U.S. Policy Options in the Iraq Crisis

Testimony given by Michael Rubin to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs U.S. House of Representatives
Tuesday, July 17, 2007, 10:30 AM

Mr. Chairman, Honorable Members. Thank you for this opportunity to testify from Camp Pendleton, California, where the 11th Marine Regiment is preparing for deployment to Iraq. The danger they face and their willingness to undertake this courageous mission adds gravity to our discussion here today.

[Forget about Plan B, stay the course is his advice.]

The Initial Benchmark Assessment Report, released on July 12, 2007, painted a mixed picture: While the surge has created space to further training of the Iraqi security forces and reduced death squad activity and ethnic and sectarian cleansing, it has not, however, stopped terrorism. Nor have Iraq’s political leaders met our political benchmarks. Still, there is reason for guarded optimism. It took five months after President Bush’s announcement of the surge approach to deploy the five additional Army brigades and Marine elements into theater. Only on June 15, 2007, with the commencement of Operation Phantom Thunder, did Generals Petraeus and Odierno inaugurate the surge strategy in earnest. Its success after only one month is impressive.

Nevertheless, today policymakers in this room and outside debate cutting short the surge and switching course. While few favor immediate withdrawal, there is open debate about other options:

    * Reducing presence and limiting troops to training missions only
    * Redeployment to neighboring countries
    * Redeployment to Iraqi Kurdistan.
    * So-called soft partition; and
    * Increasing diplomatic engagement with neighboring states

None of these strategies will solve the problems that Congress has identified. They will not better the situation in Iraq nor make the United States safer. Indeed, they may make them far worse. Each involves ceding ground to terrorists or to Iranian influence. Each also sends the message that, when faced with terrorism, America runs.

[..] When assessing U.S. policy toward Iraq today, it easy to criticize Plan A. It is a leap of logic, however, to assume that Plans B, C, or D are better alternatives. While the Iraqi government has yet to make satisfactory progress toward all benchmarks, public threats to reduce or abandon the U.S. commitment to Iraq are counterproductive. To convince Iraqi politicians to make tough compromises that will anger powerful constituencies requires that the Iraqi leadership knows Washington’s commitment is firm. If Washington threatens to leave or reduce its support for the Iraqi leadership, we will force even the most pro-American politicians there to make accommodation with our adversaries. A constant theme of Iranian influence operations is that the United States lacks Iran’s staying power. Willing to abandon allies only plays into Tehran’s hands and will reverberate far beyond Iraq’s borders.

Success in Iraq is possible. It is imperative that the Iraqis take the lead in their future. The U.S. mission should be to enable them to secure their own country. This requires that the surge continues. If the Iraqis do not have the opportunity to develop their own multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian security forces then their country and the wider region will descend into chaos and war. It will take hard work. We should not pull the carpet out from beneath them.

July 17, 2007 | Comments Off on U.S. Policy Options in the Iraq Crisis

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest