problem is that problem of Iraq wwill be seen to be connected to the whole balance of power and complex interlinked centres of instability and conflict through the Mid East and Muslim world. So not just Mesopotamia, but Mesopotamia and Lebanon? or both those and Palestine? Or even all those plus Afghanistan and Somalia? They all need stabilising and they all are in the Middle East or the “Greater” Middle East. The mind begins to boggle.
    Peace on the ground in Iraq at least, is presumably the fundamental objective. This is the “stabilisation” Mrs Clinton refers to. Conferences and concerts alone cannot produce peace on the ground, surely. Troops are needed. Armed forces of occupation to replace the US troops who currently are maintaining a precarious semi-peace on the ground. 140,000 blue helmeted UN troops? From where? China has a large enough army, and Russia – but somehow it seems unlikely the US would contemplate a large force from those countries in the middle of the Mid East oilfields. The UK and Spain and Poland have or are pulling out of Iraq; they won’t go back in. The rest of the EU? Ha ha – what – France, Germany? – not prepared to put troops on the ground in hostile areas of Afghanistan – they won’t enter Iraq. Muslim Pakistan? Too involved in their own homeland. India, Canada, Australia? maybe – but 140,000? That leaves Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Iranians occupying Southern Iraq and Turks in Kurdistan and Baghdad with Saudi soldiers marching around? An improbable scenario.
    “Enlist the international community to stabilise the region”? Sounds nice, admirable even. Exactly what is needed. But could it happen? Dream on.

  14. jamzo says:

    we can expect hilary’s plan to be a focus in the pennsylvania primary debate

  15. Mo says:

    We dont need stabilising, we need the US to stop destabilising.
    It is not the plan that matters but who is on board. If the intentions are right, believable and honourable, she will have the Iranians (and by association the Syrians) on board. If she had them and the Saudis in agreement then the International community may be willing to send troops as most of the “insurgents” will have their respective backers reining them in and as I have said many times, AQ is small and easily defeatable once the local population turns on them in force.
    However, what will the Iranian price be? Im guessing it’ll have something to do with UN sanctions and a Nuclear programme.
    Will she be willing to pay that price? Maybe, if its early on in her presidency she will have time to recover from what would be a big hit, but would it be a risk worth taking?
    I would be surprised and impressed if it were.

  16. lina says:

    I don’t think there is any difference between Clinton’s choices for a post-Bush Iraq and Obama’s. The next president will find themselves in a world of hurt when it comes to the consquences of U.S. withdrawl from Iraq.
    I find it amusing that when Hillary gives a foreign policy speech, she is deemed capable, smart, and “ready on day one.” Obama can say the exact same thing. . .
    . . .and he is seen as an inexperienced airy fairy dreamer.
    She’s got 6 years in the Senate and two terms as first lady. He’s got two years in the Senate and ten years as a state legislator. She’s 14 years older. I fail to see how that makes her better.
    Just sayin’.

  17. VietnamVet says:

    Hillary Clinton’s plan is the best the Interventionists can come up with. But, the United States is in the exact same position the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan; fighting a population and religion who will never compromise with the foreign invaders; a never ending war with costs that the Nation cannot afford.
    You have indicated that as the troop levels decrease the potential for catastrophe in Iraq increases. Rather than the embracing a forever Global War on Terror, the USA had better starting being worried about a Wall Street Depression, Energy Independence and getting the troops home safely without initiating a collapse as spectacular as the Soviet Unions.

  18. Nancy K says:

    I think your statement that there are no other serious political actors any less in bed with AIPAC to be very telling. That is one of the reasons I will support Senator Obama, not because he is not serious, but because I think maybe he still has a foot on the floor. I’m sick of lobbies, any lobby, controlling or attempting to control the US.
    Having said this, if Senator Clinton gets the nomination, I will vote for her. The throught of 100 years of war or whatever McCain attempted to say, is more than I and I think many Americans can bear.

  19. JohnH says:

    Hillary’s ‘plan’ is just more smoke and mirrors.
    First, most of this is nothing new. It’s largely the Baker Plan, condensed and warmed over.
    Second, it begins to bring the troops home, but never commits to bringing most of them home. How does Hillary’s “beginning to bring troops home” actually differ from Bush’s reducing troops to pre-surge levels? Like Bush, she could always bring a token few home and then pause her ‘beginning.’
    Third, it never commits to ending the Occupation. Rather, it dangles the illusion of “stability” before our eyes–pacifying the wogs. This is a recipe for a tenuous colonial peace, supported by a substantial, ongoing troop presence and unending financial hemorrhaging.
    Until Hillary publishes a true exit strategy, she’s just blowing smoke and spinning mirrors.

