A strange confluence demonstrates weakening U.S. foreign policy and resolve; if there were remaining doubts they are fading. The illustrative confluence is the departure from Iraq and the loss of a drone.
We lose our most sophisticated drone. We lose it over Iran, they recover it. The President is counseled to destroy it with a missile strike. He says no, it might be considered an act of war against Iran.
Against a torrent of advice to the contrary the President takes a pass on a minimal presence in Iraq to help insure training of Iraqi security forces and the presence of ‘on demand’ capabilities on behalf of the Iraqi security forces. Internal Iraqi planning predicts a solid security position by 2020, 8 years hence. The President, however, takes a public ‘bow’ despite his former position that would have had us out of Iraq four years ago, regardless of consequence. Disregard for consequence appears to prevail.
But wait, for Iran, the President has Plan B! We’ll ask Iran; “may we please have our drone back; pretty, pretty please.” The Iranians, predictably, scoff at the President publically! The rebuke, based on years of Iranian rhetoric, was the absolutely, positively, 100% predictable, guaranteed response. We have apparently positioned ourselves as the straight man for Iranian humor seeking out a position whereby we can be denigrated by Iran. Being scoffed at by Iran delivers a message to Iraq, supporting the growing perception that we may or may not protect our interests. Why insist on being the ongoing butt of an international joke with Iran delivering the punch line?
Iraq has maintained mixed feelings about the American presence for some time, polling consistently identified the dual personality of that perception; ‘leave, but not right now’. We have been, essentially, leaving for quite a while. The Status of Forces Agreement identified how and when the U.S. would depart the cities, encampments, bases and finally the country. Iraq maintained an option for further American presence but the negotiations ‘failed’. The negotiations likely failed due to lack of effort or domestic political expediency. Militarily and in the context of what passes for security in the Middle East, in makes no sense.
Consequences? Iraq suffers from Turkish incursions in the North and Iranian influence in both the South and in the Iraqi political process. Iranian influence has been significant since shortly after the original invasion. The al Sadr organization is a transparent Iranian front and will likely be a force behind the predictable sectarian violence that will occur in 2012. Sectarian violence has been present for years but the mitigating influence of American capabilities will be absent. The potential for an Iraqi civil war is real. The potential for Turkish and Iranian spheres of influence in the North and South are also real. Islam recognizes the state only as an extension of the faith and there are two very different interpretations of Islam that will take the stage in Iraq. When that happens, it will not be just about Iraq it will be about who lines up to support their interpretation of choice. To assume that the political will overwhelm the sectarian is simply not borne out by recent history.
In most Islamic interpretation, Democracy is rejected as being inconsistent to the governing law of Sharia; in fact nearly any system is rejected in favor of Sharia. That will come to be the case for Iraq.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt will view the potential of Shiite control of Iraq with alarm; they have good reason to do so.
Foreign policy and to a degree diplomacy is an exercise in sending messages, particularly in the Middle East. The message here is that we are unreliable and weak. Had we destroyed the drone that would have sent a message that maybe, just maybe, we were finished fooling around with the Mullahtocracy in Iran. Had we insisted on some manner of ongoing presence in Iraq a similar message would have been delivered, especially to Iran!
Well, we can always ask; pretty please?