Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bush on Iraq: Not drawing the logical conclusions

US President Bush held a Press Conference on Iraq, hitting back at critics and doubters.  Highlights:
  • The Iraq war has gone through four phases. It is now in the "fourth phase" of deploying reinforcements and launching new operations to help Iraqis bring security to their people.
  • American troops "need the enemy to know that America is not going to back down."
  • U.S. will not begin withdrawal until its miltary commanders say conditions are right.
  • "The real debate over Iraq is between those who think the fight is lost or not worth the cost and those who believe the fight can be won, and that, as difficult as the fight is, the costs of defeat would be far higher. "
  • "I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must."
  • "The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that's unfolding across the region. The same region in Iran -- the same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers."
  • "The same Hezbollah terrorists who are waging war against the forces of democracy in Lebanon are training extremists to do the same against coalition forces in Iraq. "
  • "The same Syrian regime that provides support and sanctuary for Islamic Jihad and Hamas has refused to close its airport in Damascus to suicide bombers headed to Iraq."

Some logical and unpleasant conclusions must be drawn from the above. If the Syrians and Iranians are supporting the fight in Iraq, it will be well nigh impossible to win the war without confronting those regimes. If Bush is right that America must win in Iraq, then the course of action to be taken is obvious. Syria and Iran are not (yet) the nuclear armed USSR. Confronted with determined US opposition, they will certainly back down and get out. It is not necessary, and it would be folly, to wage a full scale war against Iran or Syria, or to contemplate "regime change" or similar irresponsible adventures. But it is equally irresponsible not to confront them in a determined way if the US really has proof that they are materially assisting the terrorists. On the other hand, if the claims of such interference are exaggerated and the role of Syria and Iran is minimal, it is irresponsible and misleading to make such claims.

Bush claimed that in eight of the eighteen benchmarks established by congress, the Iraqi government has made progress. Of course, that is his evaluation. Others have less optimistic evaluations. But even if the Iraqi government would attain all eighteen benchmarks perfectly, it would not be a meaningful sign of progress if daily terror attacks continue, if Iraqis are not free to go about their business in all of Iraq and if the government itself is not secure.

It is time for everyone in the US to stop fooling themselves about Iraq, and to stop playing politics. At the end of the day, benchmarks and slogans will not matter. The only thing that matters for Iraqs is whether Iraq will be a free and orderly state or states, a Saddam-type dictatorship, a satrapy of Iran and Syria or a chaotic hell for everyone. The question is not whether or not the USA must withdraw or remain in Iraq, but rather, how to ensure that the first possibility is achieved, and the others are avoided.

For the USA the only thing that matters about Iraq is how to ensure that the final outcome does not push the United States out of the Middle East, and leave all the allies of the U.S. in this area as "orphans" and prey for Syria and Iran.

Ami Isseroff


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