The Iraq War will end in 2009

Summary:  There have been many signs that Iran is ready to negotiate with the US a “master settlement” of Iraq.  Would this officially mark Iraq’s loss of sovereignty, as it became a ward of other states?  Once a regional power, Iraq has become like Lebanon.  Broken into three pieces — in which Iran and the US wield extra-legal power, manipulating Iraq’s factions for their own ends.  Muqtada al-Sadr increasingly appears to be Iraq’s last major nationalist leader.  The stage is set for the next President to start his term with a major success, signing a treaty that ends the Iraq War.

See how far Iraq has fallen!  Twenty years ago Iraq’s leaders aspired to regional dominance.  Now it is broken into three fragments.  As I said a year ago (March 2007) this means the Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace, and (November 2007) an end to our war in Iraq.  Now we begin the the end-game. 

Many experts, such as Stratfor, have long predicted that the Iraq War will end with a master settlement between Iran and the US (with some involvement by the major Iraq factions).  A master settlement would codify their powers in Iraq, a “carve up” of Middle East territory somewhat like that following WWI and WWII.  Iran has high cards in this “great game”:

  • Strong influence with both major Shiite factors, headed by al-Maliki’s alliance and al-Sadr. 
  • Well-entrenched networks of operatives in Iran, along with excellent intelligence from the extensive
  • Ancient cross-border family and commercial connections. 
  • A strong position in the region, as shown by recent events in Lebanon.

Bush remains fixated on defeating Iran, but a deal might prove irresistible to President Obama or President McCain — starting their term with a major accomplishment.  America will get many of our goals in Iraq, such as “enduring bases” and an Iraq government hostile to al Qaeda.  It will end the ruinous cost of the war, borrowed from foreign governments.  The debilitating strain on our land forces will end, and they will be freed up to recover — an address other threats.  And the new government, freed from the need to run a war, can address its domestic and foreign policy goals.

McCain especially would be able to laugh at his critics, as these words prove to be correct:

We’ve got to get Americans off the front line, have the Iraqis as part of the strategy, take over more and more of the responsibilities. And then I don’t think Americans are concerned if we’re there for 100 years or 1,000 years or 10,000 years. What they care about is a sacrifice of our most precious treasure, and that’s American blood. So what I’m saying is look, if Americans are there in a support role, but they’re not taking casualties, that’s fine.

A broken Iraq cannot control its destiny, as greater powers shape it to suit their needs.  So the major Iraq factions will not dominate the settlement process.  After four years of war, no Iraq faction can reasonably anticipate full victory, not even the Kurds.  Everybody has something to offer.  Everybody needs something.  The winners can consolidate their gains. The losers can prevent further losses.

What might be the elements of this master settlement?

  1. Agents of both powers would continue to enjoy immunity from Iraq law.
  2. Sharing of control over Iraq’s foreign policy.
  3. A role in the sharing of Iraq’s oil wealth:  a role in writing its laws and participation in contracts to develop, sell, and transport its oil.
  4. A large role in “protecting” Iraq against internal and external enemies.  That is, control over the training and use of Iraq’s military — including recruitment, promotion, and assignment of its officers.
  5. A large role as arbitrators among Iraq’s ethnic and religious factions — necessary to prevent them from allying to expel foreigners.
  6. “Enduring bases” in Iraq for US forces, in exchange for equally valuable concessions to Iran.
  7. Limited independence for Kurdistan, in exchange for its government no longer supporting Kurdish rebellions in Iran and Turkey.

Not quite the UN Charter in action.  Probably not what Iraq’s people voted for.

A settlement might be near, as seen in this article:  “Iran shifts attention to brokering peace in Iraq“, Christian Science Monitor (14 May 2008) — “Details from a secret meeting between top Iranian and Iraqi officials signal Iran’s aim to ‘stop arming’ militias.”  It describes what might be the key to recent events in Iraq:  US and Iran use their Iraq proxies to crack down on the one remaining center of Iraq nationalism.

Two weeks ago, an Iraqi delegation sent to Iran by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki returned with promises that Iran would support Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-led government and lean on Sadr to reach a truce.

Iran “committed to acting more positively, and we are now awaiting evidence of that commitment,” says Haidar Abbadi, a member of parliament from Maliki’s Dawa Party. The Sadr City cease-fire is a “good sign” that shows the Iranians “putting pressure on the militants there.”

