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A Political Strategy to End the War in Iraq


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The Current Situation

Iraq is in a state of chaos, and we need a new way forward. A Pentagon study has admitted for the first time that the situation in Iraq has devolved from a Sunni insurgency fighting American occupation into a civil war fueled by sectarian hatred between Iraqis. Nearly 100 American soldiers are dying each month, and we're spending $2 billion a week in Iraq. Despite the dire situation, the Iraq Study Group report outlines the importance of the region to American security interests: "Iraq is vital to regional stability…it runs along the sectarian fault lines of Shia and Sunni Islam, and of Kurdish and Arab populations. It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves. It is now a base of operations for international terrorism, including al Qaeda."

As a result, while we must phase down troop levels, we cannot fully withdraw immediately. And we can never cut off funding for our troops. However, we cannot continue operating under the illusion that military force - be it American, multinational, or Iraqi - will hold together a synthetic democracy.

In a statement reminiscent of the rhetoric of Vietnam, General Petraeus has admitted that American involvement in Iraq could last another decade, and in July he reported that the coalition forces had only made progress on a third of their objectives. We cannot achieve political reconciliation through military means. It is time for a new course in Iraq.

What We Should Do

As we are seeing every day, the sectarian differences between Iraqis make one unified state impossible. The fundamental challenge in Iraq is not a military one, but a political one. In the words of the Iraq Study Group, "Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation." Neither the people of Iraq nor other nations in the region, including Iran and Syria, have an interest in a unified Iraq. Absent the political will from both Iraqis and their neighbors, no amount of military or diplomatic effort could hold together Iraq as it stands today.

Based on that framework, Iraq ultimately must be divided into three states - one Sunni, one Shiite, and one Kurdish - with international oversight and a system for sharing oil revenues. The Iraqi Constitution sets out parameters for a federal system, and it is time for the balance of federalism to shift toward regional autonomy. Representative Finegold strongly believes that Senator Biden's plan for Iraq is the only plan with a chance of success and stability. Key elements of the plan are as follows:

• We must decentralizing power by giving Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds governance in their own autonomous regions. This includes regional control over police, electricity, education, social services, and other local security matters. The current national government has proved itself incapable of managing infrastructure and maintaining security and it is vital that we take a different course.
• The central government, in conjunction with the international community, should manage border security and the allocation of oil revenues. If each province has a stake in high oil revenues, the incentive for cooperation - or at least co-existence - is significantly increased. It is also vital that Iraq's borders be secured, to prevent weapons and militants from entering and leaving the country.
• We must begin redeploying American forces to areas vital to our national security, including Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan, the true battle against Al-Qaeda, was supported by every prominent national Democrat, yet the war has been underfunded and undermanned, with only 20,000 troops patrolling a large and mountainous nation. We must retain small numbers of troops on Iraqi borders for border security, but redeploy the balance of American troops.
• Barry understands the strain on our military. American forces should only fight missions with clear security objectives, otherwise, they should return home to their families. It is a moral imperative that our nation provides returning veterans with quality healthcare and the benefits that out men and women in uniform deserve.

The war in Iraq was a mistake from the beginning, but America must choose the least painful of a series of bad options to extricate itself from the civil war. The decentralization of power into three regions is the only means by which America can salvage any measure of victory and avoid the chaos and genocide that seems imminent upon withdrawal. We cannot stay indefinitely, and we 8cannot withdraw tomorrow. A three state solution in Iraq is the only common-sense plan to bring security to Iraq.

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