The costs of a hasty U.S. withdrawal

By Ze’ev Schiff Anyone who rushed to defend, or condemn, the Palestinians for burning the synagogues that remained in Gush Katif had better see what is happening to the mosques in the war taking place in Iraq. The Muslims, and mainly the Sunni rebels, are blowing up mosques and killing hundreds of worshipers, who are among their enemies. Why should synagogues be any different for them? Neither are considered holy places by Muslims. That is what Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet security services told the government in their preliminary assessment. The mass murder in Iraq is reminiscent of what the extremist Muslim rebels did a few years ago in Algeria, to tens of thousands of citizens in their country. The goal in Iraq is to prove that the government established after the elections is not capable of providing security to the country’s citizens, even when they are supported by the U.S. Army. That is the cumulative achievement in the rebels’ war. A comparative study carried out by the prestigious Rand Institute examined nine instances in which an effort was made to rehabilitate a country after a war. The investigation included an examination of various areas: restoring the economy, health services, education, police, courts of law, border control and internal security. Seven cases (Bosnia, Haiti, East Timor, Somalia, El Salvador, Panama and Kosovo) were successful. Two cases have been failures thus far Iraq and Afghanistan. In the Pentagon, on the other hand, opinions are mixed. There, they also point to signs of success in Iraq. For example, the elections that took place, the general constitution that was formulated, continued enlistment in the Iraqi army, military operations that were more successful, including on the Syrian border, and even penetration of that country during pursuit, improved intelligence and a decline in losses for the U.S. Army. However, nobody in the Pentagon will claim there has been a revolution in Iraq in favor of the Americans. It is no wonder that American public opinion is tending to greater criticism of the war. And moreover, the neoconservative group in the administration, which led to the war against Saddam Hussein, has in effect disintegrated and abandoned its posts. It is no wonder that voices are being heard in Washington about the need to plan „an exit strategy” from Iraq, but President George W. Bush says he has no intention of doing so before he achieves a victory over terror in the country. In the not-so-distant past, the United States withdrew from Vietnam, from Beirut and from Somalia. Of course there is a difference between withdrawal from Vietnam, where South Vietnam faced North Vietnam. In the Middle East, a hasty American withdrawal would be interpreted as a defeat, and would immediately affect the oil states in the region, including Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran, and Israel’s situation. The candidate for the job of chancellor in Germany, Angela Merkel, said she opposed the war in Iraq, but she is also opposed to an American-British withdrawal from Iraq in the present situation. To those who say a hasty withdrawal from Iraq will not harm the United States, the reply is that chain reactions to such a withdrawal are liable to be dramatic for many countries, and in the end will affect U.S. security, as well. What is interesting is that among the many scholars preoccupied with the war in Iraq, not a single one has discussed the possible outcome of an American withdrawal, in the wake of faulty handling of the war. Such a withdrawal would certainly have an immediate effect on Iran’s plans in the Middle East, and on Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran would definitely be the leading nuclear power. The shake-up would affect Saudi Arabia and the small oil-producing nations in the Gulf. In Israel, the relatively optimistic intelligence assessment regarding strategic threats to the country would be eroded. A failed American withdrawal in Iraq would increase the threats to the Jewish state. BPI-info