Charles Krauthammer

The U.S. should be giving Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a clear ultimatum: if he does not come up with a political solution in two months or cede power to a new coalition that will, the U.S. will abandon the Green Zone, retire to its bases, move much of its personnel to Kurdistan where we are welcome and safe, and let the civil war take its course. Let the current Green Zone-protected Iraqi politicians who take their cue from Moqtada al-Sadr face the insurgency alone. That might concentrate their minds on either making a generous offer to the Sunnis or stepping aside for a new coalition that would.

The key to progress is political change within Iraq. The newest fashion, however, is to go ``regional,'' engaging Iran and Syria in order to have them pull our chestnuts out of the fire. This idea rests on the notion that both Iran and Syria have an interest in stability in Iraq.

Very hardheaded realist terms: interest, stability, regional powers. But stringing them together to suggest that Iran and Syria share our interests in stability is the height of fantasy. In fact, Iran and Syria have an overriding interest in chaos in Iraq -- which is precisely why they each have been abetting the insurgency and fanning civil war.

Perhaps in some long-term future they will want a stable Iraq as a tame client state of the Syria-Iran axis. For now, they want chaos. What in God's name will a negotiation with them yield?

At best, they might give us a few months to withdraw. But why do we need their help to do that? We can do our withdrawing very well without them. And in return for non-help in a non-solution that is essentially a surrender, Syria would demand to be given a free hand once again in Lebanon -- just as when the U.S. needed help in Iraq before the Gulf War, then-Secretary of State James Baker gave Lebanon over to Syria as a quid pro quo.

And Iran will demand a free hand with its nuclear weapons project, which will turn it into the regional superpower dominating the Gulf Arabs and their oil.

If that would save Iraq for us, there might at least be an argument for such a swap. But just to cover an American retreat? This is sacrificing one interest without even securing another. It's enough to give realism a bad name.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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