Realism in Iraq

Iraq’s future, if it still has one, will depend, first, on Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, and, second, on Iraq’s neighbors and their interests and risk calculations. But even if Iraq falls apart after an eventual US withdrawal, containing the consequences of its disintegration will require a regional consensus that only the US can bring about.

The Washington mountain has labored and brought forth less than a mouse. General David Petreaus and President George W. Bush have spoken, but United States policy in Iraq remains as it was. This policy has led the US into a trap, so that now the largest and most important power in the world is facing only bad options.

If the US followed its national interests, it would withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible, because the war can no longer be won. It is weakening the West’s leading power and strengthening the West’s enemies. But the US cannot withdraw without sending the entire region into chaos.

The US wanted to establish a democratic Iraq. Instead, after a US withdrawal, the country might fall apart, possibly leading to “balkanization” of the Middle East, with extremely dangerous consequences for the whole region.