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The Iraqi Crisis in Strategic American Dialogue - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The most recent speech delivered by President George W. Bush lacked its usual optimistic tone so often felt in past speeches concerning the “Iraqi democratic model” that is to extend to the rest of the Middle East. In the President’s speech on July 4 to thousands of American soldiers and their families, the President seemed devastated and confused regarding the deterioration of the Iraqi security dilemma. Whilst opinion polls in the American media showed that American support for the military presence in Iraq had decreased to 30%, Bush deliberately aimed to awaken American national sentiment with talk of honor of the nation and wasted blood of its youth. All American strategic research authorities, including those of the extremist right wing, have agreed that the American project in Iraq now faces a deadlock that the current administration is unable to rectify. They agreed that the American administration lacks a clear vision of critical issues related to the Iraqi file and its impact on regional situations and on American national security.

One of the most important documents concerning this issue was published recently in the July/August 2006 issue of the ‘Foreign Affairs’ journal regarding Iraq and the affiliated American strategies.

A number of prominent experts of American strategy in studies of the Middle East as well as security issues and terrorism participated in the discussion. Among them were Larry Diamond, researcher at the Hoover Institution and author of ‘Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq,’ James Dobbins, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, and Chaim Kauffman, professor of international relations at Lehigh University. The experts’ statements expressed unanimity concerning their individual analyses of the situation in Iraq, which was summarized in four key points:

1 – The spread of civil strife in Iraq to the extent of ethnic cleansing and division that weakens the attempts of achieving political reconstruction and national reconciliation. Kauffman stated that the current Iraqi scene consists of three violent wars: between American forces and anti-government rebels, between the Kurds and other nationalities in the north, and between Shiites and Sunnis in the center of the country.

Kauffman further believes that violence is currently concentrated in areas in which Arab Sunnis and Shiites coexist such as Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and Salahaddin, whilst ethnic cleansing has reached such unprecedented levels that mixed cities have been eliminated and most people live in homogeneous districts that are protected by sectarian militias.

The most horrifying aspect is that the police and army have transformed into sectarian militia responsible for a number of violent acts and assassinations. The American press had estimated that the number of victims of violence in the past two months has reached 3500, however it is believed that the actual figure is much higher. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Red Crescent has approximated the number of refugees at 89,000 (again, it is anticipated that the real figure is much higher).

2 – The consecutive failures of U.S administration’s approaches to solving the Iraqi crises from the direct military administration after the fall of Baghdad to the dual containment of Sunnis and Shiites (pressuring the Shiites to relinquish sovereign and security ministries to satisfy the Sunni majority to contain resistance).

As Dobbins highlighted, neither the Balkan nor the Afghan model has succeeded in Iraq. The main reason for this is that U.S military intervention occurred without any regional or international supervision, therefore, it was inevitable that the U.S pay the price for its single-handed decision of war and administrative occupation.

Dobbins attributes the reluctance of regional support for the American project in Iraq to the U.S indication that it would use Iraq as a gateway to spread democratization (in contrast to the U.S agenda in Afghanistan). He further explains that the disintegration of a country misleads its neighbors to intervene, making rival groups the agents of regional powers. This is what is currently taking place in Iraq and the conclusion is that peace will not materialize except in the framework of a regional deal with wide international support.

3 – The constitutional and political arrangements that have been approved in Iraq since the constitutional referendum and 2005 elections cannot solve the internal Iraqi dilemma, as the arrangements have united the shortcomings of federal government (weakness of the central state) and the evils of ethnic and sectarian division (to control the dominant faction). The current constitution for example, grants regional governments the power to exploit oil revenues allowing the Shiites to control 80% of oil resources whilst 20% will be controlled by the Kurdish region as soon as Kirkuk is incorporated.

Despite that the declared political agreements have authorized the formation of a committee to revise the constitution to resolve these contentious issues, the committee is yet to be established. Iraqi groups are still unable to obtain a minimum share of national accord on these controversial matters.

4 – Researchers have differed in their viewpoints of the Iraqi dilemma in three ways:

– Openness to resistance within an internal reconciliation program that is to be carried out under regional and international auspices with the United States responsible for ending ethnic cleansing and civil war in Iraq.

– To support decentralization through endorsing the federal identity of the Iraqi state by accommodating for the demands of major factions and various Iraqi ethnic groups to be fair to the Shiite majority, to give the Kurds their national and cultural rights and to include Sunnis in authority and ensure they receive a fair share of the profits gained from oil.

– The planned U.S withdrawal from Iraq within the context of an internal, regional and international framework to ensure Iraq’s sovereignty and stability, as well as political and security guarantees to prevent civil war and disintegration in Iraq.