… “We all must work together – Iraq, Iran, and the United States – to stabilize the situation,” the Iraqi president said Soleimani told him. He declared Iran’s unequivocal support for the Maliki government, for its efforts to dismantle all militias, and Iran’s support for the unity of Iraq.

Sadr was now the biggest threat to peace in Iraq, Soleimani said, echoing past Pentagon assessments. “We now recognize [that] Sadrists have gotten outside anyone’s control” which is a “dangerous development for Iraq, for Iran and for all Shia,” he indicated, according to the description. Iran could not control Sadr even in Iran, where the cleric is currently taking advanced religious training, and his return to Iraq would “be a big danger.”

Iran’s “only demand,” Soleimani is said to have told Talabani, was that the anti-Iranian group Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK or MKO), some 3,400 of whose militants still reside under US guard at Camp Ashraf, be forced to leave Iraq. US and Iraqi officials, too, have long been looking for ways to disband the camp.

Soleimani also, according to the official, said that Iran would “not stand in the way of [Iraqi] efforts to negotiate an agreement with the US,” which he termed a “good thing for Iraq,” referring to a deal on the long-term status of American troops in Iraq.

How will al-Sadr react to these negotiations?  Cut himeself in for a piece of Iraq?  Allow himself to be isolated and destroyed?  Become a satrop to another player?  Much depends on his goals and skills.  Also, these groups are not unitiary entities.  The Mahdi Army is not al-Sadr.  Polls show strong if latent nationalist sentiments in Iraq, ready for exploitation by someone.  More on this in the next chapter.

Implications of this

The next chapter will discuss what this scenario would mean for Iraq, and what what this scenario would tell us about modern warfare.  How accurate were the forecasts of 4GW analysts?  How reliable were reports of the War Bloggers?  What was the role of COIN?  What are the lessons learned for America?

Also, how correct were 4GW analysts?  War bloggers?  What was the role of COIN?  What are the lessons learned for America?

Note:  This is a forecast — a guess.  It is a brief sketch, painted in bold colors for clarity.  Sometimes speculation like this helps us better understand our situation and options.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Go here to see an archive of my posts about the Iraq War.

10 thoughts on “The Iraq War will end in 2009”

  1. My guess is 2012. After an abortive war against Iran. An US depression, a world wide recession. Massive internal US “unsettlement”, ie riots, repression, economic collapse, etc.

  2. Fabius, I can’t agree with your fundamental premise regarding Iran. Perhaps I’m too dense. How are any of the “elements of this master settlement” in Iran’s interest? How do any of them advance, in anything greater than to a minimal degree, it’s agenda?

    What is in it for Iran to agree to a treaty? What ‘valuable concessions’ to Iran do you envisage?

    Forgive the bluntness, but you appear to place far too much faith in pontifications from Stratfor. When have the ‘experts’ ever been remotely prescient when it comes to prognostications? And if they are so insightful, why isn’t the CIA and American intelligence community using those insights to provide more accurate analysis?
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is of course a valid objection to what is really just a guess. This forecast is made to highlight interesting aspects of the situation, not with a serious expectation of getting both the event and timing correct! If that happens I will be both pleased and surprised.

    I do not understand your objection. Winners often negotiate; that is how they lock in gains. Iran’s leaders have experience with both internal and external conflicts, and probably understand that the wheel of chance can take away what it has given.

    The most common objection to this is that neither McCain or Obama will agree. The former too belicose; the latter for fear of looking weak. Possible, but the new President might find that the gains outweigh the risks. I suspect a peace treaty leading to large withdrawals of American troops would send the new President’s leadership rocketing up.

  3. Duncan Kinder

    Re: Many experts, such as Stratfor, have long predicted that the Iraq War will end with a master settlement between Iran and the US (with some involvement by the major Iraq factions).

    Conceivably that might happen on the surface of things.

    Meanwhile, according to the LA Times Food crisis creates an opening for Muslim fundamentalists. This article describes how Muslim fundamentalist organizations are outperforming various MidEast states in providing food supplies.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Not a surprise! Providing basic services has been a core competancy of both Hezbollah and al-Sadr’s folks.

