Thursday, April 05, 2007

Leaving Iraq, a Catastrophe to U.S Foreign Policy in the Middle East - By Ardalan Hardi

Nearly two-thirds of Americans -- 63 percent -- want U.S. troop’s home from Iraq by the end of 2008, according to a poll taken by USA Today. While these opinion polls are mostly media driven and are used for political mud slinging from both sides of the aisle to sway public opinion in the upcoming elections, the fact remains that we cannot afford to lose in Iraq if we are truly concerned about the future of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Abandoning Iraq is not only a catastrophe for those who supported the U.S. efforts to bring about change in the Middle East as a whole, but also a political blow to American long-term interests and foreign policy in the region.

One of the biggest factors for staying the course is Iraqi oil. Losing Iraq’s oil production to a regional power struggle will have a horrific impact on international markets that will not only affect the U.S. but it could throw the entire free world market in a tail spin with oil prices at levels never seen before. Amy Myers Jaffe in her research paper (presented to The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy – Rice University) says “Iraq holds an important place in the political development and economic trend of the international oil market both historically and at the present time. Iraq’s stated proven oil reserves of 115 billion barrels -while perhaps somewhat overestimated during the rule of Saddam Hussein - are among the largest in the world. The country’s resource base is considered the second largest in the world, second to Saudi Arabia, and its oil export policy has been a critical element in setting international oil supply and pricing for over 30 years.” Knowing this fact alone should make U.S. politicians think of the consequences before making hasty decisions for unilateral pull out of Iraq.

Yesterday; April 4, 2007 the Associated Press reported that senate majority leader Harry Reid said he wants to cut off money for the Iraq war next year. In recent weeks, the House and Senate voted separately to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but set an end date for combat in Iraq. The House proposal orders all combat troops out of Iraq as of Aug. 31, 2008, whereas the Senate orders some troops to leave right away with the nonbinding goal of ending combat by March 31, 2008. All of this is a temporary solution to a conflict that we cannot afford to let go and which will have an enormous negative impact on our long-term national interest. Our lawmakers should recognize that.

An abrupt retreat would invite a host of problems including an all-out civil war. A civil war that will most definitely draw in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia into the conflict. All of the neighboring states are eager to devour a piece of the pie; Iran with its religious propaganda, Syria with his link to Ba’ath party, the Saudi’s with their supposed concerns for the Sunni’s, and Turkey with its hogwash excuses to protect their relatives in Kirkuk. Turkey’s devious goals to squash Kurdish aspirations are already interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs. All this is happening while U.S. military is present in Iraq. Imagine what will happen if the U.S would pull out.

Those who advocate a quick withdrawal without offering a realistic solution to the crises seem to over look the consequences of the future U.S. national interest and the possibilities of an all-out regional war with a domino affect that will eventually draw us back into a larger war with no credibility.

Finally, if we fail in Iraq, it will be the biggest blow to the prospect of democracy in the Middle East with major political consequences in the future of our foreign policy in that region. Muslim fanatics and al-Qaeda groups will claim victory and will use our failure to increase their presence in the region.

The choices are clear: either we stay the course and continue supporting the current government in Iraq until it can stand on its own two feet or like many others have advocated -- the establishment of federal regions or dividing Iraq into three separate states -- as a good solution for Iraq's security problem and a quick withdrawal of our troops. One thing is for certain: a complete retreat without securing stability in Iraq is not in our national interest and it is like President Bush had said “a recipe for disaster.”