Events this week underline the real legacy of the Bush Administration's actions in Iraq: a country still tormented by bombings, a dysfunctional political system threatened by power plays and instability, and at home a troubling history of high-level executive branch misuse of intelligence in the run-up to the war.
Tomorrow marks a major milestone in Iraq as the Iraqi Government takes responsibility for paying and integrating large numbers of the Sons of Iraq (SOI) - the former Sunni insurgents who began aligning themselves with the U.S. in 2006 and were one of the main reasons for the reduction in violence. There are still significant tension between the Shi'a dominated central government and the SOIs; and, if the government does not continue to pay these fighters or integrate enough of them into the security forces, it could spell trouble.
As the country’s focus has shifted to the economy, 140,000 American troops remain in Iraq and events there are not suspended. While violence has decreased dramatically in the past year and a half, Iraqi politicians have not taken advantage of the situation to come to the political compromises necessary to bring about stability.
The Bush Administration finds itself pinned by a dilemma of its own making: Yesterday the Bush administration approved the request from Gen. McKiernan for three additional brigades to shore up the beleaguered effort in Afghanistan, but it announced no corresponding withdrawals from Iraq, despite indications that it would not be possible to increase levels in Afghanistan without either reducing force levels in Iraq or once again increasing Army deployments from 12 to 15 months
This weekend Iraq’s leaders again failed to agree on a new provincial elections law, and a new wave of protests and bombings shook the region. It is a reminder that the reduction in violence we have seen recently is heavily predicated on political success.