US Forces Plan To "Step Aside" From Any Iraqi Civil War

And it's 1..2...3..what are we not fighting for? Via Kevin Drum comes a piece in the NYT looking at the powderkeg of factional tensions in Mosul. T

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And it's 1..2...3..what are we not fighting for?

Via Kevin Drum comes a piece in the NYT looking at the powderkeg of factional tensions in Mosul.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is squeezing out Kurdish units of the Iraqi Army from Mosul, sending the national police and army from Baghdad and trying to forge alliances with Sunni Arab hard-liners in the province, who have deep-seated feuds with the Kurdistan Regional Government led by Massoud Barzani.

....“It’s the perfect storm against the old festering background,” warned Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, who oversees Nineveh and Kirkuk Provinces and the Kurdish region. Worry is so high that the American military has already settled on a policy that may set a precedent, as the United States slowly withdraws to allow Iraqis to settle their own problems. If the Kurds and Iraqi government forces fight, the American military will “step aside,” General Thomas said, rather than “have United States servicemen get killed trying to play peacemaker.”

As one of Drum's commenters notes:

As I recall it, the program was: (1) increase troop levels (2) to reduce the violence to make space for (3) political reconciliation that will provide the foundation for (4) a reduction in violence not dependent on American troops (5) that will enable us to gradually withdraw without having to worry about whether Iraq will blow up again.

We never got past step 2. Now the reckoning.

That reckoning will involve violence, in more than one place and between more than just two factions, in the lead up to Iraq's provincial elections. The only real question is: how bad will it get? I totally understand Brig. Gen Thomas' wish not to have his people die policing a civil war six years into the U.S. occupation but doesn't this blow wide open the conservative talking point, so beloved of both Bush and McCain, that US troops have to stay in Iraq to help prevent such violence? Why are we still there?

Of course, if there's no new status of forces deal by January Thomas' plans become moot, since it's likely US forces would be confined to base anyway. In fact, they're using the threat of exactly that to try to strongarm Iraqi into accepting an agreement it isn't happy with. McClatchy reports:

The U.S. military has warned Iraq that it will shut down military operations and other vital services throughout the country on Jan. 1 if the Iraqi government doesn't agree to a new agreement on the status of U.S. forces or a renewed United Nations mandate for the American mission in Iraq.

Many Iraqi politicians view the move as akin to political blackmail, a top Iraqi official told McClatchy Sunday.

In addition to halting all military actions, U.S. forces would cease activities that support Iraq’s economy, educational sector and other areas _ "everything" _ said Tariq al Hashimi, the country’s Sunni Muslim vice president. "I didn’t know the Americans are rendering such wide-scale services."

Hashimi said that Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, listed “tens” of areas of potential cutoffs in a three-page letter, and he said the implied threat caught Iraqi leaders by surprise.

But if the US military is planning to stay out of any faction fights anyway, just how much of a threat is that?

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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