Saturday, June 07, 2008

The turnaround in Iraq

A favourable outcome seems likely if the US commits to a continued presence in Iraq after the next US presidential elections according to the WSJ.

The Iraqi army have routed insurgents in 3 of their most important urban strongholds. This follows the success of the surge in crushing al Qaeda in the Sunni triangle. Basra has been retaken from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and is now mostly peaceful. After this Mr. Maliki repeated the same exercise in Sadr City. Recently Iraqi army operations in the northern city of Mosul netted more than 1,000 suspected Sunni insurgents in al Qaeda's last major urban sanctuary.

US deaths in Iraq now number around 4,000 but for the last few weeks the violence has subsided. The number of violent incidents recently have been at their lowest level since the spring of 2004 with the number of US combat fatalities last month, at 19, being the lowest of the entire war. Iraqi military and civilian deaths are also sharply down. In addition during the first 5 months of this year, 4,500 insurgent weapons caches were found, compared to 6,900 for all of 2007. These numbers have sometimes moved in the wrong direction and may do so again, particularly during major combat operations but the trend is positive.

'The Iraqi military is also improving, partly from the confidence gained from its recent successes. The government now counts more than half a million men under arms, and the army is emerging as a reliable and multiethnic national institution'.

'a permanent U.S. military presence – albeit one reduced over time – would give Iraqis the confidence to continue their political maturation. Another Iraq national election is scheduled for next year, and it is an opportunity for democracy to put down even deeper roots. It's crucial for Americans to understand that, apart from the Sadrists, all factions of Iraqi politics now support some kind of U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement to succeed the U.N. mandate that expires later this year'.
Kevin Rudd implemented Australian Labor Party policy this week by announcing the withdrawal of Australian combat troops from Iraq. This will have a minor effect on the war effort in Iraq - although the Australian forces in Iraq have performed a very useful role but does offer encouragement to the terrorist destroyers in Iraq. I cannot believe that it will leave the Australian-American alliance as 'rock solid' as Rudd suggests. Being a 'fair-weather friend' cannot fail to do harm to the most important defence alliance Australia has.

3 comments:

rabee said...

Hi Harry

The deal replacing the UNSC based cover for the presence of occupation forces in Iraq depends on Iran. In effect the US is negotiating with the Iranians about such a deal.

So the question is less about the attitudes of Iraqi politicians and has more to do with the attitudes of Iranians.

I don't know what the consensus view in Iran is. But if I were Iranian I would be worried about the effects of a US withdrawal on Oil prices. A nightmare scenario would see a return of oil prices to just above 2003 levels.

Iran has the US in a "wrestler lock." I guess the Iranians would want somethings in return for allowing a long-term security agreement between Iraq and the US. But I don't think that they would be too eager for much change on the ground. They are happy with how things have turned out and with the present situation.

I'm glad Australia is pulling out of Iraq and the US would be better off doing that too. A US pullout is to my mind one way of freeing ourselves from the situation we find ourselves in with Iran. The other way is to directly negotiate with Iran, drop the AIEA nonsense,
and sponsor peace negotiations between Iran and Israel (yes Iran wants peace with Israel but the price is high). I think that it's perhaps easier to withdraw from Iraq and then deal with Iran.

conrad said...

HC,

you may as well just admit to reality on this one. Whether the lull happens to be real or just a bit of noise, when Obama wins the US is going to be pulling out. Even if McCain were to win, if the US goes into a recession, do you think people are really going to have an appetite for spending hundreds of billions of dollars bankrupting themselves on a country they can't even point to on a map?

In my mind, if all this money had been spent on getting ourselves off our oil dependency, we could leave that region for good. The French recognized that decades ago, it would be good if Australia and the US do to. It seems to me the best time start on this idea is tommorow.

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