Open String on Iraq Strategery

“Col. Lang:
I’m a fan of your blog and, as a former State Dept. nuclear nonproliferation specialist, an avid consumer of foreign policy analysis. But I have not seen much lately attempting lay out in detail a path forward on, or out of, Iraq, and I would value a source of intelligent debate on that topic.
My friends and I are divided into two camps. On one side are those who say that our continued presence can at best keep the civil war on hold but cannot resolve it, and therefore conclude that we have to withdraw, over the course of some months, and face the fact that the civil war will flare up.
On the other side are those who say that having broken it, we will have to enlarge our military and keep 50,000 troops there for the next 30 years to try to keep a lid on. But none of us are what I would call sophisticated analysts of mid-east issues. It strikes me that you and some of your contributors might be able to do a nice job on the topic. Or if I just have not been looking in the right place, perhaps you could tell me where I find such discussion.
Bob Newman
Charlottesville, Virginia ”
Interestingly, I have a close friend with the same name (Bob Newman). I have written on this topic before, but I think that a wide-open discussion of this matter would be a good idea and welcome Mr. Newman’s suggestion.
As some of you know, I am in the “camp” of those who favor a staged departure of American forces over the next three years. Whether or not a training, supply and security contingent would be left there for a couple more years after that would depend, in my mind, on whether or not there had emerged by then a responsible Iraq government worth dealing with. I definitely do not support the idea of a long term (as in Korea) presence in Iraq. Such a presence would inevitably lead to continued anti-US warring in the country. In such a situation some of those who now have turned against the takfiri jihadis and are fighting as our “allies” might well go back to fighting us.
Shia Iraq is going to be increasingly unstable in the next months or years as the four major Shia factions struggle for supremacy in various parts of the country. The Iranians are attempting to “play” this situation in such a way as to achieve as much influence in Iraq as possible.
This factor should be included in your analysis. Play “nice” with the other kids. pl

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11 Responses to Open String on Iraq Strategery

  1. Charles I says:

    Your course is the only rational one. No Iraqi government that supports a permanent or even a decade or so of continued Occupation – and that’s that it is seen as.
    At Juan Cole today there is a squib on fears that the new Sunni Awakening councils are the civil warriors of tomorrow:
    “Ret. Col. Douglas MacGregor worries that the Sunni Arab awakening councils in Iraq could lay the groundwork for a large scale civil war when the Americans draw down their troops.”
    These people having be suffering for decades. Even another decade of Occupation in pursuit of security will not quench the embers of the quest for power and revenge that blazed upon the overthrow of Saddam. There are little old Palestinian widows who, clutching the keys to their stolen homes – which they can see international criminal Occupiers defiling from their current wretched refuge, who will never forget, never give up. The peoples of the ME have an attention span and birthrate much greater than that of the prototypical American Idol viewer, and certainly much longer than any Western politician.
    The Sunni government(s) to date have been completely dysfunctional. There are no signs that the Sunni’s are prepared,let alone ABLE to offer the Shia the social, political, religious and economic space required to come to some kind of governmental modus vivendi.
    There has been no resolution of the status of the Kurds in the new Iraq – except amongst the Kurds themselves – or the questions of Kirkuk, revenue sharing or Turkomen population abuses, all of which militate against complete unilateral Kurdish freedom of action. There are walkouts and boycotts of the Iraqi Parliament every other week.
    The governance that has gone on amongst the fighting has been rife with corruption on a massive scale that does not tend to a stable polity.
    Ethnic cleansing of Baghdad is virtually completed, complete with blast walls dividing neighbourhoods but affording no protection from grenades, mortars, or, for that matter, U.S. urban airstrikes against “militant targets”.
    Iran is not going anywhere. Ergo, Iraq is a frontline state in the flathead war against Iran, with the minor disadvantage that Iran is right there, and the U.S. is thousands of miles away.
    Then there’s the matter of general Arab masses’s sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, and the antipathy to Zionism, the utter inaction and political gamesmanship of Arab despots notwithstanding. Lets face it: Israel will never make peace until it is militarily vanquished, or Israel itself descends into civil war, a prospect remote but not entirely delusional. Until Zionism and Balfour the Arabs and native Jews lived harmoniously side by side for centuries. Since Zionism, the Arabs have suffered one catastrophe after another, while the Zionists relied upon Western guilt to facilitate their crimes.
    This will have consequences for Americans in Iraq, and American politicians at home. I believe that ever so slowly, the truth about Israel and its rampant criminality are penetrating the cacophony of anti-terrorist gibberish spouted by mainstream media, and disturbing people enough so that eventually, America will be forced by its own citizens to abandon Israel if it does not make peace. This will reduce support for Israel, and American ME adventurism in general, which in turn will increase Israel’s paranoia prompting further Israeli depredations both in Palestine and elsewhere, which will have blowback for U.S. forces in the ME.
    Further, the anti-Iranian Saudis and Israelis require a continued U.S. presence in the meat in the sandwich that is Iraq.
    Then there’s the general western moronic conception of the world as ever amenable to western repair and progress. At the BBC world page, Gordon Brown is contending the Afghan war is being won because we have killed so many senior Taleban. As though Pakistan didn’t exist. As though Muslim populations in the Central Aisian ‘Stans were not a simmering powderkeg and an oppotunity for clever Chinese maneuvering. How can the leader of a former great power be so deluded as to believe in “victory” in Afghanistan – or so duplicitously dissembling to his people at war?
    Flatheads and religious whackos very closely dialed into Power will also militate against a withdrawl. As will the Contractors – fattened on the U.S. tit, but now empowered and addicted rather than weaned.
    So: the drawdown should commence NOW, in careful stages calibrated by U.S. security requirements and any erstwhile Iraqi government governance – but on schedule. And in the end, there must be a schedule, even an unannounced one.
    The U.S. must address the reparations and refugee issues, especially with regard to American employed
    or compromised Iraqis.
    Iran must be directly engaged in these processes if it is to be realistically undertaken.
    All U.S contractors in Iraq should be drawn down commensurately, all contracts wound down. Those non-security alleged infrastructure contractors should have their contracts terminated on a similar schedule and any further U.S. contractor involvement should be the business of the legitimate sovereign government of Iraq. And then the contractrors and the traitors that conspired to defraud Americans and Iraqis alike should be brought to bar.
    Good luck with ANY of that.

