Jennifer Loewenstein Archive


Interesting -- coming from Israel's premier Defense correspondent... -J
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

Last update - 02:07 02/12/2005

The withdrawal from Iraq is coming

Israel must prepare itself for the American withdrawal from Iraq. An American withdrawal, especially if it takes place without the United States achieving its main goals in Iraq, will certainly influence the strategic situation throughout the region. The American military deployment in the Middle East in the wake of the Iraq war is of unprecedented scope. Its forces are deployed on the flanks of Iran and Syria, opposite Lebanon and near Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As a result, Iran and Syria are behaving much more cautiously.

However, the American public is badly influenced by the events in Iraq and the losses suffered there, without any sign of a tangible solution approaching. That feeling has penetrated Congress, and members of the president's own party are starting to talk about the need to develop an "exit strategy" from Iraq. President Bush's popularity is at an unprecedented low. But Bush keeps reiterating that he will not order an exit from Iraq until the goals of the war are met.

Well-informed American sources say that senior Republican Party officials are already dealing with the question of whom to send to the White House when Bush's term is over. They fear that the current situation will cause a Republican downfall in the next presidential elections, so they want to change the timetable for the withdrawal from Iraq. That will require them to change Washington's strategic goals in Iraq gradually. It's something the U.S. has done before, in Vietnam, as Henry Kissinger did.

American experts are already talking about it, saying that after the Iraqi elections a new government will be formed there with a different composition and more ministers from the Sunni community. With the Iraqi government's agreement, the process of "Iraqization" of the war against "the rebels" will begin in 2006. Something similar happened during the war in Vietnam, known as Vietnamization.

In Iraq, there is talk that the process will enable the U.S. to pull its forces out of the cities in 2006. The U.S. military involvement in Iraq will mostly be aerial support, deployment on the Iraq-Syria border and logistical help. That will reduce the number of American troops there, and as a result, the numbers of American casualties.

America's enemies will certainly exploit those changes to claim that Washington failed to achieve its minimal goals in the Iraq war. When defeated in wars in the past, the Arabs often managed to convince their people that they won. In any case, an unsuccessful American withdrawal from Iraq will certainly cause Iran to step up its involvement there, strengthen Hezbollah and further encourage terror against Israel.

Al-Qaida will also feel more confident in its attacks on moderate and pro-Western regimes like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Palestinian extremists will draw encouragement from such a development. What doesn't get done before the American withdrawal with regard to Israeli-Palestinian road map arrangements will be much harder to accomplish afterward. The results of various elections in the Middle East could also make things more difficult for the moderates.

In any case, Israel must assume that an American withdrawal from Iraq will take place in three years at the latest, when a new president enters office. It doesn't matter if it is a Democrat or Republican. The new president will surely do everything possible to find a convenient formula for a withdrawal from Iraq. Therefore, Israel must prepare strategically for an American withdrawal and carefully examine what can be achieved in the realm of arrangements with the Palestinians.

Jennifer Loewenstein