Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Iraq: an exit strategy proposal

Fred Kaplan, in Slate, summarizes two similar proposals for an Iraq exit strategy. He prefaces his discussion by stating that Cheney/Bush are a lost cause and that this strategy, tragically, must wait for the next administration - approximately 650 days from now (I need to find a countdown button for my blog). Emphases mine ...
Two new proposals for exiting Iraq. - By Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine

... Simon and Cole agree that the United States' main goals, at this point, should be to limit the effects of the civil war (which is already well in progress) and to keep the conflagration from spreading across the region.

It may seem paradoxical at first glance, but the best way to accomplish both goals may be to declare that we are leaving—that we're doing so on a timetable to be negotiated with the Iraqi government and in tandem with a separate, broader negotiation to end the civil war, but we are getting out...

...Cole further recommends holding new provincial elections so that the elected Sunni Arab representatives could stand in for guerrilla groups in the national talks, as Sinn Fein did in Northern Ireland.

However, both Simon and Cole emphasize, this step must be linked to active engagement with all of Iraq's neighbors. Cole lays out a scenario in which the United States and Britain work with the United Nations or the Organization of the Islamic Conference on this task, citing as a model the Bonn conference of December 2001 that helped install a unity government in Afghanistan. He envisions the Iraqi government arranging formal security commitments with the foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. He also suggests inviting Saudi Arabia to reprise the role it played in brokering an end to the Lebanese civil war in 1989, noting the credibility that King Abdullah has with the Sunni Arabs—though he notes, in that case, the Iranians will have to play a similar role in helping to shut down the Shiite militias, especially Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi army.

Under this scheme, the United States would negotiate a phased withdrawal in tandem with these political settlements. Simon notes that some U.S. troops should stay—to secure Baghdad International Airport, the Green Zone, and access routes in between. He also urges a stepped-up U.S. military presence elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. Cole is not in favor of a total U.S. pullout, either. (Nor, it should be noted, are the House or Senate Democrats, who, in their bills, provide continued funding for troops involved in counterterrorism, training Iraqi security forces, and protecting U.S. personnel.)..

... If the next president puts something like these plans in motion, will they amount to anything? Neither Simon nor Cole is naive on this score. Both admit their proposals are gambles. For my own part, I doubt that the Iranians have a deep interest in a stable Iraq and wonder, with trepidation, what price they'd demand in exchange for helping to build one...
I'll be looking for Phil Carter's response to Kaplan's summary and I'd very much like to read a Dyer response. Dyer, I think, is more optimistic than Kaplan about Iran's interest in a stable (albeit weak and vulnerable) Iraq. I read Kaplan as signing on, reluctantly, to the plan.

Of course all of this is an implicit statement that Iraq is another Vietnam. We should be so lucky -- Vietnam is a trading partner, reasonably good neighbor to Thailand, and non-terroristic de facto ally of the US. If the US failure in Iraq turns out as well as the US failure in Vietnam then Bush will be ranked as only among the three worst presidents in US history.

I think the model here is the British departure from Northern Ireland -- in which the EU played an important role (so, alas, did 9/11. That day the IRA knew the end had come for them.). If Phil goes for it then it will have my vote too ...

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