Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What will happen if the US abandons Iraq? (Trudy Rubin via Norman Geras)

This follows up "A shameful debate" on Iraq, in which I urged people to read and ponder three recent articles by Trudy Rubin. Since I suspect that not everyone took this advice, here is an especially relevant passage from one of those pieces, quoted by Norman Geras on his weblog (Normblog). But read the rest, too.

--Jeff Weintraub
Norman Geras (Normblog)
July 5, 2006
On not leaving too soon

Trudy Rubin on the prospects in Iraq:
To understand the hard choices ahead, think of the U.S. troop presence as fingers in a crumbling dike surrounding Iraq. Pull them out now, and the dike will collapse; a New Orleans-level flood will inundate the region and send huge waves in our direction.
Keep the fingers in, and the dike will eventually collapse anyway unless it is shored up in the meantime. Everything depends on whether the new Iraqi government (and a more realistic White House) can pile on enough concrete slabs before the dike gives way.
In my latest trip to Iraq earlier this month, elected Iraqi political leaders from all communities - Shiite, Kurd and Sunni - told me U.S. troops should not be withdrawn now. Having dismantled all the institutions that held Iraq together, the United States has a moral obligation to help the new Iraqi government rebuild, according to these leaders - especially since U.S. officials have failed so badly, so far, in reconstruction efforts.
Iraqi leaders also say the violence would not die down if Americans left now. Instead, it would grow much, much worse.
Some Sunni insurgents who are fighting purely against U.S. occupation might return home. But the insurgent core of Baathists and Islamists are engaged in a struggle for power against the new majority of Shiites and Kurds. They are also out to destroy moderate Sunnis who are willing to join the new Iraqi system. That fight would go on.
Indeed, if U.S. troops leave too soon, Iraq could become a regional battlefield, with Iran supporting Iraqi Shiites, and Sunni Arab states giving aid to Iraqi Sunni fighters. Such a battle could rage indecisively for years as Sunni areas became a haven for terrorist training, creating an Islamist threat to the entire region.

Read the rest, as well as the two other pieces by Rubin linked here by Jeff Weintraub.