  2. JohnH says:

    Actually the debate should focus on whether there is any serious thought within both branches of the War Party (Democrap and Repuliscum) to examine the issue. It looks to me as if the leadership of both parties is committed to the long haul in Iraq and are simply not interested in discussing alternative paths forward. Republiscum are openly committed to the long haul. Democraps are putting on a charade to mollify their base but are equally committed.
    Israel and the ‘defense’ industry couldn’t be happier…unless of course they could gin up a war in Iran.

  3. Lee Keefer says:

    Wouldn’t it be better to ask the Iraqis how they plan to stabilize their country?
    What is the Iraqi “12 step plan”?
    I think we’re asking the wrong people, by asking ourselves how “We” are going to fix Iraqi sectarian, demographic, economic and national problems.
    Iraq has Balkanized within our fumbling grasp, and I’m afraid we’re neither knowledgeable enough, nor wise enough to fix a foreign lands’ internal problems.
    The Iraqis are the experts of ‘Iraq’. The Iraqis are the experts we must consult. The Iraqis must lead this effort. This is their country, and they must fight to preserve it.
    If they do not, how can any “man of the West” force Iraq to reconcile and stabilize itself?
    All we can do, is measure our commitment to the monumental task of nation building and peacekeeping in Iraq.
    We must measure the limits of our patience, endurance and national treasure, and proceed to lay out those boundaries clearly to the Iraqi government.
    From there, the Iraqis must plan and act.
    To do otherwise, is to merely act as a colonial power, pursuing our own interests above the Iraqis.
    It is my opinion that type of situation would not end well.

