The Negotiated Exit Strategy from Iraq; at what cost?

For those who are looking toward the democrats for leadership, the recent positions on troop withdrawal from Iraq of the various senators and congressmen and women can only puzzle.

How could Murtha and Lieberman be so far apart, why would Howard Dean, who during the Democratic primaries, was so anti-war take a position that is not too far from that of Senators Lieberman and Clinton, and very possibly, not that far from the only realistic exit strategy the Bush administration has and most likely is half way in its implementation.

The differences within the Democrats’ camp can only be explained in terms of who is in the loop on Iraq and who is out of the loop. It is between those who understand and support the bipartisan long-term strategic plan for Iraq and the Middle East and those other Democrats who are tolerated by the leadership for their ability to generate minority votes.

The long-term strategic plan for the Middle East was very likely formulated after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war; a war that exposed Israel’s vulnerability in the presence of strong Arab leadership.

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the first objective of the plan, removed Egypt, the most populous Arab state and the largest army, from future conflicts with Israel and left the Arab world leaderless.

The only country that could have filled that void was Iraq. With its natural resources in terms of oil revenues, and its demographic mix in terms of blue-collar workers, technicians, graduate and postgraduate scientists, Iraq was poised to become a regional economic superpower, which would translate into a regional political heavyweight.

That did not suite the long-term planners in Washington and certainly not Israel. The dismantling of Iraq became a primary goal that was put into high gear after the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979.

The 8-year Iran-Iraq war sapped both countries of financial and human resources, and economic and political growth opportunities. That suited the long-term policy planners well; two birds with one stone.

Also, Their direct involvement by supplying Saddam with intelligence such as satellite imagery of the war front, and with chemical and biological weapons, while covertly supplying Iran, through the Iran-contra affair, with spare parts and ammunition for their Shah era American weapons, helped extend the war and sap more resources.

At the end of that war, Iraq was left in dire need for rebuilding funds and planned on using the oil revenues to kick-start its economy.

The Iraqis maintain that oil overproduction on the part of Kuwait, the flooding of the world market, and the depression of prices, had amounted to economic warfare and precipitated the invasion of Kuwait.

We all know the famous statement by the US ambassador to Iraq: “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960’s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America." The injection of Baker into this statement indicated to the Iraqis that it was deliberated at the highest levels and was interpreted as a green light for the invasion.

Were Iraq and Kuwait simply the new pawns and the victims of the long-term plan?

The first Gulf war, which liberated Kuwait, was also used to deliver what many thought was a knock out blow to Saddam’s regime.

Abbas Alnasrawi gives a detailed analysis of its impact on Iraq in “Iraq: economic embargo and predatory rule”. The following is an excerpt from his analysis:

“The bombing of Iraq was aimed not only at military targets but also at such assets as civilian infrastructure, power stations, transport and telecommunications networks, fertilizers plants, oil facilities, iron and steel plants, bridges, schools, hospitals, storage facilities, industrial plants, and civilian buildings. And the assets that were not bombed were rendered dysfunctional due to the destruction of power generating facilities.”

“This vast scale of destruction should not be surprising in light of the fact that the initial plan of bombing had focused on 84 targets but had grown to 174 targets by 13 September 1990. By the time the air campaign began on 16 January 1991, the plan had grown to include 386 targets which was expanded in the course of the war to include 723 targets (House Armed Services Comm. 1992: 86).”

It is obvious from the analysis that the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure was intentional in order to exacerbate already tenuous economic conditions for the Iraqi people, to force Iraq to be dependent on imports thereby increasing the effectiveness of the sanctions, and, to delay by another decade the rise of Iraq as an economic power.

There were two options after the liberation of Kuwait: follow Saddam to Baghdad and finish off his regime, or, keep him in power on a short leash while conditions more favorable to US interests are being cultivated.

Those who are considered neo-cons today and were part of the first Bush administration favored the first option while the old guard favored the second and the old guard prevailed.

Keeping Saddam in power on a short leash contributed to an acceptable equilibrium within Iraq and with its neighbors and bought the time necessary to develop a substitute leadership.

At the time, there was simply no viable substitute for Saddam.

The Shiites in the south were viewed as Iranian surrogates whose ascendance to power would lead to Iranian control, and as such, were denied assistance during their revolt against Saddam after the first Gulf War and left to be slaughtered.

The Kurds in the north presented a viable partner, but due to their infighting they did not present a reliable one. Still the Kurds were the only option with potentially two different roles if they could be rehabilitated and be made to see their future through the American long-term plan.

The favored role is for them to be part of an Iraqi government that furthers America’s interests and shields it from the legal ramifications of an illegal war – just imagine the economic and health impacts of Depleted Uranium.

The alternative role would be that of the Trojan horse or the back door for continued American intervention and presence if the country plunges into a full blown civil war.

The rehabilitation of the Kurds was Bill Clinton’s contribution to the long-term plan.

In 1998, Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), announced their agreement on a timetable for revenue and power sharing during a joint statement to the press at the State Department September 17. Accompanying them was Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The agreement, despite minor mishaps, is still working to this day with Barzani leading the autonomous north while Talabani is the Iraqi president and part of the central government.

