Meanwhile, Gates and Clinton ask for more money, amidst questions about Iraq violence.
All of this comes as the first real test to the US-Iraq security pact becomes real. Maliki has called a recent U.S. raid a “crime,” saying he wants U.S. soldiers turned over. Immunity was a big sticking point to the security agreement in the first place. Maliki’s leadership will be challenged on this one, just as twin car bombings claim 51, with at least 71 injured, is more evidence that violence in Iraq is a daily reality for awhile.
So the report in McClatchy that raised the question of whether Obama is “wrong on Iraq” is an exercise in futility. As the Brits end combat missions officially today, Obama’s response last night to a question on Iraq is getting a lot of attention, when he said that “civilian deaths . . . remain very low compared to what was going on last year.” McClatchy’s challenge utilizes their own statistics, but this line is similar to what Tom Ricks has been warning, which was also echoed by Richard Engel yesterday. Iraqi violence is out of hand, as if we should respond further, other than staying in selected sections of Iraq temporarily.
Nir Rosen wrote about the violence in Iraq last month (an article I’d missed), coming to quite a different conclusion (h/t abu muqawama), backing Obama’s calm in a round about way. Rosen contends what has been in the wind, that Maliki, the kinder, gentler Saddam (perhaps), is too strong and there is no organized force in Iraq that can compete or overthrow Maliki, regardless of the violent optics playing out recently. Nir Rosen:
[...] One US Army Iraq expert, who worked closely with General David Petraeus to plan and implement the surge, told me in 2008 that the civil war would end when the Shiites realised they had won and the Sunnis realised they had lost. Based on the conversations I had during a trip through Iraq last month, both sides seem to accept that this is the case. …
[... ] But there is little prospect for another outbreak of war: today there is no area controlled by al Qa’eda in Iraq, and it does not appear likely the group can seize any territory.
The remaining Awakening men have burnt their bridges with their more radical former allies and are now hunted by them; the Iraqi Security Forces have improved their intelligence and strike capability and have little problem tracking those men they want to arrest. Sunni civilians have no interest in backing a new insurgency after their own bitter experience – and they no longer feel targeted by Shiite militias.
The occasional al Qa’eda suicide attack can still kill masses of innocent civilians, but it has no strategic impact; in fact it is difficult to understand what motivates such attacks today, since their effect is almost nil. It would be naive to say that Iraq’s future is certain, or even likely, to be a peaceful one, but the war between Sunnis and Shiites is now over.
Some of Rosen’s article will cause violent disagreements (as the lone commenter reveals), but the upshot is heartening, in a we never should have gone in and now we have to get out so the Iraqis will just have to deal with whatever comes sort of way.
But again, everyone needs to steel themselves. There’s going to be lots of reports of violence as the U.S. draws down. Steady as she goes; it must not deter us from getting out.