President Bush’s top diplomat in Iraq said the US plans on keeping troops there into 2009 and most probably beond that point. Ambassador Ryan Crocker believes the American presence is the center of gravity that holds together the effort to defeat militants in the war torn nation. He said both General Petraeus and hmself are “not the ones who make the policy decisions– not in this administration and not in the next one. If someone wants to reset the conditions, then obviously we’ll do the best we can within the context ut thos aren’s assumption that we start with.” Crocker said Iraqi chiefs are working off a blueprint that calls for “conditions-based withdrawal” that might result in some troops being withdrawn but “leave other forces in Iraq for long-haul missions such as training.”
Part of the difficulty in discussing this topic stems from the lack of a blueprint that establishes firm goals for the Iraqi government to achieve. There is also a lack of vision regarding alternative strategies for ensuring Iraq’s safety. The Bush assumption is fighting is mainly the responsibility of the United States until such time as Iraqi forces are ready to assume a greater role. But, have US and Iraqi strategists explored the possibility of engaging Muslim troops drawn from other nations such as Turkey or Iran? Iran has a friendly relationship with the current Iraqi government even though it lacks one with the United States. The Iranians could be drawn into assuming a more proactive role in fostering peace once the United States leaves Iraq. To those who fear Iranian dominance of the Iraqi government, the reality is right now its government has an influence in Iraq. The tragedy of the Bush administration is failure to work with Iran, particularly after the reform government of 2001 and 2002 provided assistance to US forces in Afghanistan. Iran offered to provide further aid but Bush rejected it. We lost an opportunity to have Iran play a forceful role in halting terrorism. Is that an option a new Democratic president could use?