Wednesday, June 24, 2009

As the US Pulls Out, Iraq and Pakistan Approach Boiling Point

While most of us have had our eyes glued to Twitter feeds from Iran, the situation in countries that bracket it is hardly improving. As this report from today's NYT notes, Spate of Attacks Tests Iraqi City and U.S. Pullout -, Falluja, which several years ago was the epicenter of Sunni resistance to the US occupation in Iraq, is now increasingly on edge. Add to this the ongoing violence up north in Mosul and Nineveh province (where US troops may be staying beyond the withdrawal date) and the tensions between the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over oil contracts, Kirkuk, and borders, and it's plain that Iraq will be anything but "secure" as US troops pull out of Iraq's cities. "Stabilization" will now be largely up to the Iraqi army and police (including the Iraqi Special Operations Force, which The Nation reported on recently as essentially trigger-happy death squads trained by US Special Forces). But the Maliki government insists that it wants US withdrawal to proceed as scheduled, and there's also an upcoming referendum in which Iraqis may well vote to reject the status-of-forces (i.e., withdrawal) agreement that Bush reached with Baghdad - in which case the US will be forced to clear out much more quickly.

It should be obvious that Iraq is, and is going to remain, "stable" under only the most generous of definitions, and only with a generous application of "pressure" by military forces aligned with Prime Minister al-Maliki. As the US backs away, he will likely need to resort to various demonstrations of his power against perceived threats - with lots of collateral damage in the offing. In other words, Maliki will need to make himself into a Saddam-lite.

If that happens, we all should be reminding ourselves of what it was exactly that Bush was trying to accomplish when he sent US forces into Iraq in 2003 . . . and whether the result was worth the huge price that was paid, by the US and by Iraqis.

And speaking of prices being paid . . . the NYT also reports today that a US drone strike in Pakistan may have killed as many as 60 people. I suppose that since the strike was launched at funeral-goers attending the funeral of a Taliban leader, the assumption was that all those in attendance were Taliban sympathizers . . . and, therefore, "terrorists." And any who might be innocent can simply be chalked up as collateral damage, right?

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