Foreign Policy Blogs

Pullout pause…and an internal Iraqi breakthrough (of a sort).

The pause in troops that has been touted by General Petraeus and Secretary Gates as necessary to judge and consolidate security gains from the surge has been universally panned by Democrats. The reasoning behind the ‘pause’ (Pause: it's pop culture's new 'surge’, I can just feel it) is that “We have momentum, and we must maintain this momentum. Without a pause to assess trends, we could make a serious mistake,” says an anonymous US officer to the New York Times.

I am uncomfortable with standing with the Democrats in reviling this announcement, because if you have followed the Iraqi political and security situation in any amount of detail or for any amount of time, you will have learned that the political and security situation stops and starts its progression. For example, the handover in Basra from British to Iraqi forces was de facto, as the British had withdrawn to the airport and to their base outside the city. The current head of the Basra provincial police chief has openly remarked on the infiltration of his forces by militant groups. Garrett Therolf's LA Times piece provides insight into a former Sunni Iraqi SWAT commander's claims that he was tortured under the orders of Maj. Gen. Ghanim Quraishi, the Shi’ite head of the Diyala police force. He claims that the torture was part of an orchestrated campaign to eradicate Sunni Muslims from the police and security force.

My point in all this is that the current security situation is not conducive to a peaceful society for which humans are expected to live. Not only are militants terrorizing the general population, but the police forces have been infiltrated and/or are largely complicit in these crimes. Then again, the argument can also be shifted to: How is that different from many other places in the developing world? Take Pakistan for example. Not exactly the epitome of democracy and strong state institutions. But their history and political situation with the US is quite different.

In the background of all of this, Ambassador Ryan Crocker has hailed the Iraqi parliament's passage of three new bills today as, “important steps forward.” This is after weeks and weeks of gridlock during which only the Ba’ath party bill (the Accountability and Justice Law, a link at the bottom of this page provides a PDF of the English translation of the text of the legislation itself) was passed allowing for the reinstatement of former Ba’ath party bureaucrats into their old posts. The three major bills have been a $48 billion national budget, an amnesty law, and legislation allowing for provincial elections on October 1. Speaker of the Parliament, Mahmoud Mashhadani, has called this ‘a day of celebration for Iraq’.

I guess we should be pleased that there is some slow, inching progress towards stability, although I loathe to all it ‘reconciliation’. That will take generations, as many experts have pointed out. The problem is that the US as a whole has a very short memory, while the rest of the world's memory is decidedly longer. They remember their enemies’ foul-ups for many generations, as well as the United States’ and this is not promotive of quick peace initiatives that coincide with our election schedules.