From the front
The occupation has ceased to be American. It is American in face, and militarily, but in essence it has metamorphosed slowly but surely into an Iranian one.I don't know, I can't vouch for this, but that what an Iraqi living in Iraq thinks. The implausibly high turnout in the elections sure reminded me of Saddam's election returns, and whether or not there was any hanky-panky, rumors of election fraud will poison the well of Iraqi democracy.
It began, of course, with Badir’s Brigade and the several Iran-based political parties which followed behind the American tanks in April 2003. It continues today with a skewed referendum, and a constitution that will guarantee a southern Iraqi state modeled on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The referendum results were so disappointing and there have been so many stories of fraud and shady dealings (especially in Mosul), that there’s already talk of boycotting the December elections. This was the Puppets’ shining chance to show that there is that modicum of democracy they claim the Iraqi people are enjoying under occupation- that chance was terribly botched up.
Americans constantly tell me, “What do you think will happen if we pull out of Iraq- those same radicals you fear will take over.” The reality is that most Iraqis don’t like fundamentalists and only want stability- most Iraqis wouldn’t stand for an Iran-influenced Iraq. The American military presence is working hand in hand with Badir, etc. because only together with Iran can they suppress anti-occupation Iraqis all over the country. If and when the Americans leave, their Puppets and militias will have to pack up and return to wherever they came from because without American protection and guidance they don’t stand a chance.
That's why there should have been impartial election observers in place.
As for the Constitution itself, all I can say is that the document Iraqis voted for is almost certainly not the one they learned about, since it was being edited through the end.
And Riverbend is right, this plays right into the hands of the insurgents.
I don't know if Carl Levin is right that threatening to withdraw from Iraq would scare the factions straight, or if Kevin Drum is right that doing so would shift the balance of power to the Kurds.
I do think that at some point, we will withdraw. This seems obvious to me, but a lot of people treat that idea as surrender talk. Unless we plan to leave 150,000 troops in Iraq forever, we will eventually withdraw. This is simple truth.
The question then is how and when to do that.
I think the solution may be to set up some demonstration cities. Pull American troops out of three largish cities, and put the best Iraqi police in there. Get them heavy armor and keep air support in range, but make it clear that the US will only return if the city starts to look like the Paris riots. Otherwise, it's their problem.
I bet that things calm down there within a month. Then we can do the same thing in 6 cities, moving new police into the calm cities and taking experienced leaders to run operations in the new cities.
This will show that the Iraqis can handle the work and will let them ramp up their training and capabilities.
Eventually, you get to a place where, as in the Cole plan, Americans are in secure bases, Iraqis rule their own country, and our troop levels can be drawn down since we aren't serving as police but as backup and preventing outright Iranian invasion or Afghanistan/Lebanon-style guerrilla war.
For all these reasons, any 2006 candidate who doesn't talk about how to withdraw troops from Iraq isn't thinking seriously about the situation. It will happen eventually, and Congress should have a role in the process. They can disagree with my particular plan, but it's fair to treat acknowledgment of our eventual withdrawal as a litmus test.
"Pulled Up" by Talking Heads from the album Talking Heads 77 (1977, 4:28).