In the Arena

Gaming the Iraq Exit

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This is an interesting piece about Iraq exit strategies from Tom Ricks and Karen DeYoung. At least, it conforms to my own realpolitik prejudices, stated here yesterday: lots of carnage if we leave, but no “Al Qaeda” or Iranian takeover (quotation marks mine and purposeful).

In fact, the war game results look an awful lot like the Biden-Gelb partition plan…with the remaining Sunnis getting the very short end of the stick–control of the desert and no oil revenues. My guess is most Sunnis–certainly, all but the very poorest–will flee to Jordan, Syria and Europe.

The problems associated with partition are the main reason why the Iraqis are slow-walking the crucial local elections benchmark. “Even among our own people, how you feel about local elections depends on which problem you’re dealing with,” a U.S. military intel specialist told me. For example:

–If you’re dealing with Sunnis, you didn’t want elections because you feared the extremists would win…up until the Al Qaeda in Iraq ejection by the tribes. Now you want them.

–If you’re dealing with Kurds, you don’t want them because Kirkuk will vote to become part of Kurdistan, which will rile the Turks and Sunnis.

–If you’re dealing with Shi’ites, you don’t want them because Muqtada alSadr is likely to win everywhere from Baghdad south, with the possible exception of Basrah. This would probably lead to internecine warfare between Shi’ite factions.

Oy, what a mess.