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What Obama Plans to Do About....Iraq

Barack Obama was against the Iraq War from the beginning. Unlike the Senate Representatives, Obama got it. He understood the consequences of the western-posse mentality that deluded the nation into invading Iraq. He rejected the deluded idea that much of the nation was under, that “spread-our-ideals-at-any-cost” mindset that took-over after 9/11. Obama understood this was an irrational and “dumb”. It was the kind of thinking that you saw from Paul Kersey in the Death Wish movies. The idea that they could single-handedly root out terrorism and inflict a vigilante justice with the use of a gun.

Obama understood this false sense of justice was non-lasting. Just take a look at his speech from the first Chicago anti-war rally on October 2, 2002, when he said,
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

His rationale, however, proved to be the minority at the time.

Fast-forward six years and Obama has proven himself to be the forward thinker of the Washington bunch. The forward thinker that was right about Iraq and now stands as a beacon for the sentiment against the war that is held by the majority of Americans.

So the forward thinker was right. The forward thinker won the election. Now what? What does the forward thinker do? What does he want to do? What can he do?

One thing has been clear; he was against the war and wants out. But can he do it?

Obama’s greatest challenge will now be to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq without leaving it to a civil war that could potentially kill thousands. He will have to pullout in a way that places the responsibility of Iraq thereafter on its current government. And he’ll have to pullout without giving the insurgents who indiscriminately kill civilians through bombings the perception that they were the reason for withdrawal. He’ll also have to leave Iraq in a way that supposes the current Iraqi government is strong, and not a puppet for any regional powers like Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Obama’s campaign promises on withdrawal was a reiteration of a bill introduced on January 30, 2007, in response to Bush’s State of the Union statement announcing a troop surge. The bill introduced was the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007. So far, it has only been introduced to the Senate floor.

Inherent in the bill is recognition of the need for swift troop withdrawal, and the need for the Iraqi’s to settle internal sectarian conflicts.

The President-elect recognizes the sectarian conflict may blow over into a civil war, saying “There is no military solution to this war. No amount of U.S. soldiers – not 10,000 more, not 20,000 more, not the almost 30,000 more that we now know we are sending– can solve the grievances that lay at the heart of someone else’s civil war.

Our troops cannot serve as their diplomats, and we can no longer referee their civil war

His ideas have received endorsements from a broad spectrum of supporters, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki.

The bill can be categorized into four objectives:
• Reducing troop levels and overall U.S. Presence by 2010
• Increased Iraqi self-reliance for security
• Increasing economic accountability of the Iraqi Government and decreasing US financial assistance to Iraq
• Creating accountability from the United States

Reducing troop levels and overall U.S. Presence by 2010
Obama’s plan for Iraq is to get out. He never wanted to go there, he does not want to be there, and he does not want to stay for the duration of his Presidency.

He has been one of the few Senate members who have been actively against the war from the beginning. The Iraq War De-escalation Act would have withdrew troops one or two brigades a month, starting on May 1, 2007 and ending on March 31, 2008.

So far, the Act has only been introduced to the Senate floor, and any dates mentioned would have to be ratified. But now that he is President-elect, he has proposed withdrawal over 16 months, with a final exit sometime in 2010.

The plan would see one or two brigades’ pullout every month, and would see most American personnel leave as well. A minimal amount of personnel would stay for only three possible reasons, to protect U.S. diplomats and civilians, to Iraqi security forces, or to pursue any terrorists in Iraq.

Obama has pledged to be ‘as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in’. And since he has been quoted as stating the Iraq War was a “dumb” war, it is probably safe to say that he will go about the withdrawal very carefully. Of course, saying “careful” could mean a presence past the 2010 objective. Any longer-lasting presence however, could be triggered by significant escalation of internal conflict. For instance, if intelligence reports indicate the violence is turning chaotic or destabilizing into a civil war that approaches catastrophic levels, he could be likely to prolong the phase-out or re-examine his exit strategy altogether.

