Monday, April 18, 2011

Neocons Planning for Continued US Presence in Iraq

How reassuring it is to know that one of our favorite neocon think-tanks (The Institute for the Study of War, or ISAW) has held a conference to come up with ideas on how to prolong - seemingly indefinitely - the US troop presence in Iraq.  Max Boot (who has also published today a WSJ piece on this theme) gives us the heads-up (in Commentary, another neocon bastion):

Among the scenarios we batted around: Beefing up the Office of Security Cooperation, currently scheduled to be roughly 150 military personnel stationed in the U.S. Embassy, tasked with advising Iraqi forces. Perhaps it might be possible to expand this office and set up a U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group that could in total number several thousand soldiers. Set up a NATO Training Mission that could also assist this task. Schedule regular exercises between the U.S. and Iraqi armed forces that would allow thousands of U.S. troops to visit Iraq for a brief period. Expand our exchange program with the Iraqi military to allow more officers to study in the U.S. and other Western countries. Expand the existing Strategic Framework Agreement, also signed by Bush and Maliki in 2008, into an explicit U.S.-Iraq alliance with mutual-defense obligations. Set up a United Nations peacekeeping force to patrol the border between the Kurdish Regional Government and Iraq proper. Station U.S. troops in the Kurdish region where they would definitely be welcome.

And from his WSJ essay:
We don't need to keep 50,000 troops there, but a continuing presence of 20,000 military personnel, as argued by military analysts Frederick and Kimberly Kagan [BTW, two of ISAW's "luminaries"], would seem to be the minimum necessary to ensure Iraq's continued progress. It would also make possible an Iraqi-American alliance that could become one of the linchpins of security in this strategically vital region. Having active bases in Iraq would allow us to project power and influence, counter the threat from both Iran and al Qaeda, and possibly even nudge the entire Middle East in a more pro-Western direction.
What you have here is basically a game plan for end-running the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement that Bush negotiated with the Maliki government back in 2008) and finding a way to station a significant US military presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future - this, despite the fact that it would bring the Mahdi Army into the streets, rejuvenate Sunni resistance (be it al-Qaeda/jihadist related or Iraqi nationalist), and completely de-legitimize the Maliki government, which is already struggling to sustain its legitimacy  in this era of the Arab Spring  - as is the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north, where protesters against the corruption of the KRG's two dominant political parties (those led by the long-feuding Barzani and Talabani clans) were yesterday fired upon by KRG forces in Suleimaniya, with at least 35 wounded.

And, of course, in neither piece does Boot discuss how the US pays for this extension of an occupation that has already cost a trillion dollars at least.  Or perhaps he also sees US military bases on Iraq soil as a means of leveraging payment from Iraq via its oil?  Perhaps Boot is angling for a spot as Secretary of State in a Donald Trump administration?  (Don't laugh too soon. It was reported yesterday that in a recent poll of prospective GOP candidates in 2012, the Donald finished tied for first.  And he's stated in at least two venues his belief that when you take a country, you own its resources.)

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