Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thoughts on Leaving Iraq

From time to time, in discussions on Iraq, I hear worries of it sparking a "broader regional conflict".

I must admit, it has never been clear to me how that would actually happen in practice. How would two or three groups fighting within the borders of Iraq lead to violence in, say, Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia?

This article on helped me to understand these fears and I now view it as a very real concern. To quickly summarize, CNN claims that Vice President Cheney was recently told by Saudi King Abdullah that his country would be compelled to "aggressively" support "like-minded Sunni Arabs" if the United States leaves Iraq before stability is achieved.

In Iraq, Sunnis are outnumbered by Shias approximately 3 to 1.

It is not hard to see how the Iranian regime, a Shia theocracy, could invoke a similar policy in favor of Iraqi's they see as "like-minded". You can see where this could lead.

It looks as though the political tides will carry American troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later. Although it is not impossible, there is no reason to believe that the violence in Iraq today will subside before American troops are gone and 3 years of trying to develop a meaningful Iraqi security force to build order has produced no meaningful result.

The fact that a regional conflict could be sparked by an American withdrawal should be weighed heavily by all those advocating it. A failed (or temporarily violent) Iraq would be bad. But hostility between the people of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq - and potentially Jordan and Syria - would be unacceptable. The arguments saying that Americans should not be in the middle of an Iraqi civil war seem to make sense on the surface. But when looking at the bigger regional picture, I do not think it is that simple.

I do not know enough about all these forces to make my own recommendation as to what we should do. But I wrote this because increasingly, all I hear on most TV news networks is an increasingly loud call to leave a "civil war". - Get out and let the Iraqi's sort it out. All this reminds me of something Albert Einstein once said: "Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler".

I fear that the debate is becoming too simple, and more of our leaders need to be saying so.


Unknown said...

But hostility between the people of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq - and potentially Jordan and Syria - would be unacceptable.

To me, this is only unacceptable because it would increase the danger to the United States. Were it not for that, seeing these nations beat the hell out of each other doesn't really bother me unto itself.

rusure said...

Saudi Arabia could also be giving the U.S. some political cover for staying the course. We could provide the talking points, they make the statements and voila...we have a reason to stay! (That's for the conspiracy theorists.:) I honestly think Saudi Arabia needs the U.S. in the region as a buffer against Iran. Also, without some kind of firm U.S. presence in the region, Israel is a sitting duck. We'll be dragged back into another war if the Syrians or Iranians get to frisky with Israel.

Jared said...

I like the conspiracy theory, and I actually don't think it is that far-fetched - though the administration isnt publicly trying to advance that argument for staying very forcefully - at least not that I've heard.