The futures of Iraq

Linked with Fred Halliday – Ireland.

Published on openDemocracy, by Fred Halliday, Dec. 4, 2008.

What will happen in Iraq between 2008 and 2012? The agreement between the United States and the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki government in Baghdad on a plan for the withdrawal of United States forces by the end of 2011 is the context for this question to be posed rather than a definitive answer. The prospects remain open …

… The Washington-Baghdad link:

The first priority of United States policy now is to become more realistic about the situation inside Iraq. The considered and bipartisan Iraq Study Group (or Baker-Hamilton) report presented to George W Bush on 7 December 2006 had no evident impact on the administration’s policy or thinking. During the election campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain alike gave no public sign that they understood the evolving situation, and in particular the degree to which political and military developments inside Iraq had an autonomous existence – and were not simply a resultant of US policy and shifting priorities.


US policy has for a considerable time suffered from self-delusion – even more so in Washington itself. The over-optimistic coverage of the “surge” has been a further example of this. The forthcoming Barack Obama presidency might shift responsibility away from the defence towards civilian agencies and reconstruction aid, while trying to refocus US strategy in the region towards Afghanistan. This will go little way to resolving current problems …

… Iraq’s international need – Four main conclusions follow:

  • the need to make sure that the new United States president, and the incoming administration as a whole, are accurately informed as to the situation inside Iraq;
  • the need for increased international and regional attention to the plight of Iraqi refugees, and support for Iraqi society in general;
  • the need for closer diplomatic and security collaboration between the US and its allies;
  • the need to work towards building a regional framework, involving all of Iraq’s neighbours, and in particular Iran, in a negotiated and guaranteed end of the war inside Iraq, linked to an American withdrawal. (full text).

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