The fourth problem with the Center for a New American Security’s “conditional engagement” strategy for Iraq is its “regional diplomacy” section — which comes in two brief, underdeveloped pages out of a 51-page report.
For the first 80 percent of the report, Iraq is treated largely in isolation of a Middle East that is in turmoil. Iraq’s internal tensions reverberate throughout the region and the fallout from the Iraq war continues to impact the Middle East — most tangibly in the millions of refugees that have flowed out of Iraq into neighboring countries. Turkey, Iran, and Syria are all watching closely the tensions over the status of Kirkuk and the fate of Iraq’s Kurds. Yet the conditional engagement strategy — wedded mostly to a narrow, bilateral, U.S.-Iraq prism — does very little to acknowledge the multilateral dimensions of the Iraq challenges. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which released its report more than eighteen months ago, rightly acknowledged that the challenges posed by Iraq are interlinked with other regional challenges — and it provided a strategic pathway for moving forward that was solidly grounded in regional dynamics.
While ominously warning of the prospects of Iranian hegemony over the Gulf and regional war, the conditional engagement report is otherwise disconnected from its environment, and offers no rationale for how its proposed strategy builds into a larger framework for sustainable security in the Gulf. Rather than craft an Iraq policy toward a regional strategy, CNAS appears to be crafting a regional strategy around its preferred Iraq policy. Conditional engagement puts the Iraqi cart before the regional horse, making formulating a coherent strategy for the broader region more difficult. Read more