Tuesday, September 11, 2007

All For Naught - Sep 11

What a tragedy Iraq has become. Not just for the soldiers, but for the Iraqi people too. Six years after 9/11/01 and the Bush administration has decided to hand Iraq over to Iran on a silver platter. No wonder the Iranians have stopped talking to us. Time is on their side. I kept thinking to myself as I read this: 3,000+ American soldiers have died in four years of conflict. And for what? So the Iranian mullahs can have breakfast in Baghdad whenever they want? What a shame. What a waste.

Let us never forget this day in history.

Johnny Cash

Stratfor Geopolitical Diary for Sep, 11, 2007

Patraeus Faces Congress

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, on Monday began his testimony before Congress on the status of the Iraq war as well as on the surge of forces that begin earlier this year. Though both Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker answered questions from nearly 100 representatives for hours, the whole spectacle can really be summed up quite simply.

Petraeus said the surge has succeeded somewhat in reducing the level of violence in Iraq, and a drawdown within the next six months would make that progress for naught. But right now the political stage is no more set for the Iraqi government taking full control than it was at New Year's and there are precious few reasons to be optimistic at all on that front.

If anything, the political situation is even more hopeless. Ultimately, there cannot be a deal in Iraq that re-establishes some semblance of the pre-war balance of power in the region unless the United States and Iran manage to hammer out some sort of agreement. Both have too many tools to prevent the other from getting its way so long as they remain engaged.

This means the surge was not really about reducing violence levels or helping the Iraqi government get its act together. Behind the surge's military tactics was a much deeper geopolitical effort intended to convince Iran that the United States still had some options, and therefore urge Tehran to makes some concessions in the context of those negotiations.

So while the surge has produced some fringe benefits -- Petraeus spoke at length of how Anbar province has been transformed from one of Iraq's most dangerous regions to one of its safest -- it has failed in its core mission: to wring a deal out of Tehran. No deal with Iran, no stable Iraq. It is as simple as that.

The Petraeus testimony broadly echoes the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) -- the collective opinion of the U.S. intelligence community released three weeks ago. Both argue that progress has been made in the war, but that without an ongoing (both hinted that the word should be "open-ended") commitment by U.S. forces, not only were the gains not sustainable, Iran was very well-positioned to seize control of the region for itself. "Well-positioned" is a bit of an understatement. In addition to the sponsoring of a gaggle of Iraqi Shiite militias, Iran is right on Iraq's eastern border and still sports a million-man army.

Put another way, Petraeus and the NIE both said the United States can either suffer through Iraq indefinitely in order to prevent Iranian hegemony, or it can walk away and consign the region to that hegemony. As U.S. Iraq policy evolves, the trick will be to shift from direct responsibility for security into an overwatch mode. The problem with that hope is that this evolution will depend not only on the often-questionable quality of Iraqi forces, but also on the quality of government in Baghdad that commands those forces. And with Iran moving from being a potential partner to a more formal adversary, what hope does that government have?

But that will be a fight for another day. For now the action remains firmly in Washington under the glare of congressional lights. Petraeus has said that though an end to the surge is in the cards, drawdown should not begin for several months. That recommendation provides the Bush administration with just enough political cover to continue the war as is, but puts the entirety of the Republican delegation in Congress in the most awkward position possible. When elections arrive in November 2008, there will still be in excess of 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq attempting to carry out the same mission that 165,000 failed to secure. For the Democrats this will likely prove to be the electoral issue, and in the weeks ahead all eyes will be on how Republican members of Congress begin to deal with that looming fact.

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