What I saw in Iraq

What I saw in Iraq

Post by JOSEPH LIEBERMA » Sat, 16 Jun 2007 22:37:48

June 15, 2007

I recently returned from Iraq and four other countries in the Middle
East, my first trip to the region since December. In the intervening
five months, almost everything about the American war effort in
Baghdad has changed, with a new coalition military commander, Gen.
David Petraeus; a new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker; the introduction,
at last, of new troops; and most important of all, a bold, new
counterinsurgency strategy.

The question of course is -- is it working? Here in Washington,
advocates of retreat insist with absolute certainty that it is not,
seizing upon every suicide bombing and American casualty as proof
positive that the U.S. has failed in Iraq, and that it is time to get

In Baghdad, however, discussions with the talented Americans
responsible for leading this fight are more balanced, more hopeful
and, above all, more strategic in their focus -- fixated not just on
the headline or loss of the day, but on the larger stakes in this
struggle, beginning with who our enemies are in Iraq. The officials I
met in Baghdad said that 90% of suicide bombings in Iraq today are the
work of non-Iraqi, al Qaeda terrorists. In fact, al Qaeda's leaders
have repeatedly said that Iraq is the central front of their global
war against us. That is why it is nonsensical for anyone to claim that
the war in Iraq can be separated from the war against al Qaeda -- and
why a U.S. pullout, under fire, would represent an epic victory for al
Qaeda, as significant as their attacks on 9/11.

Some of my colleagues in Washington claim we can fight al Qaeda in
Iraq while disengaging from the sectarian *** there. Not so, say
our commanders in Baghdad, who point out that the crux of al Qaeda's
strategy is to spark Iraqi civil war.

Al Qaeda is launching spectacular terrorist bombings in Iraq, such as
the despicable attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra this week, to
try to provoke sectarian ***. Its obvious aim is to use Sunni-
Shia ***shed to collapse the Iraqi government and create a failed
state in the heart of the Middle East, radicalizing the region and
providing a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against the

Facts on the ground also compel us to recognize that Iran is doing
everything in its power to drive us out of Iraq, including providing
substantive support, training and sophisticated explosive devices to
insurgents who are ***ing American soldiers. Iran has initiated a
deadly military confrontation with us, from bases in Iran, which we
ignore at our peril, and at the peril of our allies throughout the
Middle East.

The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces would not only throw open
large parts of Iraq to domination by the radical regime in Tehran, it
would also send an unmistakable message to the entire Middle East --
from Lebanon to Gaza to the Persian Gulf where Iranian agents are
threatening our allies -- that Iran is ascendant there, and America is
in retreat. One Arab leader told me during my trip that he is
extremely concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but that he
doubted America's staying power in the region and our political will
to protect his country from Iranian retaliation over the long term.
Abandoning Iraq now would substantiate precisely these gathering fears
across the Middle East that the U.S. is becoming an unreliable ally.

That is why -- as terrible as the continuing human cost of fighting
this war in Iraq is -- the human cost of losing it would be even

Gen. Petraeus and other U.S. officials in Iraq emphasize that it is
still too soon to draw hard judgments about the success of our new
security strategy -- but during my visit I saw hopeful signs of
progress. Consider Anbar province, Iraq's heart of darkness for most
of the past four years. When I last visited Anbar in December, the
U.S. military would not allow me to visit the provincial capital,
Ramadi, because it was too dangerous. Anbar was one of al Qaeda's
major strongholds in Iraq and the region where the majority of
American casualties were occurring. A few months earlier, the Marine
Corps chief of intelligence in Iraq had written off the entire
province as "lost," while the Iraq Study Group described the situation
there as "deteriorating."

When I returned to Anbar on this trip, however, the security
environment had undergone a dramatic reversal. Attacks on U.S. troops
there have dropped from an average of 30 to 35 a day a few months ago
to less than one a day now, according to Col. John Charlton, commander
of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, headquartered in
Ramadi. Whereas six months ago only half of Ramadi's 23 tribes were
cooperating with the coalition, all have now been persuaded to join an
anti-al Qaeda alliance. One of Ramadi's leading sheikhs told me: "A
rifle pointed at an American soldier is a rifle pointed at an Iraqi."

