Around this time last year, it was Afghanistan that we called the “forgotten war”. Now, with President Obama announcing a troop increase of tens of thousands and an Iraqi-style surge to prepare for the beginning of withdrawal by 2012, no one bothers to report about Iraq anymore. It would seem that the media can only handle one war at a time.
Fortunately Fareed Zakaria is there with analysis in Newsweek. The United States still have 120,000 troops in Iraq after all. The country is scheduled to hold elections next March while American forces will start leaving by August. “Month of parliamentary horse-trading will likely ensue,” notes Zakaria while the American withdrawal is bound to put further pressure on the “country’s ability to handle its own security.”
How we draw down in Iraq is just as critical as how we ramp up in Afghanistan: If handled badly, this withdrawal could be a disaster. Handled well, it could leave behind a significant success.
For while the costs of the war have been great and “perhaps indefensible,” Iraq could still turn out to be “an extraordinary model for the Arab world.” In spite of the political differences between the country’s Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds, the Iraqis are negotiating about their future, peacefully for the most part. Iraq’s political landscape is becoming more pluralistic and democratic; its press is free; its provinces have considerable autonomy; and its focus has shifted from jihad to business.
All in all, “the Obama Administration has a window of opportunity to cement these gains in 2010” by conducting an “aggressive and persistent” diplomacy in Iraq, “pushing the three groups to resolve the basic issues of power-sharing” before all Americans have left the country.