Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date May 2009
Iraq is currently in the early stages of a negotiated end to an intense ethnosectarian war. As such, there are several contingencies in which recent, mostly positive trends in Iraq could be reversed, threatening U.S. national interests. This Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum by Stephen Biddle assesses four interrelated scenarios in Iraq that could derail the prospects for peace and stability in the short to medium term and posits concrete policy options to limit U.S. vulnerability to the possibility of such reversals. It argues that the effectiveness of mitigating the consequences of a reversal is uncertain and that, therefore, a vigorous preventive strategy in the form of slowing the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is less costly both politically and militarily in the long run.