October 8, 2007

Iraq "Quagmire": An Intentional Sequence of Steps with No Exit Strategy

Vali Nasr, of Tufts, is not the only one to observe that
The United States is trying to fight on all sides—Sunni and Shia—and be friends with all sides. [1]

The Bush administration recognizes that their earlier steps, including elections, had empowered the Shia majority. At the time, the US military focused on the Sunni insurgency. This shifted the regional balance of power to Shia-oriented Iran. Oops. Can't have that.

The more recent step, the troop surge, generated US alliances with Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. The stated goal was to fight foreign al-Qaeda, which was partly true. This was was mirrored by a sharp increase in establishment media references to al-Qaeda as the primary source and target of violence at the time.

But the shifting US alliance composition also serves to counter balance the earlier imbalance created when the US brought a Shia-dominated government to power; Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik spent years exiled in Iran. Many analysts and Iraqis believe the Anbar alliances will be ephemeral, and worse, could fuel the Iraqi civil war. Referring to one of the groups with which the US has allied in Anbar, Saad Mutaleibi says:

The Amiriya group, is notorious for beheading people and killing and major atrocities [ethnic cleansing of Shia from Anbar]. And these people are sitting in Amiriya with the American support now. And the Iraqi army or police cannot enter that area. These efforts are tactical moves to resolve today's problem, but in essence you're adding another problem with another layer to the problems of Iraq.

The Bush administration's next likely step has literally become a joke in Iran:

How will the US leave Iraq? Through Iran.

The sad fact is that the US isn't going to leave Iraq, and it's going to hammer Iran via air strikes.

Quagmire? Blunder? No exit strategy? Somehow I think not. The lack-of-security-quagmire justifies continued US occupation of Iraq, which is the Bush administration's intent. This is not a "blunder." No exit strategy is needed if the intent is to stay, which it is and has been. It would be unacceptable to both the Democratic and Republican establishment to leave an Iraqi power vacuum to be filled by Iran. That is why both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are now saying the US will be in Iraq until at least 2013.

These people, while intelligent, are blinded by information overload, harried schedules and being inside the establishment bubble. The US has created war conditions on two sides of Iran; imagine how the US would react if another nation, citing the US as "evil," created violent instability in Mexico and Canada in an effort to control those country's resources and regional power balances. The US would not just sit there, as is the present case with Iran. Imagine further if this other nation initiated air strikes on the US. The US would be justified in striking back, as is the hypothetical case with Iran. We shouldn't be surprised if Iran strikes back in ways, and over time horizons, that make the Iraq war look like a tea party.


New Yorker, Shifting Targets: The administration's plan for Iran, Seymour Hersh, September, 2007.

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