  20. Montag says:

    The PBS documentary Frontline program did an excellent program, “The Lost Year In Iraq,” in 2006 on the whole mess created by Bremer and the people who sent Bremer. The interviews reveal the WTF? that people who knew what they were doing were feeling as things spun out of control, like passengers on the bus in the “Speed” movie. I think they said that the first IED went off 72 hours after the Army was fired. I especially liked the part about rewriting Iraqi traffic laws–everyone knows that good traffic laws are the key to defeating an insurgency. Anyway, the documentary is available for viewing at their website:

  21. Pat, I have to agree with Babak M’s criticisms of Sen. Clinton’s plan. As for a workable alternative, back in 2005 I started really fleshing one out and, even though I’ve tweaked it some since then, it still looks like a serious, workable plan.
    The goal is to achieve a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq that is orderly, speedy, total, and generous (to Iraqis.) The main move is to hand over responsibility for convening and running the necessary negotiations to the UN, in a way that is far more serious than the “minor bit-part player” role that’s all that Clinton offers them. There would be two negotiations, one internal and one involving all the P-5 and all Iraq’s neighbors.
    You can access various more detailed iterations of this plan here.
    My main beefs with Sen. Clinton’s plan are (1) it is not a plan for a total withdrawal, and thus both lacks incentives for the Iraqis and runs the risk of substantial numbers of US forces getting drawn back in, Vietnam-style, at any point; (2) She seems to assume that the US can manage/control all the negotiations involved with only a minor assist from the UN ; but it can’t.
    Also, as a professional woman I have to say that I find the website’s repeated references to “Hillary” doing this, that, or the next thing in the international arena to be cloying, unprofessional, and unserious.

  22. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “as a professional woman I have to say that I find the website’s repeated references to “Hillary” doing this, that, or the next thing in the international arena to be cloying, unprofessional, and unserious.” I think her website uses this style as a means of distancing her from her husband’s image.
    I hope you believe that people of good will can differ over details.
    What does “Vietnam style” mean? pl

  23. arbogast says:

    Department of Backdrop:
    Paul Krugman, who was country before country was cool, had this to say today:
    That neatly sums up the political issue that will dominate the next President’s agenda…not this President’s because I don’t think he can spell agenda.
    In that context, the “debate” about withdrawing from Iraq is already over. We will. Quickly.
    Stability in the ME? That would be Saudi Arabia and Israel continuing to sell out the Palestinians as long as they can.

  24. robt willmann says:

    A while back, an article appeared in Foreign Affairs magazine, I think it was, by Hillary Clinton about her proposed foreign policy. There was a post about it on this web site and I made a comment on it.
    Previously, it seemed as if the good Colonel was positive about Ms. Clinton, and the post today brings that forward.
    I must again diverge 180 degrees (or 200 degrees if you use the old Russian compass), and note my exception to Hillary’s proclamation.
    Whenever you hear or read something by Bill or Hillary Clinton, the first thing to do is to look for any weasel words.
    Sure enough, in the introduction, pop goes the weasel, as we are told that she “outlined new proposals that build on her three-part plan to end the war responsibly”.
    What is her precise definition of–
    1) “end”, as in “end the war”, and
    2) “responsibly”, as in end the war “responsibly”?
    She will “start” removing the troops within 60 days, but “we cannot lose sight of our very real strategic interests in this region”. Thus, the U.S. “will retain counterterrorism forces in Iraq and the region”.
    Retain counterterrorism forces “in the region”? A little glance at a map reveals that “the region” is a pretty big place. But Hillary “will ensure that our troops receive sufficient time at home between deployments to rest, reconnect with their families, and receive appropriate training for their next mission”.
    Their “next mission”? Where? Afghanistan? But we’re already there. Syria? Lebanon? Somalia? Elsewhere in Africa? Venezuela, maybe?
    Now if you think Blackwater is going to be out of business, think again. She will work to ban armed private military contractors providing security “for diplomatic personnel and performing mission-critical functions”. Except for guarding diplomats and doing “mission-critical functions”, the mercenaries will still be in business in Iraq.
    While we are on this subject, has Hillary made an unequivocal statement that mercenaries will not be permitted to operate here in the U.S.A.? Remember Blackwater in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina?
    In part II, Hillary has got her eye on oil, oil, and oil. And she wants to get the United Nations into the game.
    She wants “to prioritize national accomodation” by using U.S. and international influence and assistance (meaning money?) “to press” the Iraqis to reach agreement on key issues, including, of course, “the hydrocarbon law”.
    Tell us, Hillary, is Iraq still going to get to keep only 12.5% of its oil (and supposedly around 17% for a few areas), under the proposed oil and gas law, with oil companies from the U.S., Britain, and Israel getting the rest (87.5%)? I have not seen Ms. Clinton suggest any different oil and gas law other than the existing proposal, also known as Grand Theft Oil. One might also wonder what moral, legal, or other basis the U.S. and any other country has to try to tell “sovereign” Iraq what “the law” should be concerning its huge reserves of oil and gas.
    Part III speaks in its title of a new regional diplomatic initiative. However, the mission of the group will be “to develop and implement a strategy to create a stable Iraq”. Notice that this is not the Colonel’s proposal for a meeting to work on the problems of the other Middle Eastern countries, as well. It is to ensure that “the rest of the world plays its part in stabilizing Iraq”.
    Iraq is not “stable” because the U.S., Britain, Israel, and some other countries of “the world” meddled in its internal affairs.
    If Hillary Clinton becomes president, the gangster foreign policy, with its vicious meddling in Iraq, will not change.
    I have great respect for the Colonel’s work in the tricky world of human intelligence gathering. But I have found, and continue to find, Bill and Hillary Clinton to be singularly, or doubly, untrustworthy.

