Koch's Comments: We must have allies in Iraq

I have supported the war in Iraq, but we are not obliged to settle their civil war.

ed koch 88 (photo credit: )
ed koch 88
(photo credit: )
Ed Koch, legendary Jewish former mayor of New York City, continues his JPost blog. President Bush delivered his "new direction in Iraq" speech on January 10. I am a supporter of the president and one who believes we were right to invade Iraq on the basis of the information then available. But his speech did not convince me that we should stay on in Iraq and add another 21,000 American troops to the battlefront. The New York Times reported prior to the speech that the Iraqi Prime Minister "agreed…to match the American troop increase, made up of five combat brigades…by sending three more Iraqi brigades to Baghdad." The Times went on, "They [American officials] said two-thirds of the promised Iraq force would consist of Kurdish pesh merga units to be sent from northern Iraq, and they said some doubts remained about whether they would show up in Baghdad and were truly committed to quelling sectarian fighting." The jurisdiction of the national Iraqi government does not operate in the Kurdish area, where residents hate and fear both Shi'ite and Sunni militants. While I do not pretend to have expertise on the ability of the Iraqi army to keep peace in any part of Iraq, it seems unlikely that Iraqi forces who are religiously at odds with the residents of the area that they seek to subdue would be effective. The introduction of Kurdish troops into Baghdad currently under the control of the forces of Moktada al-Sadr can only inflame the ongoing sectarian strife and civil war. The situation demands Shi'ite soldiers willing to arrest, and kill if necessary, the al-Sadr led Shi'ite militants. It is unlikely that the Iraqi prime minister will provide them. Remember that the same prime minister prevented American forces from going after the Moktada al-Sadr militia, presumably because military supporters are part of the coalition keeping the prime minister in office. Remember, too, that al-Sadr-led guards were assigned to hang Saddam Hussein. As Hussein dropped through the gallows' trap door, they taunted him while yelling their allegiance to Moktada al-Sadr. This greatly increased tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites. Implementing the President's new plan to blanket Baghdad with American troops, including 21,000 new ones, can only increase the vulnerability of the US military forces. The recent month of December 2006 had the highest number of US military deaths since the start of the war, 115, and 14 more American soldiers have been killed so far in January. While I have supported the war in Iraq and believe that based on the information available to the president in 2003, he was right at the time of the invasion, now that we know the CIA information concerning WMD was totally wrong, it is folly to continue remaining there to prop up a government not supported by major sectors of the country. It is also na ve to think that we can bring peace to a country that is in the throes of a major civil war. Every day, execution-style killings are taking place in Baghdad and elsewhere where Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhood militias are confronting one another. The current American military commanders have testified against the proposal to increase our troop levels in Iraq. They are now being removed and replaced with officers who agree with the "surge" strategy. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated our army in Iraq is "about broken." Without the resources of our regional and NATO allies standing with us shoulder to shoulder, and without an Iraqi government supported by the three major Iraqi communities -- Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurd -- nothing positive can be accomplished by our remaining in Iraq. Even Great Britain intends to withdraw its forces this year. We should immediately issue the ultimatum that I have urged over the last year, warning our allies that if they don't come in now, we are out forthwith. The president alluded in his speech to the need for "countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States" to understand the "threat to their survival" if there is an "American defeat in Iraq." If the president won't do this, the Congress should use its power to end our presence in Iraq by directing that the expenditures of funds authorized by the Congress may not be used to send additional troops to Iraq. All monies should be used to protect the US soldiers already there and to assist them in exiting the country. The Democrats have said they will authorize all monies needed to protect US troops, and they should. They must not buy into the president's argument that the only way to protect American troops is to escalate their number. If the president wants to continue our military presence in Iraq, he must persuade our regional and NATO allies to join us, which may very well happen if they come to believe we will otherwise leave. If he cannot do so, exiting now is the wisest course for the US. Using planes and rockets to bomb insurgent and terrorist installations in Iraq from bases outside the country and leaving Iraqi forces to engage in ground combat to bring order to their own country makes common sense. Make no mistake, we are in for at least a 30-year war with Islamic radicals who want to convert, subjugate or kill us. We can and indeed must win. We cannot save the world or our allies who won't do their share of the fighting. * * * Previous entries: NY needs change George Bush is my hero