  4. robt willmann says:

    I will be blunt. Foreign policy analysis of mid-east issues has nothing to do with deciphering the Iraq tragedy.
    Mr. Bob Newman “[has] not seen much lately attempting to lay out in detail a path forward on, or out of, Iraq ….”
    He is not going to see any such detail.
    The “foreign policy” of the U.S., Britain, and Israel in Iraq is gangsterism. No sophistication is needed to recognize it.
    A gangster, using threats, bullying, and violence, seeks to control territory, control things enough in the territory to be able to give orders and not worry about rivals, and control one or more financial enterprises to make money.
    A more subtle operator, as opposed to the gangster, has the same objectives, but wants to accomplish them without using threats, intimidation, and violence.
    Go back and see if you can find a tape of president Bush jr’s televised little gangsta rap on or about March 17, 2003, giving Saddam Hussein and his buddies 48 hours to get out of town. Its ugliness reveals and encapsulates that philosophy which has come back to bite us.
    The persons in and out of the three governments promoting this war had as their number one goal, I will say again, to be sure there is not an independent, nationalist leader or government in Iraq.
    The secondary goals are to control the oil, water, and financial structure of Iraq and to suppress some of the moral and business principles of the Muslim world.
    The goal of preventing an independent Iraq will continue to be accomplished whether there is ongoing chaos, a puppet government, or a partition of the country, although partition is the least desired from the current U.S. government’s perspective but is desired by Israel.
    The remaining goals are mired down by that which bullies hate to see–ongoing resistance.
    But having gotten this far, the promoters of the war are not going to allow the U.S. to leave Iraq, because then the goals of the invasion I have specified will be lost.
    Only a new, courageous
    president who will give the
    order to withdraw, or a public inflamed over catastrophic
    military losses or a financial
    meltdown that can force
    Congress to act in the face of media propaganda, will result in U.S. forces leaving Iraq.
    The Iraqi guerilla resistance will not stop until the U.S., Britain, and Israel are all gone.
    The war and occupation have gone on for four and a half years. Children who were 12 years old when our bombs started to fall are almost 17 now. Teenagers are now 20.
    Four million or more are out of their homes, with reportedly half refugees in Iraq and the other half out of the country. Recent reports speak of ongoing assassinations of scientists and other educated Iraqis, by whom, and at whose instigation, it is not clear.
    When I think about Fallujah, I realize that it was about the size of Austin when I was at the University of Texas. If foreign troops took over Texas, surrounded Austin, and then systematically destroyed it, what would I or we think?
    What would we do? And that is just one Texas city.
    Do not be fooled by the excuse that we need to train Iraqi security forces. Saddam Hussein was the contact person when the East German Stasi taught the Baath Party how to set up a Department of Homeland Security for Iraq. There is nothing we can tell the Iraqis about “security” that they do not already know, especially the Baathists.
    What does this do to Mr. Newman’s question?
    It makes it moot, as to foreign policy in the Middle East.
    The solution to the Iraq tragedy is not in Iraq. It is here in the U.S.A. and will happen only after dramatic political change, which cannot and will not happen until January 2009, and not even then, unless Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, or Mike Gravel become president. Congress as constituted is too compromised and cowardly. New candidates running in 2008 probably will not be able to make a difference, one reason being that Charles Schumer and Rahm Emanuel are trying to recruit pro-war or otherwise compliant Democratic candidates.
    The answer is not in an Iraq strategy, but one here.
    And Iran?
    Don’t worry about it. The Persians are different from Iraqi Arabs. And Iran hasn’t launched an invasion of another country in a long time.
    On November 21, 1945, Robert H. Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Supreme Court and the chief counsel at the Nuremberg trials of the National Socialists (Nazis) after World War II, gave an opening statement as the tribunal began. In his discussion of the legal basis for the charge of launching a war of aggression, he said–
    “One of the most authoritative sources of international law on this subject is the Convention for the Definition of Aggression signed at London on July 3, 1933 by Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Turkey, the Soviet Union, Persia, and Afghanistan.”
    Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan?
    Signatories to the Convention for the Definition of Aggression? In 1933?
    That’s right.
    No good deed goes unpunished.

  5. jamzo says:

    1. nothing will/can happen until there is a change in power in the US (bush and republicans out and ? and democrats in)
    2. a major task awaits new leaders
    a. negotiate plan for staged reduction of miliatry commitment to iraq with necessary iraqi factions
    b.negotiate with our “client state” israel stop settlement propogation and negotiate with palestinians
    c. negotiate mutual agreement on iraq with major players turkey, saudi arabia, iran, as well as smaller players lebanon, israel
    4. establish energy convention and establish national commitment to reduce/eliminate dependence on carbon energy sources with alternative techologies

  6. taters says:

