Iraq Act IV: Obama

For background on this series, here.

First up Sen. Obama’s plan. Click the link for the pdf file (“read the plan”) at the bottom of this page for his detailed plan.

Obama’s plan calls for a draw down with 1-2 brigades per month theoretically moving the major phase of draw down in 16 months. Of course that is dependent as the paper says on his generals advice and the Iraqi government. i.e. It’s a best guess as Samantha Power his (ex) foreign policy adviser said. That plus a residual force structure to strike against possible training camps (which I think are highly unlikely in any event) or more likely to stabilize Kurdistan if Kirkuk explodes.

Obama as is also well known wants to shift troop levels from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Then this which is very intriguing (p.3):

A United Nations-Led Constitutional Convention: Iraq’s constitution, approved in an October 2005 referendum, is the product of a Kurdish–Shiite deal. Iraq’s government was supposed to immediately revise the constitution to be more inclusive of Sunnis and to develop a more sustainable balance between Baghdad’s centralized authority and provincial governments. They never did. Barack Obama would have the United Nations convene a constitutional convention in Iraq that would include representatives from all levels of Iraqi society. The convention would not adjourn until national reconciliation is reached and contentious questions such as federalism, oil revenue sharing, and de-Ba’athification are resolved.

It’s certainly the case that the Iraqi constitution which was supposed to be re-negotiated never was. This is part of what Obama calls a diplomatic surge. And something like this (along with the regional players) has to take place, but it for me begs the real question: is reconciliation desired–by the players within and without once the US starts to leave?

The reference to federalism to me is (with the choice of Iraqi leadership) maybe the only forward it seems to me–i.e. the movement to three regional zones. There are a number of groups that oppose this (esp. the Sadrist Shia and most Sunni parties). And even the Biden-Gelb plan calls for a central government able to distribute oil revenues and fix de-Baathification.

My main fear is that the political question of Iraq will be decided by men with guns.

Obama then (p.3) channeling Thomas Ricks preventive stage 4 elements has a bullet point concerning prevention of the war spreading beyond the borders. In a sense that has already happened though it could be much much worse (Congo 90s style). Turkey has invaded Kurdistan. The Syrians are letting Saudis through to be in the jihadist movement. The Iranians are totally embedded and playing all sides in the intra-Shia scrum.

Obama’s pledge to meet with foreign leaders of countries like Syria and Iran (contra Bush, Clinton, and McCain) is meant to be part of what he calls a new regional framework security. Unfortunately if Obama becomes president he will not have the Nixonian cred to go to Tehran (China) because the right will go apes–t.

Obama (again following Power’s influence) is strongest on points for the prevention of genocide and the protection of civilian populations (p.4).


Strengths: Very strong on protection of civilian populations, refugees, prevention of genocide, and call for diplomacy.

Limitations: (Like any of the plans) assumes American strength in the face of a draw down. Once the US starts the pullback events will begin their own course of trajectory. Not that frankly that is totally different from the current and recent history of the conflagration, but this will be a new iteration of that trend. It will not be 16 months, more like (I’m betting) 28-32.

Published in: on March 26, 2008 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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