This is second in the series of three articles on US policy in Iraq. The first was posted about a week ago and focused on the bankruptcy of policy suggestions in play in Iraq. This article analyzes how the consensus on Iraq has shifted, in the light of recent news reports, and how this change can inform our future policy direction.
While Blair’s and Bush’s views on Iraq remain unchanged much like the catastrophic news from Iraq, views of technocrats and other politicians on Iraq have shown a metamorphism of sorts of recently.
Over the past few weeks, starting with the release of the study of mortality in Iraq by School of Public Health (SPH) at John Hopkins University, there have been a spate of news reports that have shed light on the failed policies in Iraq.
On October 11th, a study by Bloomberg School of public health at John Hopkins University, a university whose professors ironically were the primary flag bearers of the invasion, estimated that mortality rate in Iraq doubled post US invasion leading to the deaths of an additional 655,000 Iraqi civilians.
Two days later British Army Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, much to the chagrin of Mr. Blair, in an interview with BBC said that the continued presence of British troops on Iraqi soil “exacerbates the security problems”. The statement was remarkable not for its content, for it has been long obvious that the continued presence of foreign troops “without a timeline” and amidst reports of torture and usage of heavy-handed tactics by foreign troops has only inflamed opinion in the Muslim world, but for who said it. The British general was joined yesterday by a US counterpart in the push to state the obvious. Military spokesman Maj Gen William Caldwell said that the US military strategy in Baghdad has been a failure. He pointed to the “disheartening” 22% rise in attacks in Baghdad since the end of last month” (BBC). President Bush went even further when he acknowledged that the “escalation of violence “could be” comparable to the 1968 Tet Offensive against US troops, which helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War.” (BBC)
If this wasn’t enough, Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, stated three days ago that violence in Iraq could end “within months” if Iran and Syria joined efforts to stabilize the country. (BBC) Talabani’s statement came against the backdrop of repeated assertions by the US that it would not work with either of the countries.
The fount of statements mentioning what has long been obvious to lay observers should be taken in context. For more than three years the news on Iraq has been stage-managed allowing for little dissent, especially from the top echelon. Of course generals, diplomats and politicians â€“ all have alluded to the catastrophic failure of the US policy in Iraq at varying times but the “wisdom” has never been allowed to snowball into an extended skewering of the administration. With mid-term elections on the anvil and with Democrats poised for major gains â€“ the rose-tint of Republicans view on Iraq may finally be seen as blood.
There are two valuable lessons that emerge from these recent proclamations of the obvious. US troops have shown themselves to be single-handedly incapable of assuring security for Iraqis. Hence a timeline must be set for withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq or at the very least they should be moved to the fringes of security regimeâ€“ responsible primarily for either manning borders or providing tactical support.
Secondly, Iran and Syria are critical for stability in Iraq. The US, or better yet, Iraqi government led by Talabani should negotiate with Iran to recruit their help in managing the security scenario in Iraq.