by Austin Bay
October 15, 2008
In a month Iraq will be the next president?swar.
From the American perspective the next president?s phase of the Iraq Warwill be twofold. First off, it will be a proxy war with Iran?s tyrannicalmullahs. The second ?fold? will be even more strategically significant: The nextpresident?s war will measure America?s commitment to defending democracy andpromoting genuine international security in the 21st century.
The Iraqi perspective differs a shade. Iraq?s war will be yet anotherIran-Iraq War, but one where the Iraqis will have an organizational advantageand a significant ideological edge.
Iraq?s organizational advantage has two components. First and foremostIraq engages Iran with the U.S. as an active ally -- unless the next U.S.president proves feckless and makes the inexcusably stupid mistake of denyingIraq American diplomatic and military support in acrisis.
Iraq?s second organizational advantage is its increasingly capablemilitary and more responsive government.
The Iraqis point to Operation Charge of the Knights as their first in aseries of successful security operations signaling their new capabilities andconfidence. Launched in late March, Charge of the Knights targeted Shia militias(like Muktada Sadr?s Mahdi Army), criminal gangs, and the ?Special Groups? thatare really guerrilla bands sponsored by Iran. Follow-on operations have reducedterrorist violence and crime, which senior officials point out are closelylinked.
U.S. forces are already moving to support roles. This week U.S. MarineCorps Major General John Kelly, coalition forces commander in Anbar province,said, ?There are still 27,000 U.S. troops in the province, but they are onoverwatch."
"Overwatch" is military lingo for protecting your friends while theymaneuver and fight. At the tactical level, as one soldier moves and exposeshimself, another "covers" him (overwatches), prepared to fire a burst from hisrifle to suppress enemy troops shooting at the exposed soldier. In AnbarProvince, U.S. forces have assumed ?operational-level overwatch.? If an Iraqiarmy commander finds his troops in a tough firefight, he can quickly requesthelp from a U.S. ground unit.
At the strategic level, allied nations "cover" one another. Strategicoverwatch in the U.S.-Iraq relationship includes deterring Tehran?smullahs.
The next president will be tested by these robed thugs. The mullahs?nuclear quest continues and the next president must thwart that quest. Themullahs will make trouble in Lebanon and stir conflicts throughout the MiddleEast and Central Asia (e.g. Afghanistan andPakistan).
However, Iraq will be the central battle front with Tehran, militarily,diplomatically and morally.
Iraq?s emerging democracy presents the mullahs with a complex challenge.Democracy gives Iraq an ideological advantage in its struggle with Iran?sdictatorship. Disgust and discontent has become a way of life inside Iran. TheKhomeinist revolution has failed and fossilized as a corrupt theocracy backed bysecret police and Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian people look west and seeIraqi Arabs and Kurds seizing a historic opportunity to create their own open,democratic system -- and they know the mullahs are the gangsters denying themthat opportunity.
Moreover, Iraq?s Shia majority offers an ?alternative political vision?(i.e., democracy) to Iran?s, and its Hezbollah puppet?s, Shia Islamistauthoritarianism.
In 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the Shah of Iran, theKhomeinists had a radical vision propelling them, with the U.S. damned as TheGreat Satan. Now the Ayatollah?s heirs wage a strategic delaying action, relyingon terror at home and abroad to remain in control.
The mullahs provide an example of America?s most common21st century opponent -- a failed clique of violent ideologues with eitherpetrodollar or narcotics income whose chief tools of foreign policy areassassination, terrorism and crime.
It?s why the next American president must win his IraqWar.