Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time to dust off Joe Biden's plan to end the Iraq conflict?

 The GOP is hooting with glee that President Obama has no plan to stop ISIS.  Hooting back, neither does the GOP have a plan except for the few who want us to interject thousands of boots on the ground with no exit strategy. These same GOP accusers take no responsibility to vote in Congress for any authorization or propose their own plan. They are happy to let Obama take the fall and to lob political rocks at him.  It may be time to dust off Joe Biden’s plan.
Those stone  throwers took out of context   comments  the President made at the G7 Summit that he had no complete plan to defeat Isis. They ignored the rest of the statement in which the President shifted part of the blame to the Iraqi leaders who needed to make commitments and be more inclusive.
We once had   a plan, but it blew up, and the fault lies mostly in Baghdad, not Washington.  The reason we fully withdrew our troops was that the Baghdad government refused to sign a status of forces agreement with the Bush administration to keep our troops from jeopardy of being prosecuted locally by Iraqis for breaking laws. The Bush administration compromised on that point and the final agreement included removal of all troops.  Worse, the Shia dominated government in Baghdad refused to be inclusive of Sunnis and Kurds as promised.
The result is that Iraq has fallen apart and so has our post Iraq plan.  The Sunnis refuse to fight for a Shia government and the newer Shia government, even with more promises of inclusiveness, still maintains its Shia identity and domination.  The Iraqi Shias are loyal to Baghdad. Special Iranian forces are effective against ISIS, as well.  At least their guns are pointed in the same direction as ours.    However, it is not in the interest of US allies for Iran (backers of Hamas and Assad’s Syria) to gain more influence over Baghdad, either, scotching US direct coordination.
 The Obama Administration is now supporting  a Sunni uprising against ISIS . The insertion of 450 trainers and front line “advisors” were added to the already existing 3000 US forces there.  More could be coming.   There have been successes in a strategy of establishing “lily pad” fortresses housing our advisors and Sunni troops positioned in forward conflict areas.

What could a strategy to exit Iraq look like?  One plan, authored by then Senator Joe Biden, would have divided Iraq into its various ethnic/religious divisions, maybe in a federal system, much like the Bosnia solution.  Both Bosnia and Iraq were all or part of countries formed post World War I.  Antagonistic ethnic groups were lumped into one country defined by artificial boundaries.   In Bosnia, 1990’s civil war stalemated thanks to NATO air attacks against Bosnian Serbs and US advisors helping Croats. De facto ethnic cleansing was a reality. All sides were ready to agree to the Dayton Accord.  We are not there yet in Iraq. Maybe the best plan is for stalemating the conflict with enough of our trainers and supplies until all parties are ready to negotiate the breakup or federalization of Iraq.

A reader, Eric, commented on this posting, and provided some excellent sources of alternative views. We can continue to debate whether there were WMD, but the rationale for invasion of Iraq is generally considered a mistake and the unintended consequences were to give rise to Iranian domination over the region.  However, reality is reality, and Eric presented two very credible views of the role the general's advice to keep residual forces in Iraq and the negotiations with Maliki over the immunity of residual forces. Maliki said he could bypass his parliament to give assurances and Obama said it would only work if parliament agreed.  That may have been a missed opportunity, but nonetheless it did not resolve Baghdad's unwillingness to be inclusive and the conflict would have erupted anyway.  That is why I called the problem "mostly Baghdad's fault" because the Obama administration was determined to withdraw troops and did not put more pressure of Maliki or take him up on his unilateral offer.  Nonetheless, the fact remains, the Bush administration set up the compromise on the status of forces.  Amb. Chris Hill's role  is laid out in his memoirs "Outpost", and I invite readers to read his book.  Eric's two sources, from Foreign Affairs, and Politico are worth reading and I will replicate his links here.  I keep wondering how many secular Iraqis were left in Baghdad after the conflict. Obviously not enough to offset Maliki.  I still think Biden's plan will eventually happen de facto without federalism and yesterday it appears from Pentagon comments  that Plan B if the lilly pad strategy fails is to continue US support of the Sunni tribes and Kurds.  I also note that the generals' recommendations were to leave residual forces of 10 K US troops there, we will eventually meet that total there anyway, I do not oppose it. However, to say that 10K troops...or even 24,000  could have stopped ISIS's blitzkrieg is a leap given Baghdad's unwillingness to address the inclusiveness.  of the Sunni tribes
4. Withdrawal Symptoms: The Bungling of the Iraq Exit (link) by OIF senior advisor Rick Brennan.
5. How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq (link) by OIF official and senior advisor Emma Sky. 

1 comment:

  1. 1. Saddam: What We Now Know (link) by Jim Lacey* draws from the Iraq Survey Group (re WMD) and Iraqi Perspectives Project (re terrorism). * Dr. Lacey was a researcher and author for the Iraqi Perspectives Project (link).
    2. Explanation (link) of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
    3. UN Recognizes 'Major Changes' In Iraq (link) by VP Joe Biden on behalf of the UN Security Council.
    4. Withdrawal Symptoms: The Bungling of the Iraq Exit (link) by OIF senior advisor Rick Brennan.
    5. How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq (link) by OIF official and senior advisor Emma Sky.