Obama’s De-escalation Act has been looked upon favourably by the Iraqi Administration, who see two of their own objectives being met by Obama, by receiving a guarantee of no permanent bases, and a specific timetable for withdrawal.

Increased Iraqi self-reliance for security

The basis of this point for Obama is that if the U.S. pulls out, they do so for good. This means the Iraqi Government must provide security for themselves and the people, and develop their economy without outside assistance.

Obama’s plan is for the Iraq to have sustainable and confident internal security. To do this he wants to intensify the training of Iraqi forces so control of the nations security is in capable Iraqi hands. This mode of action would include leaving some U.S. forces and military personnel in Iraq for training.

The plan would also include the disbanding of militia elements among the security forces. It would integrate them into the army, and put all potential rogue or dissociative wings under central control.

Obama believes “a phased withdrawal will encourage Iraqis to take the lead in securing their own country and making political compromises” and that this plan will allow enough time for the Iraqi government to get their act together and start governing with authority and accountability, rather than complacency.

Increasing economic accountability of the Iraqi Government and decreasing US financial assistance to Iraq
The third objective manifests two important needs, Iraqi accountability, and decreased reliance on the United States for financial assistance.

In terms of Iraqi accountability, Obama’s plan entails “set conditions on economic assistance to Iraq. Conditions that include a dedication of $10 billion annually in Iraqi revenue for reconstruction, job creation, and development, a stand-by agreement with the IMF for assistance in Iraq if necessary, and continual progress towards reducing sectarian violence. The set conditions, however, are not conditional for humanitarian assistance, or assistance regarding security measures.”

Obama’s objective would also mean an aggressive diplomatic effort to reach out to Iraq’s neighbors—including Iran and Syria. The goal here would be to ensure the integrity of Iraq’s borders, keep neighboring countries from meddling inside Iraq, isolate al Qaeda, support reconciliation among Iraq’s sectarian groups, and provide financial support for Iraq’s reconstruction and development.

In terms of economic accountability, Obama wants to forge compromises on oil revenue sharing between all parties involved – i.e, the Shia’s, Sunni’s Kurds, Oil developers, etc. They also want “equitable provision of services, federalism, the status of disputed territories, new elections, aid to displaced Iraqis, and the reform of Iraqi security forces.”

Obama has tied his Iraqi accountability objectives to his economic goals at home, by stopping the spending of $10 billion a month in Iraq on reconstruction and security, and put pressure on the Iraqi government to use $10 billion annually from its current $79 billion surplus for reconstruction and job creation. He makes this a key point in his plan to highlight to the American people the necessity to leave Iraq sooner rather than later.

Creating accountability from the United States

The final objective of Barack Obama’s comprehensive De-escalation Act would ensure accountability by the U.S. President too. Obama has promised that under his plan the U.S. President would be required to submit a report to Congress every 90 days describing and assessing the Iraqi government’s progress in meeting goals.

Obama has argued about the hypocrisy in U.S. policy towards Iraq, which demands the Iraqi Prime Minister to present security and economic measures to its parliament for approval, while the U.S. President is not demanded the to enact the same measures with Congress. This new accountability measure is part of Obama’s tying his own economic policy at home to this war, by attempting to curb what he has called “the Bush Administration’s blank check approach” to the situation in Iraq.

As for the humanist side to his policy, Obama has said several times that he believes America has both a moral obligation and a responsibility towards the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. He’s said he wants to form an international working group to help confront the crisis. The U.S. would assist by providing at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis that have remained in Iraq can find sanctuary if necessary.

Obama also wants to work with the international community and Iraqi authorities to hold perpetrators of potential war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide accountable. He wants to reserve the right to intervene militarily, with assistance from other nations, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq.

So in that regard, he holds the current regime accountable for starting this war, and now finds it his moral and ethical responsibility to both the Iraqi people, and the military forces currently deployed in Iraq responsibly.

See also:
What Obama Plans to do About....Afghanistan


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