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United States has no easy, short-term solutions in Iraq: Juan Cole

Juan Cole has delivered a scathing assessment of why the United States has no easy, short-term solutions in Iraq, bluntly titled "Sometimes You are Just Screwed".

Quoting the first sentence or two of every paragraph in his essay acts as a good summary of his argument:

The US military cannot defeat the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement any time soon for so many reasons that they cannot all be listed. The guerrillas have widespread popular support in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, an area with some 4 million persons. The guerrillas are mainly Iraqi Sunnis with an intelligence or military background, who know where secret weapons depots are containing some 250,000 tons of missing munitions, and who know how to use military strategy and tactics to good effect. The Iraqi guerrillas are given tactical support by foreign jihadi fighters. There are simply too few US troops to fight the guerrillas. The guerillas have enormous advantages, of knowing the local clans and terrain and urban quarters, of knowing Arabic, and of being local Muslims who are sympathetic figures for other Muslims. US military tactics, of replying to attacks with massive force, have alienated ever more Sunni Arabs as time has gone on.

So far the new pro-American Iraqi troops have not distinguished themselves against the guerrillas, and it will probably be at least 3-5 years before they can begin doing so, if ever. The guerrilla tactic of fomenting civil war among Iraq's ethnic communities, which met resistance for the first two years, is now bearing fruit. The political process in Iraq has been a huge disaster for the country. The quality of leadership in Washington is extremely bad. If the US drew down its troop strength in Iraq too rapidly, the guerrillas would simply kill the new political class and stabilizing figures such as Grand Ayatollah Sistani.

In an ideal world, the United States would relinquish Iraq to a United Nations military command, and the world would pony up the troops needed to establish order in the country in return for Iraqi good will in post-war contract bids. But that is not going to happen for many reasons. Therefore, I conclude that the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps for the long term. The guerrilla war is likely to go on a decade to 15 years.

I would add to this that if Cole is right and the guerrilla war continues for so long that this will soon became the status quo and be rendered un-newsworthy.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 26, 2005 3:28 AM.

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