  25. Curious says:

    Hillary the war hawk, Iran.
    Speech at Princeton
    floor speech

  26. eaken says:

    Both Syria and Iran, two of iraq’s neighbors, have a vested interest both in Iraq as well as the palestinian/israeli/lebanon situation.
    So how we are able to assume that things will work themselves out in Iraq while this other ongoing issue remains unsolved is beyond me.
    You want a five-point plan?
    1) Cut off all aid (military and economic) to Israel (including their free trade agreement with the US) but provide them with a defensive security guarantee to the 1967 borders only.
    2) Cut off all aid to Egypt
    3) Acknowledge Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology in exchange for additional oversight.
    4) Issue Iraqi debt to finance reconstruction. Neighboring countries, including Israel, buy equal amounts of said debt.
    5) Develop Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Troop withdrawals tied to US involvement in related contracts. Develop pipelines through neighboring countries, amongst which is a pipeline exiting to the Med. through pipelines in both Israel and Turkey. Focus on developing refining capacity in Iraq and execute contracts with Iran and central asian/former soviet states.

  27. Davy says:

    I have lurked on this for some time. I agree with most of the comments above. It is very rare I find myself not agreeing with you.
    Sen Clinton had nowt to do with bringing peace to the North of Ireland and she’s knows nowt about Iraq or her neighbours.

  28. (Just to clarify: When I was criticizing “the website” for referring in an overly familiar and cloying way to “Hillary”, it was her own website I was referring to, not this one. Any of us who are commenting about her or her plans can refer to her as we see fit. But for her own website to present her simply as “Hillary” in this context is what I find problematic.)

  29. Andy says:

    Col. Lang,
    Considering who is running, I don’t think it will come down to whose plan is better, but whose plan is less bad in my view. No candidate currently in the running espouses what would be my “ideal” Iraq plan/policy, but if you’re really interested in what I would do were I the guy in charge, I’d be happy to tell you.
    With regard to Clinton’s plan, though, it must be looked at critically to expose its weaknesses just like any other plan. That Clinton’s plan has flaws is not surprising (what plan doesn’t?) and at the end of the day hers may represent the best choice. Additionally, only through critical analysis is there a hope to make any plan better, though at this point I think Iraq policy, at least for the Democrats, is driven by domestic political considerations more than anything else. Both Democratic candidates still advertise their plans as “withdrawal” but they are really less than that as they will leave forces behind to perform certain missions – what my blogging friend Dave Schuler calls “Bring the troops home (without bringing the troops home).”
    As I hinted at in my previous comment, Clinton’s plan may intentionally or unintentionally (it would be nice to know which) lead to a policy of containment while Iraq either sorts itself out through some kind of partition or reconciliation. This is actually what I think will end up happening no matter what the US ultimately decides to do. All the candidates display a certain arrogance about the capabilities of American power and influence in this regard – the truth is that many others get a vote and some even get a veto.
    Finally, despite the oft-misquoted 100-year comment by McCain there isn’t as much of a difference between McCain’s plan and Clinton’s/Obama’s as it might first appear. The major difference is the conditions for a withdrawal. As George Friedman puts it:

    There is no candidate arguing for the permanent stationing of more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. There are those who believe that political ends can and should be achieved in Iraq, and that the drawdown of forces should be keyed to achieving those ends. That is essentially the Bush [and McCain] policy. Then there are those who believe that the United States not only has failed to achieve its political goals but also, in fact, is not going to achieve them. Under this reasoning, the United States ought to be prepared to withdraw from Iraq on a timetable that is indifferent to the situation on the ground.

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    To answer your question:
    For the United States to extricate herself from Iraq the other great powers are irrelevant at best and at worst can throw a monkey wrench into any such process. So is the UN.
    It is foolish, in my opinion, to bring in extra-regional states since that gives them power that they should not have over the situation in the Persian Gulf.
    US, at the moment, cannot pursue your ideas regarding the Concert of the Middle East since she cannot deliver on Peace in Palestine or generalized peace in the Levant – it will take too long and it is too complicated to attempt that now.
    US needs to negotiate with Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia the contours of the Iraqi settlement and post war security in the Persian Gulf. She needs to publish a framework for such negotiations and then to begin haggling over the price.
    Everything else is distraction, in my opinion.

  31. frank durkee says:

    Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark,William Arkins blog at the Washington Post today, and Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek have comments and observations that are relevant to this set of issues.

  32. lina says:

    Re Hillary and referring to Hillary, I believe Sen. Clinton’s campaign uses “Hillary” as a logo/brand.
    I believe it was developed as a campaign messaging tactic to distinguish her from her husband, the former President Clinton.

  33. Col.
    Your argument is based upon the assumption that the next President will be the one who determines what our MidEast policy will be.
    This assumption overlooks the point made by the New York Times concerning the financial crisis in today’s (Tuesday’s) editorial .

    It’s clear that the Bush administration and Mr. Bernanke would welcome greater ownership of the nation’s financial institutions by foreign governments. That’s an effective short-term fix, and could conveniently avert a financial meltdown on their watch. But it also means a long-term transfer of a chunk of the future revenues of the American financial system to foreign governments.
    Many of those governments have complex, often tense, relationships with the United States, and many are secretive about their holdings, their objectives and the strategies by which their portfolios are managed. Among the most opaque are the funds of Dubai, Qatar, China, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. Secrecy does not mean that the governments will necessarily be bad actors, but it is a big mistake to do such serious business with an opaque counterparty.

    What this means, given the realities of how politics works, is that these governments would henceforth exercise increasing clout on the formation of American policy.
    As for your question as to what my plan for the MidEast must be, I must confess that – since I currently lack investing clout with these various governments – my thoughts, if any, shall grow increasingly moot.

