View Full Version : Where Do We Go From Here?

09-17-2007, 12:18 AM
Where Do We Go From Here? (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/09/where-do-we-go-from-here/) - Iraq Trip Report by Linda Robinson (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070909/17iraq.b.htm) (US News) on the Small Wars Journal (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/) Blog.

During a three-week trip to Iraq in late August and early September, I found the security situation improved compared to the spring and even more markedly over last year. But it was harder to determine whether there had been any change in the all-important question of Iraqi political will. The views about the Iraqi government’s true intent among those working most closely with it tend to break down into two groups. Senior U.S. military and civilian officials believe that they can painfully and haltingly nudge the Maliki government forward on reconciliation as its fears of a Sunni return to dominance are allayed. Many of them believe this option is merely the least worst option. Lower-ranking officials are more pessimistic, perhaps because they can afford to be. They tend to believe that the Shia-led government is bent on domination of Sunnis, who are now largely fighting for their survival rather than a return to power.

Behind closed doors, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and their subordinates are engaged in a full-court press to get more Sunnis into the government and to push Maliki ahead on reconciliation. They have achieved some success on local initiatives, though not on passage of key legislation and not enough to demonstrate unequivocally that the Maliki government has the will or ability to achieve a power-sharing agreement if given more time. Success in Iraq, if it comes, is not going to come in a big bang but rather through a series of piecemeal steps that at a minimum give the Sunni minority the ability to secure and govern the areas they inhabit, with funding from the central government. The vision is federalism, not partition. The U.S. officials hope to allay Shia fears as it becomes clear that these local concessions do not court the return of their oppressors. In the lingo of peacemakers, these are called “confidence-building measures.” It is a grinding, exhausting business, and certainly not one given to headline-making breakthroughs...

Much more at the link.

09-18-2007, 02:50 PM
As a foreign-service professional who has been involved in Middle East affairs for almost 30 years and Iraq issues on several occasions since 1990, I commend Linda Robinson for one of the best short summaries of the interrelated forces and dynamics influencing events in Iraq today--well done! Ms. Robinson manages to catch most--if not all--the issues and the ways in which developments on one level (or in one arena) affect or disrupt events in another. She also captures the efforts being made to try to establish enough of an equilibrium (whether through the military surge or concurrent political efforts) to gain traction in Iraq's various political levels.

My only complaint--a minor one--was that her article ended just as it reached the point promised by the title. The article lays out where we are, suggests how we got there, and certainly presents the complexity of the current situation. Unfortunately, it does not address "where do we go from here," and the merits of her discussion suggest that she probably has some original ideas for what lies ahead and how best to negotiate the immediate, mid-, and long-term challenges that we--and the Iraqis--face. I, for one, would welcome her additional thoughts on what she believes lies ahead and how best to prepare for whatever is the next phase.