By: Raed Jarrar, Senior Fellow
Seven years under the US-led occupation, Iraqis have been paying a huge price for this war. Five million Iraqis remain displaced from their homes, half of them inside the country and the other half as refugees in other nations; more than a million Iraqis have been killed, and millions more injured, maimed and traumatized; the country’s infrastructure and services, once among the most developed in the region, remain in shambles; the Iraqi civil society is torn and in conflict; and the Iraqi governmental institutions, including the armed services, are still infiltrated and controlled by political parties and militias.
The current general situation in Iraq is dreadful and unstable, and there is a lot of doubt Iraq has reached a stage where a peaceful transition of authority is possible. The upcoming elections are not inclusive enough because of the banning of hundreds of opposition candidates by the Iraqi government, and with the lack of a sufficient number of international monitors, Iraq risks falling into an Iran-style post-election unrest. But even if the upcoming elections were inclusive, fair and transparent, there is still doubt that the Iraqi armed forces will be loyal to the democratically elected government. Many Iraqi observers and politicians fear the possibility of a military coup in case the current ruling parties lose.
But this deterioration should not affect the US withdrawal plans from Iraq in any way. While President Bush based his withdrawal plans from Iraq on conditions on the ground, claiming that “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down”, President Obama’s withdrawal plans has been time-based, not conditions-based. The Obama plan has two guiding timelines: Obama’s own plan to remove all combat forces between April and August of this year and bring the total number of US troops to less than 50,000 and US contractors to less than 75,000, then the bi-lateral agreement with Iraq requiring all troops and contractors to be out by the end of 2011.
There seems to be some pressure from the U.S. war machine and some pro-occupation Iraqi parties to postpone or cancel the withdrawal from Iraq, or to link the withdrawal to political and security conditions on the ground. If the Obama administration falls in the slippery slope of going back to a conditions-based withdrawal, that will take us back to square one. The US occupation has never been a part of the solution in Iraq, and it will never be. Prolonging the occupation will not solve what the occupation has damaged, and will lead to more death and destruction.
This March, while we commemorate the 7th year of occupation, let’s make sure to hold Obama accountable for his promises to bring home all combat forces this year, and all remaining forces and contractors next year.