  34. Jim Schmidt says:

    Good discussion. Personally, my thoughts resonate with Pope Benedict XVI’s recent entreaty:
    “Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!”
    However, this simple and appealing invocation withers in the white-hot crucible of the Iraqi crusade, particularly given the stifling climate of finger pointing defeatism by the domestic patriot class.
    The charge of defeatism and other issues will cloud any reasonable discussion of Iraq between now and the unknown numbers of years, if not generations, that will pass before achieving the goal of unencumbered disengagement
    Knowledge is a key factor guiding the debate. Currently, we have an electorate that is showing a declining understanding, perhaps even interest, regarding the casualties and costs of the Iraqi occupation. This fact shows up in the latest Pew Survey:
    Awareness of Iraq War Fatalities Plummets
    Political Knowledge Update
    Released: March 12, 2008
    “Public awareness of the number of American military fatalities in Iraq has declined sharply since last August. Today, just 28% of adults are able to say that approximately 4,000 Americans have died in the Iraq war. As of March 10, the Department of Defense had confirmed the deaths of 3,974 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.
    In August 2007, 54% correctly identified the fatality level at that time (about 3,500 deaths). In previous polls going back to the spring of 2004, about half of respondents could correctly estimate the number of U.S. fatalities around the time of the survey.”
    The reduced awareness, coupled with a sustained information campaign to sell the surge, is showing success. This success is due in part to the repeated assertions by Administration sources, military leaders such as General Odierno (Heritage Foundation, 3/5/2008), political leaders, candidates and pundits that the surge is working. Contrary information is less available due to the reduction of Iraqi coverage from 15% of printed stories in July 2007 to 3% in February 2008 (see Pew article above). Out of sight, out of mind, but the current perception that we are winning the war is growing.
    Simple sloganeering exploiting our cultural aversion to defeat will become common in the remaining election cycle. The most effective is the “Defeat and Retreat” mantra started by Romney and now rampant in talk radio, MSM and the internet. The following example is representative of this “state of the art” meme circulating in the commentorium:
    “For the first time in American history, a major political party wants America to run from a war we are winning.”
    The Party of Retreat and Defeat
    By David Horowitz and Peter Collier
    Given the political obstacles, rational discussion of what to do next in Iraq will be difficult. The critical first step requires that we decide as a nation whether we have any valid (moral?) achievable goals to justify continued engagement. Without a valid goal, we only have the sunk costs of lives and treasure to spur us on.
    Face-saving, as of now, appears the dominate driver and staying to save face means continued carnage, personal sacrifice and investment as we engage the evolving political dynamics of a destroyed, non-functioning state.
    Sobering is the reality that over four million Iraqi’s are displaced and in dire need of basic services.
    In perspective, the Palestine partitioning and Palestinian diaspora of the late forties produced, according to UNRWA, 914,000 registered refugees by 1950. The refugees, by 2001, had grown to an estimated 3.8 million. The problems caused by this sixty-year-old event are still festering.
    In comparison, it is hard to fathom the magnitude of a future calamity when four million Iraqis’, grown in number, armed and angered, try to reclaim their homes and property. Will we still be there, acting as referees, grown weary after 10, 20 or 100 years of occupation and treating the returnees with the same disdain shown the Palestinians now by the IDF? History as a guide (Philippines, Cuba and our ongoing disbursement around the globe) says yes.
    Campaigns are not good incubators for somber discussions of serious matters. Partisanship and short term advantage trumps good governance. The poison pill “Retreat and Defeat” ideology will paralyze any rational Iraqi proposal by either Obama or Clinton, perhaps even pave the way for McCain.
    The finger pointing and name calling means we will likely dawdle in Iraq for some years to come, regardless of the election outcome. The occupation will continue with the faint background static of “acceptable” casualties until, like Northern Ireland, the old revolutionaries and grudge holders are worn out, ignored or dead. Maybe then, a newer generation, unseeded with the sclerotic memes of ancient crusades, sick of the carnage and expense, will find a way to end this never-ending misadventure.
    Will Senator Clinton’s plan work? Real process oriented, depends on a lot of cooperation, will take some real horse-trading. Our friends and even adversaries may respond given a new political climate. Leadership is paramount given both the anticipated finger pointing domestically and suspicion internationally. Regardless, a plan is better then no plan.
    Whoever climbs into the saddle next will need a reservoir of intelligence, flexibility, forbearance and yes, Hope, to succeed.

  35. arpa says:

    Hillary’s the only serious candidate in this race. McCain refuses to address the reality of our military and economic situation. Yesterday, Obama was clearly rattled and unprepared when questioned about the Bear-Sterns fiasco. Interesting guy, but he needs more seasoning.

  36. arbogast says:

    The Bush Administration’s “strategy” is becoming very clear.
    With its enablers, namely the US Army and Bernanke, it seeks to:
    a) keep US casualties down, and
    b) keep the Dow up
    until it leaves office. And then claim that whatever happens next is the other guy’s fault.
    This is the typical behavior of the bully who has met his match. It’s Belichick walking off the field with time on the clock…which I assure you Bush would love to do. Two old Andover men.

