Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting out cheap

Stepped up fighting across Iraq this week, particularly in Basra and Baghdad, further illustrates how clueless U.S. policymakers have been in the five-year-old conflict. The United States allowed close-ally Great Britain to withdraw most of its forces from Basra, the center of Iraq's oil industry, and turn control over the Iraq's oil-rich south to Iraqi security forces. Now, it seems, those security forces are no match for the Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army or a number of other Shite militias now controlling Basra's streets. Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed. An offensive ordered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to regain control appears to have made no progress, leaving a huge power vacuum that U.S. troops are going to have to fill. How could the United States have miscalculated so badly, yet again, five years into the war? Even Baghdad has again become a battlefield, with daily attacks on the fortified Green Zone that houses Iraqi and U.S. officials. President Bush called the start of the Basra offensive a "defining moment" in the Iraq conflict, but it looks like another "mission accomplished" moment instead.

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