Last Friday, US President Barack Obama announced the full withdrawal of troops
from Iraq by the end of 2011. The withdrawal would fulfill the terms of the
Iraq-US bilateral agreement signed in 2008. Unfortunately for Israel, the
implications of such a retreat spell almost certain disaster for regional
stability as Islamist forces rise to power there and clericalization takes
Iran would like to shift focus from its problems as it faces
heavier international sanctions and growing hostility from the West, and
probably seeks to stir up trouble in Iraq, but US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton warned, “No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our
commitment...to the Iraqis.”
Misguided analysts have long
believed a US exit from Iraq would come at a moment when Iraqi forces were
capable of stemming terrorism and a new government could enforce democratic
But the West must assess new emerging leaders with care. In 1990,
presidential candidate Bob Dole visited Saddam Hussein in Iraq and found him to
be “reasonable, moderate and pragmatic.”
More recently, and more
disturbingly, John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,
believed Syrian President Bashar Assad to be “reformist.”
Back in 2003,
one objective behind US interference in Iraq, known as Operation Iraqi Freedom,
was to eradicate terror there and help build a democratic state.
then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice published an article in Foreign Affairs
titled, “Rethinking the National Interest” in which she noted that, “As Iraq
emerges from its difficulties, the impact of its transformation is being felt in
the rest of the region. Ultimately, the states of the Middle East need to
Rice called for nation building in Iraq not through the military
but rather through civilian institutions such as the civilian Response
“We must help weak and poorly functioning states strengthen and
reform themselves,” she wrote, “and thereby prevent their failure in the first
But ultimately, failure is exactly what has occurred. Internal
sectarian fighting and tribal rivalries have dominated the political scene in
Iraq since Saddam Hussein’s downfall.
Council on Foreign Relations fellow
Ned Parker wrote last week that the US announcement to leave Iraq “was largely
the result of Iraq’s internal politics and a failure of US policy to mend the
rifts among the country’s political players.”
This is worrying for Israel
because since the start of the US campaign, Israel has had a military ally over
the hill in an, until then, hostile country.
Now that the US is
withdrawing its troops, Iraq will likely become an even stronger magnet for
terror groups, especially al-Qaida. Iraq will likely become another Iran-backed
proxy as its current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, maintains close ties with
In August, The New York Times emphasized how Iraq’s position in the
Middle East has shifted toward an axis led by Iran.
Without a US military
presence there, Israel likely faces a deepening threat from the East once
Some may have been tricked into thinking that the so-called “Arab
Spring” would usher in an era of enlightenment and liberty, but so far this does
not appear to be the case. Rather, we are witnessing what appears to be the
spread of chaos and extremism in the Middle East.
The outcome of
Tunisia’s elections is less than encouraging as Islamists there gain power.
Changes in Egypt may also give Islamists more power and some of the public there
has called for cancellation of the 1979 peace agreement with Israel.
brutal murder of Muammar Gaddafi and the announcement by transitional government
leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil that the country would be run on the basis of Islamic
law have only shown that rising powers in these countries show little interest
in creating true, Western-style democratic governments.
With much to
worry about on all sides, Israel surely desires a continued US presence in Iraq
– though not at the expense of US casualties – and can only hope for eventual
With a failing plan in Iraq, Israel can only hope that the war
in Afghanistan ends on a more promising note. Unfortunately, the likelihood of
this occurring is minimal. Terrorism is here to stay, at least for the
foreseeable future, and while invasions, wars and occupations in hostile
countries can stem terror, there is no real, foolproof way to eradicate it
The US is leaving behind an Iraq split into three parts. The
Kurds control the North while the Shi’ites control the South. This leaves the
middle region for Sunni Iraqis.
This is a very discouraging situation as
continued sectarian violence has been one of the main causes behind Iraq’s slow
transition from US military rule to stable self-government.
division in Iraq, encouraged by neighboring Iran, will cause violence for years
to come, and when countries such as Iraq and Iran have domestic trouble, the
common scapegoat is, of course, Israel.
Ideally, with an absence of major
US military presence in Iraq, an international force would be the obvious choice
of replacement to ensure stability, but unfortunately there is no international
body capable of enforcing quiet in volatile countries such as Iraq. The idea
that the UN is one such capable body is simply laughable.
In his book
Deliver Us From Evil
, British journalist William Shawcross chronicles the
failures of UN peacekeepers in maintaining stability.
For example, in
Rwanda UN peacekeepers stood by as the Hutu slaughtered some 800,000 Tutsi. In
Bosnia, the UN declared safe areas for Muslims but stood by as the Serbs
slaughtered thousands in Srebrenica.
In 2007, General David Petraeus, at
the time commanding general of the Multinational Force in Iraq, remarked, “There
is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq.”
And he was
right. While it is possible to target terror networks and their leaders through
surgical strikes such as the one that killed Osama bin Laden, terror must be
fought with counter-terrorism tactics. Fight swords with swords and guns with
guns, but terror must be countered with anti-terror tactics.
battlefield is no longer of the conventional type, and Western powers are
ill-prepared to handle today’s style of warfare.
The rise of radical
Islamism in countries surrounding Israel will prove extremely detrimental to its
security in the future as further incitement and radicalization take hold.