Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cordesman on Iraq

"No one can argue that the prospects for stability in Iraq are good. At best, the formation of a government will be the prelude to four months of debate over the constitution and every other divisive issue. There will follow two months of political struggle over a referendum to approve the result and Iraqis must then decide whether they can live with implementing the result. The 'best case' is probably political turmoil well into 2007 and probably 2008".
Cordesman thinks "there can be no real exit". For those without FT subscription see comment attached to this post.

(P.S. 9 May: Cordesman puts the case against splitting Iraq into three in the NYT)


Anonymous said...

There can be no real exit from Iraq
By Anthony Cordesman
Published: May 2 2006 20:00
Financial Times

No one can argue that the prospects for stability in Iraq are good. At best, the formation of a government will be the prelude to four months of debate over the constitution and every other divisive issue. There will follow two months of political struggle over a referendum to approve the result and Iraqis must then decide whether they can live with implementing the result. The “best case” is probably political turmoil well into 2007 and probably 2008.

Iraq has essentially run out of aid money and has no real revenue stream other than oil exports. Many long-term US aid projects will not be sustained and some will not be completed. The international community will not pay and oil revenue does not come close to meeting Iraq’s needs. Add to this political crisis at least two years of financial crisis and unemployment in excess of 30 per cent.

While progress in development of the country’s regular military forces is still good, the troops are deeply divided in composition – although largely from the Shia majority. They could easily fracture along sectarian and ethnic lines if Iraq’s government fails. More seriously, the security forces of Iraq’s interior ministry remain suspected of attacks and abuses of Sunni, and the police desperately need more embedded advisers. Already, the militia and locally recruited police operate on sectarian and ethnic lines. Funding for security forces will be a serious problem unless the US and other nations increase their currently programmed security aid.

The most the US and its allies can do is to pursue the strategy they are already following. First, they should step up efforts to create a coalition government capable of forging a political compromise Arab Shia, Arab Sunni, Kurds and other minorities can live with. This is not a short-term task. It will take constant pressure and encouragement for at least two more years and probably until at least 2010.

Second, they should create effective Iraqi forces that serve the nation and not a sect or ethnic group. This means expanding efforts to provide the re¬sources and advisory teams necessary to deal with the interior ministry security forces and police and not just the regular military.

It means providing hundreds of millions of dollars more in financial and equipment aid and, again, a sustained commitment well into 2008 and probably beyond 2010.
Third, the US up to March 2006 had already programmed $28.9bn in aid for Iraq: $17.6bn (62 per cent) went for economic and political reconstruction assistance and $10.9bn (38 per cent) for Iraqi security. That amount was equivalent to total aid provided to Germany in 1946-52 – and almost double that provided to Japan – even measured in today’s terms. But much of this was wasted, and Iraq will need major new aid flows from the US and the rest of the world to bring stability and unity. If this strategy fails, the worst-case scenario includes fracturing of the government, division of the nation into sectarian and ethnic “federalism” or civil war, and sectarian and ethnic cleansing. The US, UK and other coalition states could find themselves being driven out by civil conflict, asked to leave by a hostile Shia-dominated government or simply stuck in an open-ended mess.

Even if victory is realistically defined as “muddling through” over half a decade more – the “2010 solution” – the odds are, at best, even.

And yet, the worst solution is still an “exit strategy”. If Iraq can be made to work at any level, it will be worth spending the extra money and making a long-term commitment. The lives of 28m Iraqis are at stake. An Iraq divided or in a power vacuum affects a region with 60 per cent of the world’s proven conventional oil reserves and 37 per cent of its natural gas. A de facto victory for Sunni Islamist extremists will challenge every moderate regime and political movement in the Middle East as well as greatly increase the risk of terrorism in the US and elsewhere.

As for the Gulf Co-operation Council, a hollow regional security effort has become even flimsier amid growing tensions between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. A new regional security concept is both an interesting theory and a real-world impractical joke.

