In the Arena

Today in Iraq

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All this talk about a “pause” in the troop reductions has me wondering whether things are starting to go south in Iraq again. First, there’s the obvious: the twin pet-market bombings in Baghdad today apparently carried out by women with Down syndrome. This, I’m sure, will give hawks greater screech when it comes to staying-and-fighting Al Qaeda, or whatever we want to call the taqfiris this week. My counter-argument would normally be: Hey, it sounds like AQI is reaching the bottom of the barrel in terms of desperation and sociopathy, mostly because the Sunnis have rejected those guys. Let the Sunni Awakening Councils do the mop up (with U.S. special ops assistance)…We don’t need 130,000 troops for that task.

BUT, it turns out that Awakening Councils are having some problems of their own…

ALTHOUGH, according to the New York Times, the Sunnis and Shi’ites may have found a common enemy…The Kurds. If the Kurds don’t get the referendum they’re demanding over the status of Kirkuk soon, there is a strong possibility of Kurdish secession or civil war on the northern front.

TO SAY NOTHING OF the continuing Shi’ite on Shi’ite gang war in Basra–and the larger question of which Shi’ite faction, Sadr or Hakim (ISCI), emerges stronger and whether the Shi’ites split off into their own pro-Iranian Shi’istan in the south, as the pro-Iranian ISCI wants…or whether the Shi’ites figure out a way to keep Iraq together, as the pro-nationalist Sadrists want.

WHICH adds up to a mortal mess. The Surge was supposed to be a holding action while the Iraqis sorted themselves out. But the Iraqis aren’t sorting themselves out. Even when the legislature passes something like the deBaathification law, there is no government to carry it out. Which is why the vaunted benchmarks are fairly meaningless.

The Surge has helped a great many Iraqis in the neighborhoods of Baghdad return to normal, relatively secure lives–despite the occasional Down Syndrome bomber–but it is a tactic, not a strategy. We have no coherent strategy going forward, at least none that I’ve heard.

Update: Obviously, I have a different view about the prognosis in Iraq, but Max Boot does some excellent reporting in this piece…and gives a balanced view of the current situation on the ground.

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