Friday, September 03, 2010

Not Quite Victory

Given the source- Weekly Standard editor and neo-con William Kristol- it was high praise, indeed. "On the whole, not a bad speech by the president," wrote one of Sarah Palin's most influential political boosters. Not so generous was Fred Barnes, who wrote on Wednesday in Kristol's magazine "I found the president’s speech on Iraq last night to be irritating and unsatisfactory. Not because it marked the end of America’s “combat mission” in Iraq, but because of Obama’s pettiness and self-aggrandizement."

Worse, Barnes continued

Obama said the military “completed every mission they were given.” But he referred only fleetingly to the troop buildup in 2007 and 2008—the surge—that was a necessary and indispensable part of the ultimate victory.

I must have missed that "ultimate victory." Reporting from Baghdad on August 4, Liz Sly of the Los Angeles Times wrote

As U.S. troops accelerate their withdrawal from Iraq, a fierce and potentially dangerous struggle to fill the vacuum is gathering pace among the country's often bitterly opposed neighbors.

Already, the 5-month-old effort to form a new government has become snarled in the battle for influence, with rival nations lining up behind the factions and political leaders shuttling among neighboring capitals for talks with their patrons.

The jockeying isn't new, but many Iraqis worry that it could take on alarming new dimensions as U.S. troops pull out, leaving the country vulnerable to threats and pressure from predatory regional powers.

Each country in the region, Sly maintains, is pursuing its own interests: Saudi Arabia wants "to block Shiite expansionism;" Turkey, antagonistic toward Iraq's Kurds, backs former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi; and Syria is "pursing its own agenda in Iraq." The U.S. "has been promoting an alliance between (Prime Minister Nouri al-) Maliki and Allawi that would bridge the Sunni-Shiite divide and win broad acceptance across the region" because, as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has stated, "The only way to limit regional interference is for Iraqis to come together … and form a unity government."

Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, the Iraqi army's chief of staff, warns

The Iraqi army will require American support for another decade before it is ready to handle the country's security on its own....

Iraq's politicians had to find a way to "fill the void" after American troops withdraw from the country at the end of next year under a bilateral security pact.

"At this point, the withdrawal (of US forces) is going well, because they are still here," Zebari said.

"But the problem will start after 2011; the politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011, because the army will be fully ready in 2020.

"If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020."

But perhaps the most ominous development revolves around Iran, which is trying to "squeeze out" Allawi. Aswat al-Iraq reports that Teheran has an apparent ally in Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who on August 5

stressed the importance of activating joint action between Iraq and Iran, according to a presidential statement.

“President Talabani received on Thursday (Aug. 5) new Iranian Ambassador in Baghdad Hussan Danaie,” said the statement received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

“The meeting tackled the importance of fostering mutual cooperation and the activation of joint action on political, economic and cultural levels,” the statement added.

This, apparently, is how "ultimate victory" looks to Fred Barnes, who otherwise is a vocal critic of the Iranian regime. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a threat to Israel and the West, the war has not been "won." The right cannot- or should not be allowed to- have it both ways.

Unfortunately, the hawks are wrong about Iraq- and right about Iran.

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