Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why the U.S. Can’t Leave Iraq

By Tony Karon

"......It’s not that they doubt that the U.S. will eventually be forced out of Iraq by domestic pressure driven by the cost in U.S. blood and treasure of maintaining the expedition — they’re not “shocked and awed” by U.S. power, remember, and recognize it as finite and fallible. Each of the players in Iraq has a Plan B for that eventuality, but they’re in no hurry to hasten the moment. (Even Moqtada Sadr plays to popular sentiment by demanding withdrawal, but he’s demanding a timetable rather than immediate withdrawal.) Until then, however, they’ll continue using the U.S. presence to pursue their own political interests and agendas — even as many of them publicly demand U.S. withdrawal — and position themselves to gain maximum advantage when it actually does go (as opposed to acting in ways that advance U.S. interests in order to allow Washington to substantially draw down). And, of course, Washington’s own position reflects a similar gulf between the actual policy and the public statements — Bush, for example, has always dodged the question, whenever asked (even by John Kerry in the presidential debates) about why the U.S. is building 14 permanent bases in Iraq.....

The interests of these regimes, as well as Israel whose own sense of its military deterrent power has been badly shaken by the U.S. failure in Iraq, need the U.S. to remain. So does Turkey, which sees the U.S. presence as the best guarantor against the Iraqi Kurds seceding and forcing Turkey into a political-military quagmire of its own in northern Iraq. (The flip side, of course, is that the Kurds have used the U.S. presence as a buffer against their Arab and Turkish foes, behind which they have maximized their autonomy.) Al-Qaeda’s interest in having the U.S. in Iraq is so obvious there’s no need to dwell on it here......"

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