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(photo credit: AP)
As talk of an American withdrawal from Iraq heats up, some local experts say the removal of a strong US military presence there could be disastrous for Israel.
"If Iraq spirals into civil war, it will be seen as a real setback for the US and their policy of military intervention," said Cameron Brown, deputy director of global research in international affairs at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "This would probably create a renewed Vietnam syndrome, meaning the US would become trigger-shy. And what if the US becomes trigger-shy? No one else except the US has the military might to set back Iran's nuclear program. Maybe Israel, but it's not certain. If the US gets trigger-shy, then we're in trouble."
Dr. Mark Heller, director of research at the Institute for National Security Studies, agreed with this sentiment.
"As a general principle, anything that harms American credibility or deterrence is bad where Israel is concerned," Heller said, mentioning Iran specifically.
Heller also suggested that the resulting instability would make Iraq vulnerable to Iranian influences, which could in turn affect the entire region.
"The influence of Iran in Iraq would have spillover effects in Lebanon and Syria. In addition, radical Sunnis in Iraq could spill over into Jordan," Heller said.
The result would be that "the terror efforts currently directed against US forces in Iraq would be turned against Israel," Heller said.
Brown also brought up the threat of regional instability, warning that it could lead to the outbreak of a regional war.
"We won't know until it happens," said Brown. "Most big wars are unexpected. It wasn't clear from the beginning that World War I would grow the way it did."
Top American officials in Iraq announced Tuesday that a new security timetable was accepted by the Iraqi government. However, the announcement came with tempered optimism.
"[The security situation is] difficult and complex," said senior American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. "[And] it's likely to remain that way over the near term."
Despite the abundance of doomsday scenarios, Brown suggested that the most likely situation would be similar to that of the 1962 Yemenite Civil War.
"Like with Iraq, Yemen was divided into different factions. One was backed by Egypt, and the other was backed by the Saudis," Brown said. Although Egypt poured half of their army into Yemen and used chemical weapons, "you didn't see a regional war break out."