Ilan Goldenberg asks what’s the president’ strategy for Iraq:
Iraq still does not have a functional central government. Half of the cabinet has quit and the national government has essentially given up on reconciliation. Moreover, the Iraqi government opposes the Administration’s “bottom up” approach in Anbar and has been actively working to undermine it. It is also not clear how the approach in Anbar, where American forces and Sunni tribes agreed to fight foreign extremist elements, translates to the rest of the country. It does not explain how warring Shi’a factions who are fighting a civil war in the South might reconcile or how to overcome the conflict between Kurds and Arabs over Kirkuk. In effect, while the central government is willing to work with the United States and the Sunni tribes are willing to work with the United States, there is no indication that they are willing to work with each other. If these questions are not addressed, the situation in Iraq may deteriorate further and in the long run we may find that the arming, organizing, and training of various Sunni and Shi’a groups will only exacerbate the civil war.
Seems like a problem. Of course, insofar as you create a situation where you have three different factions who all dislike and distrust each other more than they dislike and distrust the United States, then you’ve laid the groundwork for a situation in which a long-term American military presence will be tolerated, if not exactly welcomed. This is one of the paradoxes of our current policy in Iraq. Insofar as the establishment of permanent military facilities in Iraq is one of the goals of the policy, national reconciliation is probably a bad thing since a unified Iraq would be more likely to tell us to get lost.