    Col. Lang,
    As a frequent reader and poster here, allow me to say I truly apprecate your work regarding tribesmen and I have felt a glimmer of hope since your expertise (and your colleagues)has been heeded, with success. Now if only your Concert of the Middle East would be given the same consideration. We will need a Talleyrand in the next admin. Of course, one of my fondest wishes would be you as US Special Envoy to the ME. I assure anyone here I am not kissing up.
    Season’ Best,
    Robert M. Murray

  7. Jimmy Wu says:

    I believe that we cannot abandon the Kurds in Iraq, due to strategic and moral reasons.
    Therefore, if a withdrawal is to take place, we will still need to keep a presence in Kurdistan. An American presence in Kurdistan will help to stabilize the Kurds’ relationship with Turkey.
    In other parts of Iraq, we should devolve governance to the provincial level as much as possible, basically bypassing the Parliament until the next election. In the former Sunni Triangle, the provinces need to take the opportunity to restore vital services and foster commerce. With a more prosperous Sunni Triangle, the negotiations at the national level could move forward on a more equitable basis.

  8. ayla says:
    Re: Iran War: American Military Versus Israel Firsters
    by James Petras
    Secondly the Zion-Cons do not have an exit strategy because they believe the US should stay, colonize, build bases and engage in a prolonged war for a chimerical total victory. The question of ‘who commands the Commander in Chief’ goes to the entire core of our constitutional order, because it raises the deeper question of ‘who defines the national interests’ for which the military are fighting?
    If as we have documented, the ZPC has effectively colonized the White House and Legislative Branches (and the Justice Department and the appointment of an ultra-Zionist Attorney General Michael Mulkasey and Israel-First Head of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff), to serve the interests of a foreign power (Israel) in what sense does a colonized political system serve the interests of a democratic public?

  9. stickler says:

    Jimmy Wu:
    Therefore, if a withdrawal is to take place, we will still need to keep a presence in Kurdistan. An American presence in Kurdistan will help to stabilize the Kurds’ relationship with Turkey.
    Not going to happen. Look at a map: the Kurds are landlocked. We’d be dependent on either Iran or Turkey for land access to Kurdistan, and/or the central government of Iraq. None of those actors are enthusiastic about an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds will get the same treatment this time around as the last few times: they’ll be left in the lurch.

  10. JohnS says:

    Great question! One that I would love to hear addressed by the Clinton Campaign. (Although Mrs. Clinton disavows permanent military bases in Iraq, she is calling for a contigent of something like 75,00 troops to be left behind). How exactly can 75,000 American troops continue to do the job that our troops are struggling to accomplish at their current levels? I hope she’s not counting on Iraqi security forces!
    I was actually hoping that by this point, the question would have been, how best to withdraw from Iraq? Col. Lang favors a staged withdrawl over a 3 year period and (perhaps) some sort of contigent left behind for a couple of more years, while the “12 Captains” from the WaPo editorial, “The Real Iraq We Knew” argue in favor of immediate withdrawl: a “protracted draw-down is further escalation of attacks — on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of the imminent Iraqi civil war…”
    But baby steps…

  11. FDChief says:

    “In other parts of Iraq, we should devolve governance to the provincial level as much as possible, basically bypassing the Parliament until the next election.”
    This is essentially a recipe for partition. One of the big issues that Bush had to make large promises to Arab allies about was rejecting partition – too many other Arab “nations” have volitile internal divisions they didn’t and don’t want exposed by this fiasco. If we are seen to allow or, worse encouraging partition in Iraq our credibility in the ME – not high at the moment – will be completely lost. In addition, the Shia factions that reject partition will sieze on this as a grievance against us.
    “In the former Sunni Triangle, the provinces need to take the opportunity to restore vital services and foster commerce.”
    The problem being that there are no real resources of any value in the Sunni Triangle and the provinces there have no ability to raise revenue – the central government is unlkely to allow them any such for fear of funding provincial breakaways.
    “With a more prosperous Sunni Triangle, the negotiations at the national level could move forward on a more equitable basis.”
    This would be true assuming that the national government has any interest in “negotiating” with the Sunni in Anbar and the rest of the west. Their past experience with Sunni benevolence appears to have made them more confident in the appeal of force and fear. I see no way of altering that without significantly arming the Sunni – and the latter risks a return of the Baath.
    I suggest that the is no “way forward” in Iraq any more than there is in Lebanon. The place is devolving into tribal warfare, which ends when exhaustion or genocide removes the impulse to fight.

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