Monday, June 29, 2009

Is the job done in Iraq?

. . . is the question asked (and answered) in today's LA Times by John Hannah, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (= pro-Likud, neocon-ish think-tank) and Dick Cheney's national security advisor from 2005-2009. In short, Hannah thinks that Obama has taken his eye off the "victory" ball in Iraq; that Obama has forgotten how well the Surge worked; and that he's going to lose Iraq to the evil Iranians unless he stops talking about withdrawal and more about victory, and spends "more time working with Iraqis to figure out how best we can stay" (by which, Hannah says, he means with a diplomatic and economic presence). The reward will be a stable, democratized Iraq.

That the Surge brought a short-term reduction in US and Iraqi deaths is true, and that was truly a welcome development - but as a solution to Iraq's problems, no, Mr. Hannah, it did not work. Death counts for both US troops and Iraqi military and civilians have been "surging" back up.

And would that Hannah were reading more deeply about Iraq's current circumstances and political infighting. Iraq is not likely to be stabilized for many years to come (thanks to the destabilization to which Hannah's former boss so richly contributed), and if stabilization does come, it's increasingly likely to be at the hands of a new "democracy" characterized by a woefully ineffective parliament as well as an emerging Saddam-lite who has gathered to himself a praetorian-guard kill-squad (the new Iraqi Counterterrorism forces, which are special forces trained by the US's own and who seem to answer to no one except Mr. Maliki).

And how ought Mr. Obama to focus on US "victory" in Iraq when 30 June date of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq's cities is being celebrated as an official holiday in Iraq, a sort of "Iraqi Victory Day" over the US occupation?

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