Brzezinski: It is time to plan for an American withdrawal from Iraq


Richard Moore

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Financial Times


It is time to plan for an American withdrawal from Iraq
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Published: April 18 2006 20:09 | Last updated: April 18 2006 20:09

The Bush administration is probably right in asserting that the ongoing violence
in Iraq is not yet a civil war but rather a fragmentary civil strife that could 
escalate into a civil war. That, alas, is also testimony to the proposition that
the occupation of Iraq has proven to be inconclusive, costly and destructive of 
Iraq¹s social fabric.

From this viewpoint, how certain can one be that if America were to desist, the 
Shia and Kurd population of Iraq would not be capable of compelling on their own
an arrangement with the Sunni-Arab community? Together, the Shia and the Kurds 
account for about 75 per cent of the population, and both are well-armed.

The Sunni would be faced with a difficult decision: whether to accommodate or 
resist. Some may choose the path of accommodation and some the path of 
resistance. But the outcome of any confrontation is also predictable: namely, 
that the Kurds and Shia would prevail. Is that an outcome necessarily worse than
staying on course, which involves a bloody war of attrition waged by ³an 
ineffective occupier² (to borrow a phrase from Paul Bremer, former US 
administrator in Iraq)?

Given that a more authentic Iraqi political leadership is finally beginning to 
push aside the earlier US-hand-picked choices, the time is ripe to adopt a 
strategy for terminating the US military presence in the country. The following 
four-point programme could serve as the basic framework for an acceptable 
termination of the US involvement in the ongoing conflict that the Bush 
administration seems unable either to win militarily or to end politically.

First, Washington should quietly ask Iraqi leaders to publicly ask the US to 
leave. The US decision should not be announced arbitrarily, but the US should 
talk to the Iraqi leaders about the intention to set a date for departure. There
would be Iraqi leaders who would ask America to leave. Some are openly opposed 
to the occupation. Some might feel their own political prospects would be 
strengthened if they publicly identified themselves with widespread hostility of
the Iraqi people to the occupation. And some of course would not wish to ask the
US to leave. They are the ones who would leave when we leave, which says 
something about the depth of their domestic support.

Second, after such a public request, the US and Iraqi governments would jointly 
consult on a date for ending the occupation. I would think that within a year, 
the US should be able to complete an orderly disengagement. The commitment to a 
date would be extremely useful in concentrating Iraqi minds on what would follow
and encourage them to assume responsibility. The assumption of responsibility by
Iraqi leaders who would know that they would soon be responsible for the future 
of their country is more likely to produce leaders who are prepared to lead and 
have the will to lead.

I do not believe the argument that setting a date somehow would help the 
insurgency. The insurgency is dispersed, largely spontaneous, hiding itself in 
the crevices of Iraqi society and exploiting the chaos and hostility produced by
the foreign occupation.

Third, the Iraqi government ­ not the US ­ should then also call for a regional 
conference of Muslim states, some immediately adjoining Iraq, others more 
distant. By way of example, one might mention Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, 
perhaps also Turkey (although that is sensitive because of Kurdistan), Algeria, 
Tunisia and maybe even Iran. The Muslim neighbours and friends should be asked 
to help the Iraqi government establish and consolidate internal stability. The 
call should not come from the US and such help would not be available if Iraq 
was still occupied.

Fourth, the US on leaving should convene a donors¹ conference of European 
states, Japan, China and others with an interest in a stable oil-exporting Iraq 
to become more directly involved in financing the restoration of the Iraqi 
economy. But that again is more likely to be productive only when it is obvious 
that the US occupation is ending.

The US needs to recognise that its intervention in Iraq is becoming part of a 
wider, dangerous collision between America and the Muslim world ­ a collision 
that could prove, if it becomes truly widespread, devastating to America¹s 
global position. An America in a conflict with the world of Islam as a whole 
will be an America with more enemies and fewer friends, an America more isolated
and less secure.

The writer, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is 
author of The Choice (Basic Books)

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