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Foreign Affairs Live: A Discussion of Iraqi Futures (Audio)

Speakers: Steven Simon, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Stephen Biddle, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: James F. Hoge Jr., Peter G. Peterson Chair and Editor, Foreign Affairs
September 8, 2008

With violence down and U.S. troop deaths at their lowest point since the Iraq war began, military analysts are in near-agreement that Iraq is more secure today than it has been in years. But policy experts are deeply divided on how lasting this stability is, and how to ensure it continues. Stephen Biddle, CFR Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, writes in a September/October 2008 Foreign Affairs essay that a string of positive developments—from political changes to improved Iraqi army capabilities—"offers hope that the desire of so many Americans to bring the troops home can be fulfilled without leaving Iraq in chaos." Steven Simon, CFR's Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, counters that Biddle's view is overly optimistic. Simon reiterated the arguments from his May/June 2008 Foreign Affairs essay, in which he warned that the U.S. strategy of building up Sunni tribes to secure Iraq has come by "stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism, and sectarianism." And he told the meeting's attendees that "instead of bringing the Sunni tribes into the state and co-opting the sheiks, in fact the United States …empowered the sheiks, and they created a huge army—an army of 100,000 fairly well-armed people who are not happy with the current political dispensation in Iraq."


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