The recent U.S. experience in Anbar also rebuts the bromide that the
new security plan is doomed to fail because there is no "military"
solution for Iraq. In fact, no one believes there is a purely
"military" solution for Iraq. But the presence of U.S. forces is
critical not just to ensuring basic security, but to a much broader
spectrum of diplomatic, political and economic missions -- which are
being carried out today in Iraq under Gen. Petraeus's
counterinsurgency strategy.

In Anbar, for example, the U.S. military has been essential to the
formation and survival of the tribal alliance against al Qaeda,
simultaneously holding together an otherwise fractious group of Sunni
Arab leaders through deft diplomacy, while establishing a political
bridge between them and the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.
"This is a continuous effort," Col. Charlton said. "We meet with the
sheikhs every single day and at every single level."

In Baghdad, U.S. forces have cut in half the number of Iraqi deaths
from sectarian *** since the surge began in February. They have
also been making critical improvements in governance, basic services
and commercial activity at the grassroots level.

On Haifa Street, for instance, where there was ***y fighting not so
long ago, the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade of our First Cavalry Division,
under the command of a typically impressive American colonel, Bryan
Roberts, has not only retaken the neighborhood from insurgents, but is
working with the local population to revamp the electrical grid and
sewer system, renovate schools and clinics, and create an "economic
safe zone" where businesses can reopen. Indeed, of the brigade's five
"lines of operations," only one is strictly military. That Iraq
reality makes pure fiction of the argument heard in Washington that
the surge will fail because it is only "military."

Some argue that the new strategy is failing because, despite gains in
Baghdad and Anbar, *** has increased elsewhere in the country,
such as Diyala province. This gets things backwards: Our troops have
succeeded in improving security conditions in precisely those parts of
Iraq where the "surge" has focused. Al Qaeda has shifted its
operations to places like Diyala in large measure because we have made
progress in pushing them out of Anbar and Baghdad. The question now
is, do we consolidate and build on the successes that the new strategy
has achieved, keeping al Qaeda on the run, or do we abandon them?

To be sure, there are still daunting challenges ahead. Iraqi political
leaders, in particular, need to step forward and urgently work through
difficult political questions, whose resolution is necessary for
national reconciliation and, as I told them, continuing American

These necessary legislative compromises would be difficult to
accomplish in any political system, including peaceful, long-
established democracies -- as the recent performance of our own
Congress reminds us. Nonetheless, Iraqi leaders are struggling against
enormous odds to make progress, and told me they expect to pass at
least some of the key benchmark bills this summer. It is critical that
they do so.

Here, too, however, a little perspective is useful. While benchmarks
are critically important, American soldiers are not fighting in Iraq
today only so that Iraqis can pass a law to share oil revenues. They
are fighting because a failed state in the heart of the Middle East,
overrun by al Qaeda and Iran, would be a catastrophe for American
national security and our safety here at home. They are fighting al
Qaeda and agents of Iran in order to create the stability in Iraq that
will allow its government to take over, to achieve the national
reconciliation that will enable them to pass the oil law and other
benchmark legislation.

I returned from Iraq grateful for the progress I saw and painfully
aware of the difficult problems that remain ahead. But I also returned
with a renewed understanding of how important it is that we not
abandon Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran, so long as victory there is still

And I conclude from my visit that victory is still possible in Iraq --
thanks to the Iraqi majority that desperately wants a better life, and
because of the courage, compassion and competence of the extraordinary
soldiers and statesmen who are carrying the fight there, starting with
Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. The question now is, will we
politicians in Washington rise to match their leadership, sacrifices
and understanding of what is on the line for us in Iraq -- or will we
betray them, and along with them, America's future security?

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.


What I saw in Iraq

Post by Fan » Mon, 18 Jun 2007 04:04:12

> June 15, 2007

How many American boys to die for Nazi Israel?