  37. The comments on this thread should be saved for posterity. It reveals the somewhat desperate effort by thoughtful people to come to terms with the revolutionary impact of the US deployment for over 1/2 a decade of large scale forces in the middle-east. Only when a political leader decides on where the US long term strategic interests lie in the Islamic world will there start to be the sorting out that will be required. Again, who the key advisors and appointees will be that determine the next administration’s policies and choices will be critical. Do we really have to pretend that no names or list of names can be revealed until after the election. I think it is time that a unified foreign policy team be announced by each of the candidates now.
    Their suggestions and choices should be vetted now. The conduct of foreign policy by the US is in tatters and no plan however well intended and concieved can make up for the fact that the current policy is accomplishing nothing except long term damage to US interests in a saner and safer world. We must identify our real allies and recruit others willing to do the hard necessary complicated work of diplomacy. Let’s start with Ambassador’s that speak the language. Amateur night should be immediately ended.

  38. taters says:

    I thoroughly agree with your assessment, Col. Lang. And it’s one of the reasons I’m a supporter of hers. And I have a hard time with someone who claims to be so prescient about Iraq when Sen. Obama, then a state senator in IL – was completely clueless – or didn’t care that his own constituents were freezing and without heat during a brutal Chicago winter. They also happened to be Rezko’s tenants.

  39. taters says:

    John H,
    I believe if you’ve read Col. Lang’s assessment of a timetable for US troop withdrawal in Iraq,then you would agree in Iraq -that hers by far best resembles it.
    Col. Lang,
    Your asessment of Bremer, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the ridding of all Baathists is also echoed strongly by your colleague and fellow Virginian, Gen. Anthony Zinni.
    From May 22, 2004, CDI
    Remarks, excerpted
    [..] “But Jay Garner leaves, and in comes Jerry Bremer, third quarter, you’re down seven, bring in the back-up quarterback and part of his job is to create the game plan while he’s out there.
    And that ad hoc organization has failed, leading to the tenth mistake, and that’s a series of bad decisions on the ground. De-Baathifying down to a point where you’ve alienated the Sunnis, where you have stopped having qualified people down in the ranks, people who don’t have blood on their hands, but know how to make the trains run on time. Business men who I ran into in the region out there in the region, who wanted to re-start their business, get jobs. They were told by the CPA “You can’t do business because you were a Baathist!” They said to me, I had to say I was a Baathist. You don’t do business in Iraq under Saddam if you’re not a Baathist. Imagine throwing the Communists out of Russia at the end of the war.
    Disbanding the Army, this is one I’ll never understand because when I arrived at CENTCOM as the commander, there was an on-going program started by my predecessors to run a psychological operations campaign against the regular Army. Every time we struck Iraq, we dropped leaflets on regular Army formations and garrisons saying “If you don’t fight when the time comes, we’ll take care of you.” We sent messages to them to this affect through people in the region. When I did interviews on Al Jazeera TV and other Arab networks, I would always mention the poor Iraqi soldiers of the regular Army – victims of Saddam. We had always intended if they didn’t fight, we’d get rid of the leadership, we’d keep them in tact, we’d provide for some of their training, and we would have the basis for a ready-made force to pick up some of the security requirements. But they were disbanded. And on and on and on[..]

  40. Andy says:

    William Cumming,
    Agree wholeheartedly.
    Your inclusion of the US Army as an “enabler” is frankly offensive. Unless one is opposed to the concept of civilian control of the military and the role of President as the CIC, then the US military is a de facto and de jure “enabler” of whatever policy any President may direct even if that policy is stupid. As long as the AUMF remains in force the military is bound to follow the President’s lawful orders. The implication that the US Army or military intends to keep casualties down for Bush’s political expediency is insulting. The US military wants to keep casualties down because they are the ones doing the dying.

  41. RemarksDC says:

    I hope this isn’t a revelation of my ignorance, but I have never seen anything that adequately explained how Jerry Bremer suddenly became procounsel in Iraq. The guy he replaced (Jay Garner) at least had both military experience and regional experience with the Kurds.
    If you don’t suppose a Freudian self-destructive impulse, what arguments were made on behalf of Bremer and by whom? His post-Iraq career seems to have been focused primarily on avoiding responsibility for any of the actions he took in Iraq. Who made the decisions we continue to live with and pour money and pay lives for?

  42. arbogast says:

    I think it’s appropriate in the context of Hillary’s candidacy to create something along the lines of a “Demagogue Meter”.
    Hillary is fundamentally a policy wonk. She is very solutions oriented. Yes, she seems to have gotten into bed so far that she can’t see daylight with AIPAC. But perhaps that’s her solution to a campaign funding problem, not a true policy position. Who knows?
    What is true however, is that Obama’s demagogue quotient is really, really high.
    So was Lincoln’s. Etc.
    Do we want a demagogue?
    Or does the question even make sense?
    What is true is that there a ton of people in the US getting angrier and angrier as they see fat cats on Wall Street getting bailed out while they can’t afford gasoline for their cars. That’s fertile ground for a demagogue.

  43. JohnH says:

    A group of Congressmen have offered a plan to end the Occupation, instead of equivocations like Hillary’s “beginning to bring the troops home,” but never committing to actually bringing them all home.
    Among its points:
    -End US military action
    -No residual force left behind
    -No use of Iraq as a military leverage point
    -No US control of Iraqi oil
    Finally, someone has a plan!

