Friday, August 22, 2008

Update from Iraq

From Juan Cole:
The security agreement nearly completed between the Bush administration and the government of the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki may pull the rug out from under Sen. John McCain on Iraq, according to AP. It will stipulate that US troops will be out of Iraqi cities by June, 2009 and then mostly out of Iraq by 2011. In that light, it will be much harder for McCain to paint Obama as "surrendering" or wanting to "cut and run," since his withdrawal plan is very close to what Bush and the Iraqi government have agreed on.

McCain's position on having long-term bases in Iraq a la South Korea was always pie in the sky, because it assumed that it was a decision he as president would get to make all by himself. Neither the Iraqi parliament nor Congress will likely actually put up with such a policy. Why McCain hasn't been called on this by the Dems is mysterious to me. Why not do an ad? "McCain says he wants long term bases in Iraq. But that is not what the elected government of Iraq says it wants. Is he going to invade again to get what he wants?"

This completely would undercut John McCain's platform.
I forsee more fighting in Iraq as Maliki and the "Awakening Councils" clash.
The Shiite government of al-Maliki is mounting a campaign to arrest hundreds of leaders in the Awakening Council movement among Sunni Arabs, which the US military created and paid for as a way of getting Iraqis to fight fundamentalist radicals ("al-Qaeda"). Although the McCain camp confuses the temporary troop escalation of 2007-2008 and the Awakening Council policy, in fact they were two different tracks. Other observers have argued that neither was as important as the massive ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad and elsewhere, in leading to a reduction of civilian deaths (no one left to kill of the other sect in a lot of neighborhoods). The big question is whether al-Maliki can keep the peace in Sunni Arab neighborhoods without the assistance of the Awakening Councils.

I never expected this strategy to maintain security for as long as it has. The underlying issue, that eventually the Awakening Councils and the central government will fight it out, has largely been swept under the rug as conservatives hype the "success" of the surge. The fundamentals of this peace are unsound.

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