The news that the withdrawal of the military from Iraq is now complete is great to hear for all Americans. Regardless of your viewpoints on the war throughout, our soldiers overseas have always been on our hearts and minds, and nothing can make all of us happier during this holiday season than to know that our heroes are finally home. It is important that each and every one of us makes an effort to express our appreciation for what these brave men and women have done, especially in a time when veterans are finding it more and more difficult to integrate back into normal civilian life. It is our sincere hope that our troops are home for a long, long time. However, the news that the United States is officially out of Iraq does not in any way lessen the growing conflict between Iran, Iraq’s neighbor, and the United States and Israel.
On the surface, it may seem that the pullout of American forces would be a good sign. After all, it seems unlikely that the United States would remove itself from what would be a great strategic position if it were secretly planning an invasion of Iran. However, looking deeper into the politics of the situation, you can see that the departure actually accelerates the likelihood of a war with Iran. To the casual observer, it seems that some sort of great debate is underway about whether action must be taken to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and how exactly stopping it could be accomplished. However, the reality is that there is no debate. The war has already begun, albeit quietly in the shadows. Enter an organization that you have probably never heard of, the Brookings Institution. Perhaps you have heard reference in the media to Washington’s “think tanks.” The Brookings Institution is the oldest and most influential of these. Washington think tanks take goals provided to them by the military and political leaders and aggressively research it, looking at it from all angles, leaving no stone uncovered. They run different scenarios and brainstorm with ideas about how to handle various parts of the operation. For each individual goal, they reach not only a conclusion to recommend to their superiors, but also a detailed plan that explains and extrapolates exactly how the plan will be brought to fruition. Sometimes the policies and directives are decades in advance of the ultimate goal. The final opinion of the think tank is delivered in a report format. As you might imagine, these reports can be thousands of pages long.
In 2009, the Brookings Institution was given the task of developing a strategy for confronting Iran on its nuclear weapons programs once and for all. Since their report, entitled “Which Way to Persia?” was passed on to Washington, the directives in it have been followed perfectly to bring about regime change in Iran. One of the major problems the Brookings think tank saw with possible military action against Iran was the occupation of Iraq by American forces. While this seems like an advantage on the surface, upon further examination, it is easy to see that it actually presents many problems. See, when Brookings was asked to plan a strategy for confronting Iran, it really was not a confrontation at all. It was more like a strategy to bring about regime change in Iran with the United States government somehow coming out smelling like a rose. The United States occupation of Iraq hurt this on two fronts. First of all, as long as American troops were still present, Brookings figured that the anti-American sentiment in the Middle East would only worsen. The sudden departure of the troops (sudden, at least, in that no one really thought the timetable set would actually be followed) set up a great moment for President Obama and the United States to signal a change in foreign policy. Like a Christmas present with a big bow on top, Obama gets to ride the fence between complimenting the American’s actions in Iraq and the achievements of the troops and also extending an olive branch to the Middle East. He says, essentially, “Look, I kept my word.” This doubles as a positive for Obama because it fulfills one of the campaign promises most central to his first campaign and helps increase the United States’ standing in the eyes of the Middle-Eastern nations. See, the idea is for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq and appear to have washed their hands of the whole thing. The reality is that the departure paves the way for Israel to do what they have been wanting to do for nearly a decade: bomb Iran’s nuclear program back into the stone age.
But what stopped Israel from doing as they pleased all this time? We did. But why? It’s all about perception. Everyone knows that Israel isn’t afraid to act in their best interests if they deem it necessary. They did it to Iraq before, and there is no reason to think that they wouldn’t do it again. They have made it abundantly clear that they consider the regime in Iran to be far and away the biggest threat to not only Israel’s national security, but its very existence. Ahmadinejad has made several comments about his desires to see Israel disappear off of the face of this planet. However, Israel, thus far, has not taken any action. This has been all because of the United States. Obama has literally begged Israel not to act, to wait it out, and let us get out of Iraq first.
The Brookings Institution recognized the reasons why an Israeli attack on Iran while the United States still occupied Iraq would be potentially disastrous. First of all, the United States’ presence would automatically tie it in as being involved in the attack. The United States military defended Iraqi airspace throughout the war and occupation. Israel is landlocked and does not have the benefits of aircraft carriers for mobility. If Israel wants to attack Iran, it will do so by the quickest route so as to keep travel times down and decrease the chances of the attack being discovered prematurely. The quickest route, of course, is through Iraq. If Israeli forces launched an attack while the United States was protecting Iraqi airspace, they would be caught in an unfortunate situation. Israel is one of America’s most prominent allies, and no doubt they would call on us to give them passage. However, if the U.S. is protecting Iraqi airspace, they should immediately shoot down any Israeli aircraft. If they don’t, they are basically giving them permission to pass. This undermines Iraq and makes us clearly an enemy of Iran in whatever retaliation would follow. And of course, if the United States was still right next door, the possibilities for Iranian retaliation would be grave.
The pullout of American troops serves many purposes in facilitating an Israeli attack on Iran. The United States will try to appear neutral in the conflict, although it has been involved in its planning since day one. The reason it was so important to get the troops out of Iraq right now, and not later, is not to get them home for the holidays, no matter how romantic that idea might seem. In reality, Israel has had enough and is ready to move. Obama was able to stay their hands for all this time, but Israel is ready for action, and the time is nigh. Expect the conflict to heat up quickly in the new year. Israel has been waiting a long time for this opportunity, and they will not tarry long in taking advantage of it now that the conditions are right. Expect an attack on Iran in early to mid-2012.
On the positive side, the withdrawal of American troops means that our soldiers will not be right next door if and when Iran chooses to retaliate.
For a full breakdown of the Brookings Institution’s report on confronting Iran, examine this site that explains in detail how its directives have been followed ever since it was released.