Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ryan Crocker: Turning the Page in Iraq(?)

New essay at the National Interest website.  Crocker, who was the US ambassador in Iraq during some of the most turbulent recent years there, reads the Iraq tea leaves very positively, but claims that if Iraq is to continue down that road, the US needs to stay there well after the current end-of-2011 deadline:
As Iraq moves toward the formation of a new government and we approach the final year of a deployed U.S. military presence under the terms of the 2008 security agreement, I believe it remains a strong possibility that the Iraqis will request an extension of our military presence. If they do, I hope we will respond positively. No one envisions a combat role for such forces. But they can provide critical assurance to Iraqis against internal and external security threats as Iraqi capabilities develop. For example, Iraq will not have main battle tanks, significant air-defense systems or combat-air capability for several years after 2011. Equally important, a significant U.S. presence is a political assurance to all Iraqis about their future at a time when critical compromises have to be made. We can turn a page in Iraq, but we must not close the book.

To say that no one envisions a combat role for US forces that might remain in station in Iraq seems a bit disingenuous.  Of course, no one in the US wants to see them have to engage - but that's precisely why the US wants them there, so they can, just in case.  The idea is to intimidate (even provoke?) Iran as much as possible, keep it surrounded (with big US bases already up in Afghanistan), and perhaps remind what's going to be a predominantly Shii leadership in Baghdad that the US is keeping an eye on them.

And the whole thing smacks of what the Brits did after World War I: occupy, install a new government that they could influence, and maintain a military presence.  In the end, as Britain's power waned (just as the US's power is waning now), that government came to a violent end, in large part because of its obvious ties to Britain.

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