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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.