  44. Charles I says:

    Nancy K., Re:
    “. . .political actors any less in bed with AIPAC to be very telling. That is one of the reasons I will support Senator Obama, not because he is not serious, but because I think maybe he still has a foot on the floor. I’m sick of lobbies, any lobby, controlling or attempting to control the US.”
    What floor, or in what lobby is Sen. Obama standing on/in when he claims that
    “a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.” is a distorted view?
    Sure sounds like the same old party line to me.

  45. Cieran says:

    As far as the “so who is the closest to AIPAC?” question for the remaining presidential candidates, Dana Milbank’s “The Audacity of Chutzpah” column in the Washington Post yesterday was most instructive.
    My favorite quote, from Clinton senior advisor Ann Lewis:
    Lewis retorted: “The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties.” The audience members applauded.
    I don’t recall seeing that presidential role anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.

  46. china_hand says:

    Want to get out of Iraq?
    Reform U.S. energy policy, institute national health care, and re-educate this generation so that they’re prepared for 21st century jobs.
    Stop taxing the poor and letting the wealthy get off with nothing.
    Do an about-face on:
    * Israel
    * Cuba
    * Venezuela
    * Colombia
    * Iran
    * Pakistan
    * Afghanistan
    Cut off Israel’s access to weapons and money, contingent upon pulling out of the West Bank and establishing that second state. If they whine about it, give helicopters, tanks, and missiles to the Palestinians. Let the Israelis be on the losing end for a while and that two-state solution will appear in a heartbeat.
    Stop antagonizing and bullying the other nations in this hemisphere. Learn how to share with nations like Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
    The United States has painted itself into a corner. It must remain in Iraq for the oil, but China, Russia, and Iran are preparing to pull the rug out from under it by locking the U.S. out of Central Asia. Left with a broiling-hot Iraq, the U.S. will be drained while prosperity increases for the rest of Eurasia.
    Meanwhile, Central America and Cuba are working with Europeans to develop cross-pacific links (China) and establishing, for the first time, independence from U.S. policies. There goes U.S. access to natural resources and cheap labor.
    And then there’s that national debt that the Colonel has been talking about, bought up by the Asian governments.
    The U.S. is at the center of a perfect storm. Unless it makes some fundamental shifts in its foreign policy there is, simply, nothing that will help.
    Yeah, yeah — i know. It’s all just crazy day-dreaming.
    But then, so is Hillary’s plan, no?

  47. ISL says:

    Most of what I have heard, seen, and read of Hillary Clinton, is some sort of triangulation which suggests she is 100% comfortable with current US efforts (Iraq war) to control directly the world’s oil (i.e., be able to cut the flow off to countries like China). Hence, as Curious notes, her willingness to support the effort into Iran. Obama seems to do less triangulation.
    Key I think, will be, as Helena Cobban suggests, put forward a firm date for the Iraqi’s to be 100% responsible for their country, and a certain amount of reparations for something other than KBR. Absent such a commitment, Each faction has every reason to manipulate the US towards its own goals. Iran clearly will play a big role, not Cheney could not wander about at all, Ahmadinejad could (and with a 3 week announcement that he was coming)

