Thursday, June 25, 2009

US discounts Iraq withdrawal risk even as violence ratchets up

Everyone seems to be well on-message: The Associated Press: US discounts Iraq withdrawal risk despite attacks - the Iraqis can handle it, Iraq's gonna be fine, so the US can pull out. The focus of the assured remarks seems to be the relationship between Sunni and Shia Arabs, which, US spokespeople seem to feel, will not again devolve to the depths of the civil war of 2006.

This seems to me both deceptive and wishful thinking. Deceptive, because despite the words suggesting that Iraq will be almost emptied of US military, there's still going to be a significant US presence: advisers, air support, major bases still on Iraqi soil, and US Special Forces trying to operate under the radar. Wishful thinking, because:
1. Iraqi Arabs, both Sunni and Shia, are not "over" the events of a few years back. There is still no political reconciliation, and there are still a lot of scores to be settled.
2. Tensions between Arab and Kurd groups in Iraq are sky-high, with no movement toward reconciliation on any of the important scores: oil contracts, oil revenues, Kirkuk, territorial claims. And Prime Minister al-Maliki has made it clear in recent months that he does not see the Kurdistan Regional Government as an equal partner in the governing of Iraq, even as Kurds increasingly assert their autonomy.

Obviously, the US's military "mission" now is in Afghanistan and Pakistan's frontier regions. US casualties in Afghanistan are rising, as is Pakistani "collateral damage" suffered from US drone airstrikes. Iraq has become strictly "yesterday." That may not last.

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