WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Center for American Progress today released “Strategic Reset,” the latest strategy report from the Center on the war in Iraq. Recognizing the increasingly fragmented situation on the ground, the report calls for:
· ending the training of the Iraqi Security Forces
· redeploying American troops out of Iraq within 12 months
· beginning a new diplomatic surge that engages the entire region to stabilize Iraq and the broader Middle East.
Iraq’s leaders are fundamentally at odds over what Iraq is, how power is distributed, and who controls the nation’s oil wealth. As the Iraq political process freezes up, the United States cannot continue to serve as targets for insurgent militias.
Instead of passively waiting for Iraq’s national leaders to make a series of political decisions that they have shown themselves fundamentally incapable of making amid multiple internal conflicts, the United States should adopt a more active stance to advance its interests throughout the Middle East. It must in essence hit “CTRL-ALT-DELETE” in a strategic reset of its overall approach to Iraq and the region.
“The time for tactical adjustments have come and gone. We don’t need to go down the same paths of trying to train Iraq’s troops differently or making minor adjustments to our approach to Iraq and the Middle East. What we need is a wholesale shift of our strategy in the region,” said Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
While the United States swiftly redeploys its forces from Iraq, it should mitigate the increasingly violent fragmentation in Iraq by ceasing the unconditional arming and training of Iraq’s national security forces until a political consensus and sustainable political solution is reached. The United States is arming up different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years. In addition, billions of dollars of U.S. military assistance is going to some of the closest allies of America’s greatest rival in the Middle East—Iran.
Any redeployment must come with a reenergized diplomatic surge that engages other global powers and key countries in the Middle East. The United States should work to promote collective security efforts with active working groups on counterterrorism, refugees, and security confidence-building measures. At the same time, the United States and our allies can use the forthcoming review of the U.N. mandate for Iraq to secure formal commitments from other countries to help Iraq as the United States redeploys from Iraq.
The United States needs to pick up the pieces left by President Bush’s flawed Middle East strategy by building a comprehensive, sustained diplomatic approach across the region. We need to revive steady and regular diplomatic efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, stabilize Lebanon, more effectively manage our interests in Syria, and address the threat posed by Iran. All of these challenges are interlinked, far more than when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
With the impending election in 2008, the Bush administration cannot just run out the clock on Iraq. An immediate strategic shift is necessary to force the changes necessary for a stable Iraq. It is in the national security interest of the United States to end this conflict and reset the strategy for Iraq and the Middle East.