In their infamous New York Times editorial, Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack alleged that “significant changes [are] taking place” in President Bush’s escalation, potentially ushering in a “sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with” in the future.
Center for Strategic and International Studies military analyst Anthony Cordesman, who accompanied O’Hanlon and Pollack on the trip to Iraq, recently published a report expressing a difference of opinion.
In a briefing today, Cordesman further elaborated on his disagreements with the Brookings analysts and asserted that there has been little change in Iraq:
I did not see any dramatic change in our position in Iraq during this trip. Many of the points, the problems which exist there are problems which have existed really since late 2004, if not earlier. I didn’t see a dramatic shift in the ability of the Iraqi’s to reach the kind of compromise that is almost the foundation of moving forward. [...]
But I also want to stress another thing. I did not see success for the strategy that President Bush announced in January.
While O’Hanlon and Pollack claimed “many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the [security] force have been removed,” Cordesman observed the opposite. “The security forces are more divided, facing more problems in terms of alignment with Shi’ite factions than I had expected to see, even for the army.”
Cordesman added: “It is clear, that in some ways our intervention in Iraq has allowed the Sadr militia and Shi’ite extremist groups to operate in terms of sectarian cleansing with more freedom than they had in the past.”
Later in the briefing, Cordesman slammed O’Hanlon’s plan calling for a “soft-partition” of Iraq into three distinct regions, stating that such an effort would be “brutal, it is repressive, it kills people, it injures them, it drives them out of their homes, and it drives them out of their country. To talk about this as if it was something that is gentle or nonviolent is simply dishonest.”