To what is the continued US strategy in Iraq responding? Mitigating the effects of a civil war… or surrounding Iran? Understand in the following what George W. Bush and General Peatraeus said in their joint appearance before Congress. And most importantly: what they didn’t say with respect to Iran. The return of contention.
SEPTEMBER HAS BEEN an important month for defining the American strategy in Iraq and for that much, in Iran. Before Congress stood General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and during prime time television, President George W. Bush made his speech. This instance is not coincidence, given that at the end of the same month, the fiscal proposals for the 2008 year will be discussed, a proposal that must consider the costs of the war.
What was said? For the most part, what was expected:
ONE The reduction of 30,000 reinforcements in one year, which in itself does not signify any change, since it would just bring the military presence back to the previous increment level. In other words, everything would remain the same.
TWO The rejection of a premature return, which could have catastrophic consequences, is probably true from the military point of view.
THREE As head of the military in Iraq, Petraeus repeated essentially what the White House has always said, making his presentation appear much like the mentioned ambassador Crocker and Bush himself, which expressed a common thread on the issue, that for the rest coincided with the recommendation given to Congress by an independent panel headed by one military man who’s set, at least on one key point: that there should not be an immediate withdrawal.
FOUR The government of Al Maliki needs continued support, since he has not achieved 11 of the 18 political objectives and military fixtures by Congress to support the occupation: he is especially unable to control the sectarian violence nor incorporate the different sectors. In practice all concessions to the Sunnis or the followers of Saddam, means the removal of support from the Shiite militias.
FIVE Security has improved thanks to the increase in troops, and the number of attacks has diminished. At my judgment, nothing indicates that the few success stories of some provinces can sustain themselves over time.
In Summary, the central idea was to convey the idea that advances had been made, and that maintaining the course of action fixed by Bush was the only path to bring troops back.
Illusion? No. The search for a modest but feasable objective for such a weakened administration: maintain the Republican backbone until at least March of 2008, when Petraeus will present a new report.
If that so expectedly was said, something much more important is missing:
WHAT WAS NOT SAID
ONE The security situation continues to be disastrous, in such a way that the most powerful military on Earth, still can not assure itself of even a path that could connect Baghdad with the airport.
TWO The humanitarian situation has not improved, and the Iraqis continue to sink further into poverty with the lack of basic services.
THREE Bush is still without a solid strategy to put an end to the conflict, the conflict that today more than before is oriented toward a virtual civil war between Sunnis and Shiites with the danger of spreading to the Gulf Countries.
FOUR There will be no change in the Washington strategy nor will a chronology be established for the withdrawal of troops, soldiers that for the most part will remain until the elections, and with all likelihood will be inherited by the new government. What’s more, the most probable is that they remain for decades.
FIVE The Iraqi government has no possibility of not only surviving, but of governing without the support of the United States, and for that much, has to take even more criticism from the presidential candidates, above all, the Democrats.
In my opinion, the most important of what was said, above all, of what was not said does not have to do with Iraq, but with Iran.
CONTENTION AND CONFRONTATION
In the first place, the United States appears to have opted for contention and not confrontation. That would give the country a sense of the presence of the troops in Iraq: not so much, for security reasons, understanding that the theme is today more than the possibility of a civil war with the occupation, but rather to surround Iran, as much from the Arab country as from Afghanistan, as also to calm its allies of the petroleum monarchies of the Persian Gulf, that fear even more the Irani Shiism than when they supported Saddam in the 80 years war. In other words, the US does not expect that Iran is close to detonating a nuclear weapon, or that it has intelligence information to carry out a surgical attack.
That way, a generation later, the strategy decided on in 1947 for the Soviet Union and that began the Cold War, today has reappeared in relation to Iran.
In the second place, the previous should be centered on what the United States considers today the principal strategic problem at the international level in a war against terrorism that collects more failures than successes and that has made the world more insecure: it is the arch of instability that goes from Gaza to Pakistan, passing through Lebanon and the war (worse in strictly military terms) that has broken out in Afghanistan, a part of the world that today is recognized in its complexity for the potential, and that includes the difference between insurgent groups and terrorists and such situations as the confrontation between Sunni Al Qaeda and Shiite Iran.
A lesson that has been costly and painful to understand an Islamic world that can not nor should not be seen in black and white.