If staying the course in Iraq becomes impossible, US and British forces may have to leave, but the US and Britain cannot “exit” the Gulf region. They must still make every effort to work with other states and the international community to make Iraq a viable state. They must take diplomatic and ¬military action to try to limit Iranian and Turkish interference and keep Iraq from becoming a battle ground between Sunni and Shia that could divide the Middle East. The problem of Iranian nuclear proliferation and links to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will still need US and European ¬involvement and military capability to deter and contain Iran. At most, US forces can only “exit” to Kuwait, ¬Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE, and a UK naval presence and regional influence will be just as critical as ever.

The writer, chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC and a former director of intelligence assessment in the office of the US defence secretary, is author of several books on Iraq including, most recently, Iraqi Security Forces (Praeger 2006)

Anonymous said...

May 9, 2006
Three Iraqs Would Be One Big Problem
By Anthony H. Cordesman
New York Times

Washington. SOME pundits and politicians have been floating the idea that America consider dividing Iraq into three ethno-religious entities, saying this would not only stem the insurgency but also allow our troops an earlier exit. They are wrong: fracturing the country would not serve either Iraqi or United States interests, and would make life for average Iraqis even worse.

The first problem is that Iraq does not have a neat set of ethnic dividing lines. There has never been a meaningful census of Iraq showing exactly how its Arab Sunnis, Arab Shiites, Kurds and other factions are divided or where they live. The two elections held since the toppling of Saddam Hussein have made it clear, however, that Iraq's cities and 18 governorates all have significant minorities.

Thus any effort to divide the country along sectarian and ethnic lines would require widespread "relocations." This would probably be violent and impoverish those forced to move, leave a legacy of fear and hatred, and further delay Iraq's political and economic recovery.

Moreover, Iraq is heavily urbanized, with nearly 40 percent of the population in the multiethnic greater Baghdad and Mosul areas. We have seen in Northern Ireland and the Balkans how difficult it is to split cities, and with Iraq's centralized and failing services and impoverished economy, violence and economics cannot be separated. Deciding where Kirkuk, a key oil city, belonged would pit the Kurds against all the rest of Iraq's factions. Basra, the nation's port, is already under the sway of Shiite Islamist militias and could lose all of its secular character if the nation divided. In addition, the nation could not be partitioned without dividing the army, the security forces and the police. The regular military is largely Shiite with a significant number of Kurds. The Ministry of Interior forces are largely Shiite, and the police are hopelessly mixed with militias and local security forces that split according to local tribal, sectarian and ethnic ties. Dividing the country essentially means dividing the army and security forces and strengthening the militias — all of which would lead to more violence.

And of course, there is no way to divide Iraqi that will not set off fights over control of oil. More than 90 percent of Iraq's government revenues come from oil exports. The Sunni Arab west has no developed oil fields and thus would have no oil revenues. The Kurds want the northern oil fields, but have no legitimate claim to them and no real way to export the oil they produce (their neighbors Iran, Syria and Turkey have restive Kurdish populations of their own and thus no interest in helping Iraq's Kurds achieve self-sustaining freedom). Control of Basra would also be an issue, with various Shiite groups looking to separate and take control of the oil in the south.

Dividing Iraq would also harm regional stability and the war on terrorists. Sunni Islamist extremist groups with ties to Al Qaeda already dominate the Sunni insurgents, and division would only increase their hold over average Iraqis. And with Iraqi Sunnis cut out of oil money, Arab Sunni states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be forced to support them, if only to avoid having the Islamist extremists take over this part of Iraq.

Iran, of course, would compete for the Iraqi Shiites. The Kurds have no friends: Turkey, Iran and Syria would seek to destabilize the north and exploit the divisions between the two main Kurdish political unions. In the end, these divisions could spill over into the rest of the Middle East and the Arab world, creating a risk of local conflicts and the kind of religious tension that feeds Islamist extremism.

Washington has made serious mistakes in Iraq, and they may lead to civil war. Dividing Iraq, however, is virtually certain to make things worse. It would convey the message that America has been defeated and abandoned a nation and a people. Even if one could overlook the fact the United States effectively broke Iraq and has a responsibility to its 28 million people, it is impossible to deny that leaving behind a power vacuum in an already dangerous region is hardly a viable strategy.

Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics and Military Lessons."