Jason Ditz: U.S. should leave Iraq before it blows up again
After eight months under an interim caretaker – the longest period between election and formation for any parliamentary government in history – a recent deal finalized the next Iraqi government. The delay, and the convoluted deal that finally broke the stalemate, reflect the reality of Iraq’s political landscape: divided as ever more than seven years after the U.S. invasion.
The government is far from ideal from the U.S. perspective. Its power block is extremely close to Iran and even President Obama’s unseemly attempts to dictate terms related to who should be included in the government and in what capacity were largely ignored. Still, the government is what it is, and it is time for the Obama Administration to finally fulfill its campaign promise (albeit belatedly) and use this relative stability to get out of Iraq while the getting is good.
Efforts to secure a more U.S.-friendly government in Iraq have roundly failed. The pro-U.S. Iraqiya bloc, despite winning the largest plurality in the election, wound up only a minor player while long-standing U.S. critic Moqtada al-Sadr’s faction wound up with enormous political clout. Ayad Allawi will not, despite President Obama’s last minute phone calls, be President of Iraq.
The March 7 election may have been a big victory for secularists in Iraqiya, but the behind-the-scenes brokering has put Iraq squarely on the course toward becoming an Iranian-style Islamic Republic, complete with pledges from the State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance factions to give the nation’s Shi’ite clergy the power to issue binding edicts.
Many Americans will be rightly confused to learn that the Iraq War is still going on after the administration made such efforts in August to sell the idea that the war was over. They will likewise be galled to learn that the war’s great accomplishment was to oust the secularist tyranny of Saddam Hussein and replace it with a religious tyranny squarely in Iran’s back pocket.
Yet this is the reality in Iraq, and the best American efforts to the contrary have been unable to prevent what was an inevitability when troops first started marching toward Baghdad. The Shi’ites, downtrodden under Saddam, now wield the power of the state in Iraq, and the inevitable backlash for their own unwise policies will be theirs to deal with.
And this too is clearly coming, members of the Sunni Awakening Councils, once funded by the U.S. government to fight against the more extremist factions, are now finding themselves gearing up for a battle with the Shi’ite government. If U.S. troops remain it will only be a matter of time before they are faced with direct clashes against the Awakening Council militias that they armed and trained.
This is why the U.S. must get out of Iraq, and soon. The political settlement reached is unlikely to satisfy many, and may not last at any rate. The battle lines are slowly but surely being drawn for another Iraqi Civil War, and America cannot afford to find itself in the middle of it.
The current situation is unstable at best, but it is also as stable as Iraq is liable to get going forward. U.S. troops are not in the position to solve what is basically a political problem, leaving them there will only get them swept up in the mess to come. Instead of keeping the troops in place through the end of 2011 (and the inevitable calls to stay past this date) the troops should leave now: It only gets worse from here.
Jason Ditz is news editor at Antiwar.com, a non-profit organization dedicated to the cause of non-intervention.
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