Thursday, June 07, 2007

 

Is it Time to Pull Out from Iraq?

We know a powerful faction of voices is calling for UK military withdrawal from Iraq and I wonder if they are right. I note that Sir Christopher Meyer, the less than discreet former ambassador to Washington told the Iraq Commission in London(set up by the Foreign Policy Centre and Channel 4) such action was necessary:

"I personally believe that the presence of American and British and coalition forces is making things worse, not only inside Iraq but the wider region around Iraq. The arguments against staying for any greater length of time themselves strengthen with every day that passes,"

This follows on the recent view of Sir Richard Dannant, head of the British Army, that we should:

"get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

We also know that in the USA the Democrats also favour a timed withdrawal- witness Barack Obama's article in The Guardian on Tuesday(sorry, no link). We also know that a body of influential opinion the press, led by Simon Jenkins, thinks the same. But what about Brown? We don't know but received wisdom is that he will continue the planned withdrawal of British troops but do everything in concert with the USA. And what about Blair? Of course he's on his way out but his opinions are still influential and Brown cannot afford to veer away too far or too fast.

Well, we do have a recent version of his views in the current Economist. In it he says that all the trouble in Basra is 'supported, financed and armed by elements of the Iranian regime'- if this and Al Quaeda could be removed things would be 'transformed'. He continues:

The truth is that the conflict in Iraq has mutated into something directly fuelled by the same elements that confront us everywhere. Yet a large, probably the larger, part of Western opinion would prefer us to withdraw. That is the extraordinary dulling of our senses that the terrorism has achieved. In the Palestinian question who gets the blame for lack of progress? The West. In Lebanon—a crisis deliberately provoked by, again, the same forces—who is held responsible? Israel.

So while many argue for withdrawal, Blair seems to be limbering up for having a further go, this time at Iran. Such a course would pile disaster upon disaster but the argument for staying in Iraq is more persuasive. Withdrawal is a seductively attractive option but it might well leave a vacuum of power in Iraq which others will rush to fill; certainly Al Quaeda, Iran and the militias. Such an influx might cause a spread of the war to the wider region and stoke up even more cohorts of terrorists seeking to infiltrate and inflict even greater slaughter on the home front. Staying in Iraq is, to say the least, better than tangling with Iran.

Comments:
All very well argued, but not answering the central question. What will happen if we withdraw(whether that be an immediate withdrawal or a timed withdrawal)? There is nothing to make anyone think that the democratically elected Government of Iraq will not fall. The wishes of the people will be ignored, and a radical dangerous new country will be born in an already volatile region. The current situation is not ideal. No one can deny that our presence recruits insurgents. But whatever anyone says, our presence there does prop up democracy and hope. Until the pro-withdrawal brigade come up with a way of preserving democracy in Iraq, our complete withdrawal can't be seriously debated.

So the only option is to stay. Iran needs to have the situation made very clear for it. Their policy in the region is vicious, counter productive and dangerous. They will either change it, or we will change it for them. All options should be reserved. Ultimately, for the threat against Iran to work, we should ourselves be prepared to go to war with them. Regime change in Iran is the solution to this problem.
 
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