Thursday, March 15, 2007

Building Consensus

Reading through the Defense Department's just released report to Congress on security and reconstruction developments in Iraq, a couple things struck me as worth mentioning. First, the "four war" approach to analysing the conflict first articulated by Robert Gates in January is now the party line. So:

  • The conflict in the north is characterized by sectarian tensions, insurgents and extremist attacks, and competition among ethnic groups (Kurd, Arab, Turkomen) for political and economic dominance, including control of the oilfields centered around Kirkuk...
  • Violence in Anbar is characterized by Sunni insurgents and AQI attacks against Coalition forces. AQI and affiliated Sunni extremists are attempting to intimidate the local population into supporting the creation of an Islamic state...
  • Violence in Baghdad, Diyala, and Balad is characterized by sectarian competition for power and influence between AQI and JAM, principally through murders, executions, and high-profile bombings...
  • The conflict in the southern provinces is characterized by tribal rivalry; factional violence among the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)/Badr Organization, the Office of the Martyr Sadr/JAM, and smaller militias for political power; and attacks on Coalition forces...

As Philip Carter made clear in Slate last month, while this analysis helps explain a wide range of otherwise stubborn anomalies (such as how it is that "...we [are] making tangible progress in developing Iraq's security forces, government, and economy, yet the overall security situation [is] worsening..."), it is not an encouraging sign for our chances of success over there.

But what really caught my eye was this handy little table (AQI = Al Qaeda Iraq, JAM = Jaysh al Mahdi):

Goals of Key Destabilizing Elements in Iraq



Sunni Insurgents

  • Expel U.S. and Coalition forces from Iraq
  • Topple the “unity” government
  • Re-establish Sunni governance in Anbar and Diyala


  • Force Coalition forces withdrawal
  • Gain territory to export conflict
  • Provoke clash between Islam and others
  • Establish caliphate with Shari’a governance


  • Force Coalition forces withdrawal
  • Consolidate control over Baghdad and the GOI
  • Exert control over security institutions
  • Implement Shari’a governance

All emphasis is my own. But while it should come as no surprise that our armed adversaries in Iraq would be happy to see us leave, it's worth recalling that this correlates pretty strongly with the last public opinion polling in Iraq, from September 2006, which found that 71% of the population wanted American forces to leave within a year.

But wait, there's more. Because it turns out that this also happens to be the preference of roughly 60% of Americans. So the real question right now is, Given that all the interested parties want American forces to withdraw, how is it that what's instead taking place is a prolonged escalation of our military presence?

Posted by Judah in:  Foreign Policy   Iraq   

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