A Strategy to Quarantine the Violence in Iraq

Conferring for Peace

President Bush’s decision to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq is a desperate attempt to salvage a mission that has gone terribly wrong.  Instead of persisting in a strategy that will have U.S. forces trying to referee a multisided civil war, Washington should focus on a more achievable objective: working with Iraq’s neighbors to quarantine the violence in that country as the United States adopts a strategy to withdraw all of her troops.  If we do not take steps to do that soon, the conflict in Iraq could easily escalate into a Sunni-Shiite regional proxy war that would undermine U.S. policy throughout the Middle East.  Equally troublesome, preventing such a horrific war is fast emerging as the principal argument that American hawks use to make their case that the United States needs to maintain a military presence in Iraq indefinitely.

Iraq’s neighbors are already lining up on opposite sides of the internal sectarian struggle.

Predominantly Shiite Iran has taken a great interest in political and military developments in her western neighbor.  Tehran has close ties with the two dominant Shiite political parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and has supported the even more radical Muqtada al-Sadr.  Washington has long accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq, especially by funding and arming Shiite militias, and Washington’s warnings on...

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