Toward Withdrawal from Iraq

Now that the Bush Administration has made the strategic decision to withdraw, the question, according to this editorial from France's Le Figaro, is whether Bush can manage the withdrawal in time for the 2006 mid-term elections while not giving the Arab world the impression that, 'America has given up Iraq and its project to democratize the region.'

Editorial By Pierre Rousselin

November 25, 2005

Le Figaro - Home Page (French)    


A Marine Humvee Heads Into the Iraqi Sunset

RealVideo[SLIDE SHOW: Iraq]


In Iraq, the Americans are preparing to withdraw their troops in a much more organized fashion than the invasion. Every day, generals and diplomats are ever-more precise about the number of troops to be brought back in three, six or twelve months.

As though it were possible for them to predict what will become of the insurgency and the capacity of Iraqi government forces to face it.

This is because the front has moved. It is no longer in Baghdad, Falluja or Mosul, but in the heart of the Washington microcosm, in a fever over the fall in popularity of George Bush and with opinion surveys showing that the public has had enough of a war that has killed 2,108 soldiers to date. After Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha, a hero of Vietnam, created an uproar in Congress by calling for a withdrawal within six months of the 159,000 soldiers currently in Iraq, the White House must show that there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Representative John Murtha Calls for 'Immediate' Withdrawal'

RealVideoC-SPAN VIDEO: Rep. John Murtha Calls for
Withdrawal of U.S. Forces in Iraq, Nov. 17, 00:32:17


The Bush Administration is having a very hard time being heard by a more and more skeptical public, but it does have some serious arguments. Doubtless better today than they ever were.Ý

After the referendum on the Constitution, the legislative elections in three weeks will be the last stage on the path to forming a sovereign Iraqi government that Washington will be able to entrust operational responsibility. And thus will be able begin its withdrawal.

The strength of the Sunni insurrection poses an obvious problem. But, even if it has taken far too long for them to be convinced of it, and even if they still refuse to say so publicly, the United States has given up overcoming the insurgency militarily.


Turmoil in Iraq: America Ponders Escape




In order to achieve that outcome, rather than speaking of troop reductions, a real increase in (ground) forces would need to be considered. However, this option has been consistently dismissed. Having finally admitted that the outcome will be more political than military, the Pentagon can reduce America's military presence, which serves more as a sign of Washington's determination to stay the course rather than allowing it to achieve any real success on the ground (in Iraq).

The change in American policy in Iraq needs to be carefully managed. It must be accompanied by regional efforts to support "national reconciliation" in Iraq. Shortly after the preparatory conference that has just taken place in Cairo, General Rick Lynch considered it useful that rebels take part in political discussions, provided that they are insurgent Sunnis and not al-Qaeda jihadists.

If America is thus ready to speak to the enemy, the end of the war is approaching.

With a year to go before the mid-term elections in the United States, time is short. By then, George Bush will have to answer the wishes of the electorate to disengage, without giving the Arab world the impression that America has given up Iraq and its project to democratize the region. That will require a sense of nuance that this American president is not accustomed to showing.

French Version Below

Vers un retrait en Irak

L'Èditorial par Pierre Rousselin

[25 novembre 2005]

En Irak, les AmÈricains prÈparent beaucoup mieux le retrait de leurs troupes qu'ils n'avaient organisÈ l'invasion. Chaque jour, les gÈnÈraux et les diplomates se font plus prÈcis sur les niveaux auxquels seront ramenÈs les effectifs dans trois, six ou douze mois.
Comme s'il leur Ètait possible de prÈvoir ce qu'il en sera de l'insurrection et de la capacitÈ des forces gouvernementales irakiennes ý y faire face.

C'est que le front s'est dÈplacÈ. Il n'est plus ý Bagdad, ý Faludja ou ý Mossoul, mais au cúur du microcosme washingtonien, enfiÈvrÈ par la chute de popularitÈ de George Bush et les sondages montrant que l'opinion en a assez d'une guerre qui a tuÈ ý ce jour 2108 soldats. Depuis que le sÈnateur dÈmocrate Jack Murtha, hÈros du Vietnam, a mis le CongrËs en Èmoi en rÈclamant le rapatriement, d'ici six mois, des 159000 militaires actuellement en Irak, la Maison-Blanche doit prouver qu'il y a de la lumiËre au bout du tunnel.

L'Administration Bush a du mal ý se faire entendre d'une opinion de plus en plus sceptique, mais elle a de sÈrieux arguments. Sans doute meilleurs aujourd'hui qu'ils n'ont jamais ÈtÈ.

AprËs le rÈfÈrendum sur la Constitution, les lÈgislatives, dans trois semaines, seront une derniËre Ètape sur la voie de la formation, ý Bagdad, d'un gouvernement souverain auquel Washington pourra confier la responsabilitÈ des opÈrations. Et pourra donc amorcer un retrait.

La vigueur de l'insurrection sunnite pose Èvidemment un problËme. Mais, mÍme s'il leur a fallu bien trop longtemps pour s'en convaincre, mÍme s'ils refusent encore de le dire publiquement, les Etats-Unis ont renoncÈ ý la vaincre militairement. Pour cela, ce n'est pas d'une rÈduction de troupes qu'il faudrait parler mais d'une vÈritable escalade, dont il n'a jamais ÈtÈ question. Ayant enfin admis que l'issue sera plus politique que militaire, le Pentagone peut rÈduire un contingent qui sert plus ý tÈmoigner de la dÈtermination de Washington qu'ý remporter des succËs sur le terrain.

Le virage de la politique amÈricaine en Irak est en train d'Ítre soigneusement nÈgociÈ. Il s'accompagne d'efforts rÈgionaux pour favoriser une ´rÈconciliation nationaleª en Irak. Au lendemain de la confÈrence prÈparatoire qui vient de se tenir au Caire, le gÈnÈral Rick Lynch a jugÈ utile que des rebelles participent aux discussions politiques, ý condition qu'il s'agisse d'insurgÈs sunnites et non de djihadistes d'al-Qaida.

Si l'AmÈrique est ainsi prÍte ý parler ý l'ennemi, c'est que la fin de la guerre approche.
A un an des Èlections de mi-mandat aux Etats-Unis, le temps presse. D'ici , George Bush devra rÈpondre au souhait de dÈsengagement exprimÈ par son opinion, sans donner au monde arabe l'impression que l'AmÈrique abandonne l'Irak et son projet de dÈmocratiser la rÈgion. Cela va requÈrir un sens de la nuance auquel ce prÈsident amÈricain ne nous a pas encore habituÈs.

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