Oakland, CA--June 30, 2005--President Bush tried to lower expectations for a quick end to the Iraq War in his speech to the nation last night, by acknowledging the ferocity of the Iraqi insurgency, but offered no solution to the problem, says Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's admission this week that the United States is negotiating with groups in the Iraqi insurgency is the first acknowledgement by the Bush administration that the insurgency cannot be extinguished by military means, notes Eland, an expert on national security and defense and author of the recent book, The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed.
The president wants to buy time for a negotiated settlement in Iraq by trying to shore up sagging public support for the war. The administration knows that American support for the war has eroded significantly and pressure for U.S. troop withdrawal is building, said Eland. "The dialogue with the rebels is an attempt to find a political solution to the conflict," he says.
Unfortunately, the ongoing talks are unlikely to succeed, said Eland. While the Sunni Arab rebels are unified in demanding a specific timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, according to the Sunday London Times, the administration has resisted making such a commitment. The Sunnis know that the only thing propping up the Shiite-Kurdish government is U.S. military power, he explains. If the U.S. forces leave, the Sunnis have a better chance of again taking over the central government to prevent its use against them. If they feel really threatened, the Sunnis may not honor any agreement to lay down their guns after the United States withdraws. And that is precisely the administrations fear.
Eland suggests that a way out exists for the United States. Although they are battle-hardened, the Sunni guerrillas would not automatically win back control of the central government in a post-U.S. Iraq. They would be up against the formidable militias of the Kurds as well as the majority Shia militias. But civil war could be avoided after a U.S. withdrawal if the administration is open to new ideas, such as a decentralized government.
As reports grow of southern Iraqis who support a decentralized government and the newly elected provincial Governing Councils develop their independence, Eland points to a confederation or partition as the best solution for Iraq's various factions. The only way to quiet the Sunni insurgency is a negotiated settlement that involves U.S. withdrawal and a decentralized governing structure for Iraq--a loose confederation of autonomous areas or a partition--to allow each group to rule itself and provide its own security, says Eland.