  48. DH says:

    “And Shahristani is visibly getting ready to negotiate the contracts for Iraq’s “super giants”. In the idiom of Big Oil, “super giants” are fields with at least five billion barrels of oil in reserve. Iraq’s super giants are Kirkuk (in Kurdistan), Majnoon (bordering Iran), Rumaila North and South (in the south), West Qurna (west of Basra) and Zubair (in the southeast) fields, and, possibly, the Nahr Umr and East Baghdad fields. In addition, Iraq is estimated to have 22 “giant” fields, each having more than 1 billion barrels of oil.
    Big Oil deals in Iraq form the core of Bush’s strategy of creating a legacy for the US in the Middle East that may run for decades. Big Oil needs the assurance of a near-permanent US military presence in Iraq. And Bush is determined to provide that assurance. He is convinced that no serious American politician would defy the wishes of Big Oil. By logic, therefore, Bush is creating a historical legacy of an Iraq that will remain under American control for decades to come.
    By the end of this year, the Bush administration proposes to altogether dispense with the fig leaf of the current requirement that the United Nations must authorize on an annual basis the presence and role of the US military in Iraq under the relevant UN resolutions. Rice and Gates argue that the Bush administration “would rather have an arrangement that is more in line with what typically governs the relationships between two sovereign nations”. Period.
    Bush is confident that his troop “surge” strategy in Iraq is working. According to US columnist and author David Ignatius, Bush favors keeping US force in Iraq close to the pre-“surge” level of 130,000 troops. Ignatius wrote, “Bush in effect is redoubling his bet on success in Iraq.” It is a risky course insofar as Iraq is a polarizing issue in an election year. But there is logic in betting that with such high stakes for Big Oil in Iraq – thanks to Shahristani’s deals – no serious US politician with presidential ambitions would undermine Bush’s desire for continuity and his plans to leave behind a stable Iraq.
    Indeed, the rest of the world has already decided that it is time to take the Bush legacy in Iraq seriously. The alacrity with which Moscow is hurrying to get onto Shahristani’s gravy train is the latest tell-tale sign. Moscow is highly unlikely to waste its time in rhetoric ridiculing the Bush administration by pointing out that the US needs assistance to save face and leave Iraq with dignity or that Russia could help stabilize the situation, and so on.
    But Iraq is likely to impact Russia’s fortunes in a much more profound way on a second front where Moscow’s ability to influence is virtually nil. Moscow will be watching with anxiety the progress of the energy dialogue that has commenced between the European Union and Iraq. Alarm bells would have rung in Moscow when Shahristani travelled to Brussels and met the EU officials on January 31.
    EU officials have openly acknowledged that their desire to seek closer energy ties with Iraq is a critical component of their broader strategy to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies. EU countries currently depend on Russia for roughly a quarter of their gas supplies. EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Shahristani, “Iraq is a natural energy partner for the EU, both as a producer of oil and gas and as a transit country for hydrocarbon resources from the Middle East and the Gulf to the EU.”
    She said the EU was keen to see Iraq link into the Arab Gas Pipeline project from Egypt to Jordan near the Syrian border, which is under construction and is expected to allow European customers to tap into supplies from Egypt and other countries along the line via Turkey. The EU’s Arab Gas Pipeline project forms part of the 3,300-kilometer pipeline to transport gas from the Middle East and Central Asia to Europe while bypassing Russia.
    The plan is to transport Iraqi natural gas from a gas field in southern Iraq to the EU through the Arab Gas Pipeline, which, when completed, will connect Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. Iraqi gas could then reach Europe through the planned Nabucco pipeline, which is to run from Turkey to Austria. Iraq has been invited to an upcoming ministerial meeting on the Arab Gas Pipeline project.
    An interesting sideline is that access to Iraqi energy suddenly makes the Nabucco pipeline viable. Russia, through robust efforts in the recent past had gained the high ground as the key energy supplier for the southern European countries. The Russian efforts had dampened Nabucco’s prospects despite Washington’s vigorous backing for the project. Now, when it appeared that Moscow had all but finished off Nabucco, thanks to Iraqi energy, Nabucco is rising again as a major challenge to Russia’s interests as the major energy supplier for Europe. The implications for Europe’s relations with Russia and even for the trans-Atlantic relations are far-reaching.
    Shahristani told his EU interlocutors in Brussels that Iraq planned to develop its gas fields this year and should be in a position to supply Europe with gas “in two or three years”. Iraq is estimated to have 111 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Royal Dutch Shell, France’s Total and Italy’s Edison are seeking Shahristani’s approval for a deal to develop one of Iraq’s largest gas fields, Akkas, located near the Syrian border, which could be connected to the Arab Gas Pipeline.
    On the oil front, Shahristani said in Brussels that Iraq is studying the possibility of new pipelines through Turkey. Oil from the Kirkuk fields in northern Iraq is currently exported through a pipeline that links up the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
    India-Israel energy ties
    EU-Iraq energy ties will be a worrisome development for not only Russia but also for Iran. Tehran has been nurturing the hope that the EU’s strategy to diversify its energy imports would eventually give impetus to the European countries to normalize their relations with Iran and that in turn would prompt them to withstand the US pressure to isolate Iran. But Tehran is watching with dismay that Iraq is fast becoming a golden goose for the EU and the expansion of EU-Iraq energy ties may dampen any sense of urgency in the European capitals for building up an energy dialogue with Iran in the near term.
    The virtual “loss” of the EU market – in the near term, at least – compels Iran to turn more toward the Asian region. But here too, US pressure is working on India, one of Asia’s most significant energy markets, from linking up with Iran. Washington is instead encouraging Indian companies to become active in Iraq. Ideally, Washington would like to promote a Turkey-Israel-India energy grid that could tap into the Iraqi reserves. This approach also fits
    in with the US geostrategy of developing Turkey, Israel and India as three “pivotal” states that are Washington’s natural allies in the regions surrounding the volatile Middle East.
    In January, Turkey launched a feasibility study for a natural gas pipeline connecting northern Iraq’s fields to its Mediterranean port of Yumurtalik, which will run parallel to the oil pipelines. Once the northern Iraq gas fields are developed, 353 billion cubic feet of natural gas will flow to Yumurtalik. Turkey hopes to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) by tankers to destinations such as Israel and India. There is strong US backing for the project.
    To the extent that India is kept away from linking with Iran, Washington also hopes to scuttle the prospect of an Asian
    energy grid developing that might involve Iran, Pakistan, India and China alongside Russia and the Central Asian states. Significantly, serious discussions have begun for the first time between Turkey and India on energy cooperation.
