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Now for The Iran Front

Author: James F. Hoge Jr.
January 11, 2007
New York Sun


Despite growing opposition in Congress from both Democrats and Republicans, President Bush is calling for more troops to combat insurgents and more dollars to employ Iraqis in that violence-torn land. But Mr. Bush faces huge obstacles to success. In Congress, critics are scrambling to see what limits can be put on the fresh resources and the time allowed for them to work. As for the public, opinion polls show that a large majority of Americans doubt the tide can be turned or that American security requires it.

There are three possible outcomes. Against all odds, the escalation could tame the insurgency enough to allow political and economic developments to stabilizeIraq. Or the surge could prove to be the last, unsuccessful effort before withdrawal of most American troops, thus consigning the fate of Iraq to the Iraqis and their nervous neighbors. Or the Bush administration could struggle on inconclusively and leave the mess to the winner of the 2008 American presidential election.

For several reasons, a pessimistic outcome is likely. The Bush plan cannot work as long as the Maliki government of Iraqrefuses to suppress Shiite militias, not just Sunni ones, or make the political and economic compromises sought by moderate Sunnis. Prime Minister al-Maliki has pledged to cooperate with the Bush plan, but his past behavior strongly suggests he is unable or unwilling to provide more than minimal help. He has not acted as a unity leader but rather as a Shiite advocate, with questionable ties to Iran, and has given scant cause for Sunnis to trust him.

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