Sunday, October 4, 2009

US betrayal of its Sunni tribal allies in Iraq; and Iran's "chessmanship"

As we all re-focus on Iran's nuclear program and the steady deterioration of Afghanistan (where, the US military reports, 8 more US troops have been killed - the beat goes on - in a battle very reminiscent of one, in Wanat, about a year ago), let's not forget that Iraq is by no means "won" or a "victory" for the US.  John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman et al. tout the "Surge" of US forces there in 2007-2008 as supposedly turned the tide.   The Wapo's Anthony Shadid reports on the Sunni sheikhs of Anbar (Iraq's large western governorate), who were vital in rolling back (at least for the time being) the al-Qaeda-type jihadists there, but who have been abandoned by their erstwhile US backers and threatened by the Maliki government.  They're feeling a bit betrayed and cowed right now, but if Maliki can't find a way to bring them aboard his new nationalist band-wagon . . . well, let's just remember that as US troops accelerate their withdrawal, the frayed seams of the Iraqi political and social fabric are going to be stretched.

As for Afghanistan, note two pieces in today's NYT: one from various contributors, about steps to "victory"; the other, from James Traub, much more thoughtful, on Afghanistan in the context of rethinking what are appropriate goals for US foreign policy, with much reference to George Kennan's brand of realism.

Amid the new hopes about Iran, what with the evident willingness of the leadership to allow IAEA inspectors in at the "newly disclosed" site near Qom, the WaPo's Jackson Diehl writes about the "coming failure" there (in re US policy), while respected analyst Kaveh Afrasiabi makes an interesting case  (writing in the Washington Times) that the most recent developments reflect some "brilliant chessmanship" on Iran's part.

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