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, who visited Delhi recently, has reportedly proposed to his Indian counterpart the possibility of Turkey exporting oil from the Ceyhan port to Israel’s Ashkelon-Eilat pipeline and Indian super tankers sourcing oil from the Israeli port of Eilat in the Gulf of Aquba. A visit by Turkish President Abdullah Gul to India, followed by a visit by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in the cards.
    The Indian Oil Corporation is already building pipelines in Turkey. A major Indian company belonging to the powerful Reliance Group (which has collaboration with Chevron) is active in northern Iraq. (By a curious coincidence, the Kurdish leadership in northern Iraq and the Indian government have employed the same lobbying firm – run by Robert D Blackwill, a former deputy national security advisor and ambassador in New Delhi – to canvass for their interests in Washington.)
    Indian companies have traditionally been active in the Iraqi oil sector. But what explains the US’s interest at this juncture is that energy cooperation in Iraq could significantly cement the strategic ties between Israel and India and thereby ease Israel’s regional isolation. On the face of it, it would have made eminent sense for India to connect Iraq via a pipeline through Iran. But Washington’s entire strategy is to cut Iran out of the loop and to instead encourage Turkey, Israel and India to forge an energy grid.
    However, a Turkey-Israel-India energy grid may face domestic opposition within India. The question of India partaking of the economic bonanza of US-occupied Iraq may militate sections of the Indian public opinion. The present Indian Parliament has adopted a resolution which seriously delimits Delhi’s collaboration with US-occupied Iraq. How Indian public opinion reconciles its antipathy towards US “imperialism” with the tantalizing prospect of the country tapping into Iraq’s vast energy reserves will offer an engrossing political and diplomatic spectacle. But, in the short term, the prospect of Iraq as a significant source of energy supply is surely working as yet another damper on India-Iran energy cooperation. In that respect, the US strategy is working.
    Turkey major beneficiary
    In sheer geopolitical terms, the single biggest beneficiary out of all Iraq’s neighbors is going to be Turkey. Shahristani’s projects will catapult Turkey into the status of a crucially important energy hub in the US’s strategy. During his Washington visit last month, Turkish President Gul had meetings with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the secretaries of State and Energy. The agenda of discussions related to the US and Turkey jointly working in Iraq to develop its energy sources.
    US-Turkey energy cooperation in Iraq impacts on the geopolitics of the region in many directions. First, Washington will expect that Turkey go slowly on expanding and deepening its cooperative ties with Iran, a trend that the Bush administration had been viewing with disquiet in the recent past. Turkey can be expected to respond with pragmatism and calibrate its ties with Iran in accordance with the US sensitivity.
    In turn, any recalibration of the dynamics of Turkish-Iranian ties will be a matter of utmost satisfaction for Israel. Correspondingly, therefore, we may expect a revival of warmth in Turkish-Israeli relations. Furthermore, Turkey is now poised to be a conduit for energy supplies from northern Iraq to Israel. Israel already enjoys strong influence in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. Thus, there is a tremendous convergence of interests between Turkey and Israel over issues of Israel’s energy security.
    The Israel-Turkey political axis is bound to consolidate in the coming period, thanks to Iraq’s oil. But from Turkey’s point of view, the most important outcome is the readiness on the part of Washington to disengage from its erstwhile Kurdish allies in northern Iraq. This is already giving Ankara a relatively free hand in militarily countering Kurdish militant activities. Washington is not only turning a blind eye to Turkish military incursions into northern Iraq but is even reportedly sharing vital intelligence with Turkey, which makes the Turkish military’s “hot pursuit” of Kurdish militants inside northern Iraq more effective. Washington is definitely leaning on the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to rein in the activities of Turkish militants based in northern Iraq.
    Equally, Turkey is able to exploit the vested interests of Iraqi Kurdish leaders in oil trade. There are signs that Iraqi Kurdish leaders are cooperating with the Turkish military operations in meaningful ways.
    Turkey has certainly influenced the US decision to scuttle on technical grounds the holding of a referendum regarding the status of oil-rich Kirkuk region in December as provided under the provisional Iraqi constitution of 2005. Conceivably, growing US dependence on Turkey could even lead to an indefinite postponement of the referendum beyond June this year. Turkey is pressing for a UN-negotiated “special status” for Kirkuk, making it a region unto itself. Washington may well heed the Turkish suggestion. At a minimum, Ankara can heave a sigh of relief that the specter of an independent Kurdish national identity taking shape in northern Iraq has receded into the background. Without US backing, it is simply not possible for the Kurds in northern Iraq to assert their independence.
    Turkey also finds common ground with the Iraqi Sunni and Shi’ite political blocs, who have made a pact against holding any referendum in Kirkuk until a new law is passed that would firmly establish Baghdad’s control over the province’s oil wealth. This enhances Turkey’s leverage in Baghdad. The Iraqi political alliance challenging the Kurdish separatist aspirations includes as many as 145 legislators in the 275-member Iraqi Parliament.
    Indeed, from the Turkish perspective, all this is far from offering a permanent solution to the Kurdish problem as such. As the prominent Turkish editor Ilnur Cevik pointed out recently, “It is a problem that has to be addressed with pragmatism and with the notion that there are citizens of Kurdish origin who still do not feel they are being treated as first class citizens of the Turkish republic.” But the fact remains that Turkey gains valuable time to set its own house in order while Washington dotes on Ankara as a key ally in Iraq.
    Turkey has played its cards brilliantly. With the correct mix of strategic defiance and realism, Ankara has persuaded the Bush administration to view the northern Iraqi situation through its prism. In fact, out of all Iraq’s neighbors, it is Turkey that the US will have to count on in the coming period. The Turkish-US relationship, which went through a bad four-year period following Ankara’s refusal to assist in the US invasion of Iraq, has certainly regained some of its traditional verve as a key alliance. This adds immensely to Turkey’s regional status vis-a-vis its Arab neighbors, Russia, Iran, and even the European countries.
    Turkey’s influential role in Iraq, in fact, makes it a significant player in the Middle East. But, more important to medium-term Turkish national priorities would be that Europe would be more inclined as time passes to take note of Turkey’s strategic importance. For the EU, Turkey is emerging as a vital energy bridge connecting the Middle East. At some point in the foreseeable future, this should turn to Turkey’s advantage, if only Ankara relentlessly continues to pursue its EU membership.”

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