In a month Iraq will be the next presidents war.
From the American perspective the next presidents phase of the Iraq War will be twofold. First off, it will be a proxy war with Irans tyrannical mullahs. The second fold will be even more strategically significant: The next presidents war will measure Americas commitment to defending democracy and promoting genuine international security in the 21st century.
The Iraqi perspective differs a shade. Iraqs war will be yet another Iran-Iraq War, but one where the Iraqis will have an organizational advantage and a significant ideological edge.
Iraqs organizational advantage has two components. First and foremost Iraq engages Iran with the U.S. as an active ally -- unless the next U.S. president proves feckless and makes the inexcusably stupid mistake of denying Iraq American diplomatic and military support in a crisis.
Iraqs second organizational advantage is its increasingly capable military and more responsive government.
The Iraqis point to Operation Charge of the Knights as their first in a series of successful security operations signaling their new capabilities and confidence. Launched in late March, Charge of the Knights targeted Shia militias (like Muktada Sadrs Mahdi Army), criminal gangs, and the Special Groups that are really guerrilla bands sponsored by Iran. Follow-on operations have reduced terrorist violence and crime, which senior officials point out are closely linked.
U.S. forces are already moving to support roles. This week U.S. Marine Corps Major General John Kelly, coalition forces commander in Anbar province, said, There are still 27,000 U.S. troops in the province, but they are on overwatch."
"Overwatch" is military lingo for protecting your friends while they maneuver and fight. At the tactical level, as one soldier moves and exposes himself, another "covers" him (overwatches), prepared to fire a burst from his rifle to suppress enemy troops shooting at the exposed soldier. In Anbar Province, U.S. forces have assumed operational-level overwatch. If an Iraqi army commander finds his troops in a tough firefight, he can quickly request help from a U.S. ground unit.
At the strategic level, allied nations "cover" one another. Strategic overwatch in the U.S.-Iraq relationship includes deterring Tehrans mullahs.
The next president will be tested by these robed thugs. The mullahs nuclear quest continues and the next president must thwart that quest. The mullahs will make trouble in Lebanon and stir conflicts throughout the Middle East and Central Asia (e.g. Afghanistan and Pakistan).
However, Iraq will be the central battle front with Tehran, militarily, diplomatically and morally.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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