  4. Not likely an outcome. The Middle East has been at war with itself for countless generations. The US is not going to make any allies by handing over a portion of Iraq to Iran. There are two many countries in that general area that this just wouldn’t make any sense to: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, and the five other countries in the immediate area of Iraq. Plus, I’m sure that China, Russia, Europe, India, and the rest of the world wouldn’t jump on board like when we split up Berlin.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You might be right. This is just speculation, of course, to illuminate how the current condition of Iraq has changed in ways predicted neither by the neocons nor most 4GW experts.

    I agree with your opening sentance, but then I said it was the end of our war — not not the end of conflict in the ME. As for handing over a portion of Iraq to Iran, I consider that unlikely. Iran has influence in Iran today, as do we. A treaty would codify that to reduce conflict.

    As for the other countries to whom “this might not make sense” — they are welcome to send troops to replace those we would bring home. It might be amusing to see one or two hundred thousand troops from those nations cope with Iraq. Of course, that will not happen. They might send sternly worded letters of protest about the treaty, but nothing more.

    Nor would we be “splitting up” anything, just working with the situation in place.

  5. Maximus, you’ve not taken religion into account. It is the source of obedience and it simply cannot be eradicated.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand what you are saying. Why should religion be “eradicated”?

  6. You have eradicated “religion” from the factor of peace. There can be no peace where there is a struggle for the source of law — that is, a struggle for religious dominance. Obedience to the after life always takes precedence.

    In terms of when the war will end, the assumption is that we’re at war. We are not at war. The war is over. It was over after the first few weeks …. remember “Mission Accomplished”? I do. What is going on now is nation building.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is a bit definitional, a matter of the scale in time and space being discussed.

    The topic here is Iraq, over a period of months and years. History, both world history and this region’s, is filled with areas having religious conflicts that avoid war for generations. “Always” is a word best avoided in such analysis, too broad for most uses.

    Should we classify this as “war” or “nation-building”? This debate is useful for academics but of little interest to me. I doubt the hundreds of thousands of dead and crippled since “mission accomplished” care about the distinction.

  7. Fabius, “always” is appropriate in the context I used it because it explains why a rationale human being would strap explosives on themselves. It applies to the Christian and non-Christian world. Everything is definitional and we can’t talk unless we agree on definitions.

    Classifying the situation in Iraq as “nation building” is more than useful outside of academia my friend. It tells the world that we are not told the truth of what reality is. BTW, where in God’s name did you get “hundreds of thousands” dead and crippled since the “mission accomplished” statement?
    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) Agree on your comments about the importance of definitions, which is why I gave mine. There have been periods where there was “peace where there is a struggle for the source of law.”

    (2) The Iraq Body Count gives the current total of Iraq civilian dead as 84 -92 thousand. Plus 4400 Coalition dead. The number crippled is larger than the number dead. Note The Lancet study gives a far larger number of Iraq civilian deaths. In a war zone these things can only be guessed at.

    (3) Nation-building often is war, in that nations are often built through violence. Quoting from “Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq“:

    Nationalism is the dominate form of social organization today because it allows mobilization of greater energies than other forms. A common step in its implementation is elimination of “alien” peoples in the new body politic through

    * Forced assimilation,
    * Forced emigration,
    * Death, natural over time or forced.

    This process horrifies even the winners – but only afterwards – and so goes into the memory hole. Children’s history texts usually tell only the story of heroic nation-building, not the unfortunate side-effects.

    Massive “cleansing” followed the American Revolution. Article Five of the Treaty of Paris (1783) required that Congress “earnestly recommend” to state legislatures that they “provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects” Many Loyalists (100,000 – 250,000) fled our new nation during or soon after the Revolution. Probably their descendants have given up waiting for their checks.

    France resulted from two intense waves of nation-building during the Napoleonic Wars and WWI. For more on this see “The Great Transformation” section in Chapter Four of Martin van Creveld’s Rise and Decline of the State (e.g., the long effort to make French the national language of France).
    The peaceful Europe of today results from two centuries of extensive ethnic cleansing, especially surrounding WWI and WWII. As a result, ethnic groups concentrated in their “home” nations. Many minorities (e.g., the Jews) were assimilated, ejected, or killed.

    More recently these age-old tools were used to produce Algeria, the proto-state of Quebec, the fragments of Yugoslavia (the new states inhabited by Czechs and Slovaks), and newly re-emerged Baltic States., and newly re-emerged Baltic States.

    This is how nationalists build nations. This is the path to peace for Iraq, or perhaps the nation formerly known as Iraq.

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