Iraq: The Missing Piece in the “Arab Awakening”

By Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake

The Blindside of U.S. Strategy in the Middle-East
Photo Credit: Damir Sagolj, Iraq, Reuters, as posted in www.abc.net.au, December 2007


02/06/2011 – Notably absent from any Western commentary about the Tunisian and Egyptian “awakenings” is Iraq.  Yet Baghdad is only 806 miles or 1297 kms  from Cairo. And the American and UK intervention in Iraq has created a new political reality and dynamic.  Regardless of one’s views of the intervention, the reality is that the US is still in Iraq, and likely to be engaged.

Notably absent from any Western commentary about the Tunisian and Egyptian “awakenings” is Iraq.  Yet Baghdad is only 806 miles or 1297 kms. from Cairo.

After much DC political grandstanding by those opposed to the Iraq war as the situation on the ground deteriorated, President Bush said enough.  He showed leadership and issued his basic principles for Iraq and it turns out the Arab world in January 2007-“The New Way Forward”—or as history will say in shorthand  “the Surge.” The President’s New Iraq Strategy Was Rooted In Six Fundamental Elements:

1.       Let the Iraqis lead;

2.       Help Iraqis protect the population;

3.       Isolate extremists;

4.       Create space for political progress;

5.       Diversify political and economic efforts; and

6.       Situate the strategy in a regional approach.


Number 6 had serious consequences.

First, the Iranian people tried to throw off their backward looking theocracy. Unfortunately, an Iranian “Tiananmen Option” was chosen. A countries’ leadership saying death to everyone, including their own citizens and remaining adamant that they are going to wipe Israel off the map is simply an enemy of humanity. The people of Iran showed the world that they are a country filled with courageous citizens who simply wanted freedom and a better life for their children. [1]

Now after the successful Iraq surge and the Iranian failure, Egypt and other Islamic states are following President Bush’s points numbers  4 and 5 taken  from his way forward. Words have consequences and America having committed to Iraq was prepared to excuse the cliché –not only talk the talk but “walk the walk.”

Unlike Iraq, America  has no military role in Egypt except as the US Navy/Marine has demonstrated over and over, America can insert forces to save lives and evacuate innocents. This is the capability that myopic “cost cutters” in our current debates want to cut way back — amazing.

We have launched an Iraq 2012 series, precisely because Second Line of Defense believes that the United States and the West should look upon its Iraq engagement as important in shaping its involvement in the Arab worl But currently it seems better for Washington to lecture the Egyptians in a very disjointed and confusing way  on what to do.  We can build from the moral authority of the Iraq engagement which is a force for good in demonstrating a fundamental re-shaping the Arab world and the Western involvement in that world.

A fact of life is we are in Iraq with a successful end-game in sight and this important fact should not be minimized or overlooked because of American domestic partisan politics.

A fact of life is we are in Iraq with a successful end-game in sight and this important fact should not be minimized or overlooked because of American domestic partisan politics.

Rather than a spirited debate about Iraq, America, the Arab Awakening and the future of Western-Arab relations we have nothing.  No debate; no consideration of what our evolving policy in Iraq might be or how the US power tools should be engaged in the Middle East.

Into The Dust of History ?
Photo Credit: U.S. Troops In Iraq, August 2008, http://patdollard.com

 

The Israelis are feeling increasingly threatened and the question of what the US will bring to the table to reassure Israel is also a missing ingredient.  As we have noted earlier, there are many dynamics of concern to the Israelis, which are simply not  part of the American focus on the Middle East.  It is important to take these considerations into account as the Egyptian-Israel relationships is the key to peace in the region; not the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

And most notably, those assets which some have considered anachronistic, the USMC MEU and US Navy amphibious ships are the first capabilities called upon to support the United States in the current Egyptian crisis.

Missing debate; missing support for core assets; but there is a reality in the Middle East outside of the Inside the Beltway deliberations.


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Footnotes

[1] http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/06/the_mullahs_and_the_tiananmem.html


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