To fulfill either role, Kurdish autonomy had to be legitimized through the new Iraqi constitution, which was ratified during the last referendum.

To that date, the long-term plan of dismantling Iraq was being followed regardless of who is in power, Republicans or Democrats. The question that some may ask, would an administration led by the Democrats have invaded Iraq?

Based on the positions of Lieberman, Clinton, and others in the leadership, the answer is very likely yes.

One might argue differences in the implementation and argue for a different outcome than what we are experiencing today but that would be pure speculation due to the fact that neither leaderships is willing to accept the Iraqi resistance as a legitimate and natural consequence of, what can be considered now, an illegal war.

Any tightening of the screws on Iraq, by whatever administration, would have resulted with what is no longer mentioned, the inspection work of Hans Blix and Al Baradei, which was due to wind down within a few months.

Al Baradei had already dismissed both the aluminum tubes claim and the uranium purchase from the Niger prior to the invasion as bogus, and Hans Blix was not that far from giving Iraq a clean bill of health with respect to weapons of mass destruction.

If their inspection work was allowed to continue and Iraq got a clean bill of health, which we now know was inevitable, the most likely outcome would have been a relaxation of the sanctions in combination with a continued rigorous UN inspection process.

Europe and Russia would have been the direct beneficiary due to their continued economic relations with Iraq under the sanctions, while the US and the UK would be left holding the bag.

Such an outcome would have been unacceptable to the bi-partisan long-term plan for Iraq and would have made the invasion inevitable.

The reality on the ground, regardless of what led us to it, is the hand dealt to both Democrats and Republicans and we find them engaged in a game of high stakes Bridge, both finessing a position on Iraq that would damage the other undeterred by the high human and financial cost born by the American and Iraqi people.

The big prize would be the number of seats won in the upcoming 2006 mid-term elections, and possibly, the outcome of the 2008 presidential elections.

The Democrats have very few tricks up their sleeve; duped, manipulated, lied to, unacceptable American losses, troop withdrawal, timetable, can only be helpful in the short term and are no excuse for their dereliction of duty. Also, if such whining is sustained through the mid-term elections, they risk annoying the constituency who might refocus on the dereliction of duty issue.

The best trick up their sleeve is what Howard Dean is proposing; “Strategic Redeployment”. By exactly proposing what most Americans are unaware of and what George Bush is currently carrying out, the Democrats would take credit for “Bush’s Redeployment”, sell their clairvoyance and sound judgment as the hallmark of a true leadership, and could also point out that lives would have been saved if their plan was adopted sooner.

But, is it clairvoyance or is it plain inside information from being in the loop that helped the democrats formulate a plan that satisfies Murtha, the anti-war segment of their constituency, and most importantly, remains true to the bi-partisan long-term Iraq and Middle East plan?

What we need to keep an eye on now is how George Bush would maneuver around this trap, save face, and maintain a handle on his own redeployment process.

His current plan, revealed to the Democrats by events on the ground, is comprised of the following:

  • Create conditions in southern and central Iraq that would perpetuate the insurgency, which upon redeployment, would result in a Sunni-Shiite civil war.
  • Engage in military activities along the Syrian border, which by using tribal rivalries, effectively resulted in ethnic cleansing, and created a land corridor connecting Syrian and Iraqi Kurds.

For Bush to save face, he needs an umbrella for his redeployment. Murtha and others like him, including the anti-war movement would be used as his domestic smoke screen and would be the ones to take the fall for lack of support for the troops, while requests by his Shiite allies in Iraq for withdrawal would be the legal umbrella he actually needs.

An up tick in insurgency that brings Iraq closer to a civil war, higher levels in insurgent activities in Mosul and Kirkuk, and disagreements between the Kurds and the central government that would threaten the legally obtained Kurdish autonomy, would be the moral umbrella he needs to redeploy to the relative safety of the Kurdish enclave.

Such redeployment, since it would reduce American casualties, would be easily sold to the American people under the guise of protecting the Kurds as the only segment of the Iraqi population to adopt American values of democracy and secularism.

The center and south would be left to fight it out, and in the process, generate instability along the Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Jordanian borders, forcing those regimes to rely even more on the US for their security.

Lacking the ability to deal with Iran militarily, Bush will allow it to go nuclear despite the anticipated March strike by Israel of Iranian enrichment facilities. A nuclear Iran would further increases instability and the reliance of the oil rich Arab Gulf states on American protection.

A nuclear Iran might also assist the rehabilitation of Israel in the eyes of the Arab world as the only regional power that could counter-balance Iran and provide protection.

The land corridor connecting Syrian and Iraqi Kurds would be used to exploit the Syrian Kurds and manipulate them into rising against the Assad regime. It might also very well be the prelude to a no-fly zone over northern Syria and future interventions into that country, which seems to be the next target in the crosshair of the long-term Middle East plan.

The Bush “Strategic Redeployment” plan very likely resembles that of Howard Dean’s and is acceptable to the Democrats and true to the bi-partisan long-term plan. What seems unacceptable is an outcome of the 2006 elections that favors the Republicans. The trick is; how would the Democrats maneuver to negotiate away “Bush’s Redeployment” and make it their own? And at what cost?