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America should stay AND go

What to do with Iraq. Stay and the American-led forces become ever-more bogged down in a 21st Century Vietnam. Leave and the fate of 28 million Iraqis and the wider world could become dependent on an emboldened Al Qaida, which gains not only the reins of government but vast oil reserves to fund Jihad. If ruling through the Taliban was the organisation's puberty, so a fundamentalist regime installed in Baghdad would represent full maturation, and Bin Laden’s wet dream.

But there is a third way, argues Peter Galbraith so thoughtfully in the ever-stimulating The New York Review of Books.

1) The US needs to accept that the pro-American government it supports in Iraq is also pro-Iranian, as are most Shiites, and that the majority of Shiites in Baghdad will vote Moqtada al-Sadr in any forthcoming elections. Only after waking up and smelling the coffee on these points can realistic policy choices be made.
2) While Saddam’s regime was repressive and favourable to Sunnis (Moqtada al-Sadr’s father-in-law, a Shia, was forced to watch the rape and murder of his sister under the Republican Guard), religious hatred was largely bottled up. Now that the cork has come off the sectarian violence and cannot be forced in again.
3) Iran will continue to help the Shiites.
4) Saudi will continue to help the Sunnis.
5) The US also has to accept that the Kurds do not want to be part of Iraq and this cannot reconcile Sunni demands for a strong, centralised state.
6) The only stable place in Iraq is in the Kurdish-held North.
7) The “Coalition” (if that’s what Britain and the US continue to insist it is) should pull out and defend the Kurds, leaving the rest of Iraq. This will prevent civil war between the Sunnis and the Kurds, and conflict between the Kurds and a suspicious Turkey, unhappy of a new state on its borders with territorial claims.
8) Iran is not Al Qaida – it competes with it for influence in Iraq and will fight it when the US leaves.
9) The struggle between the myriad of groups should prevent any one of them becoming too powerful.
10) If one does, the US will be in a strategically advantageous position – Kurdistan – to intervene from time to time.

Yes, this plan represents defeat. But a managed defeat, where some degree of control is held over events. Isn't this better than failed troop surges, or indeed, irresponsible calls to cut and run?

How Cameron can win

Alms in Arms