Tony Blankley

And in this month's prestigious Foreign Affairs Magazine, Emma Sky (chief political adviser to Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of the Multi-National Force-Iraq from 2008-2010) described the fragile nature of the newly reformed Nouri al-Maliki coalition government and warned that "should Washington fail to provide such (troop) support, there is a risk that Iraq's different groups may revert to violence to achieve their goals..."

One of the greatest dangers to Iraq -- as both anti-war and pro-war advocates agree -- is that Iran may come to dominate the Iraqi government. That risk has just increased in the last few months as the murderous Shiite militia leader-turned-political leader, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has returned to Iraq from Iran, cast his party's 40 votes for the coalition government and extracted as price for his votes (as reported by Maria Fantappie, a scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut) "control of the ministries of municipality, water, and housing and construction. They also temporarily run the ministry of planning. Through these positions, the Sadrists control the provision of water, irrigation systems, and the building of national infrastructure -- including much-needed housing, public buildings, roads and bridges.

"... The kingmakers of the new government now have the chance to become key players in the government itself by capitalizing on the ministries under their control."

The danger from this is that if the stabilizing, confidence-building American troops are removed from the power equation in Iraq, the Iranian pawn, al-Sadr, may convert his community-level service portfolio into renewed sectarian violence.

How and when we leave Iraq is now vastly more important than how and why we entered Iraq. Both our interests in the Middle East and the interests of the Iraqi people hang in the balance to Obama's judgment. It would be a tragedy if we lose all after paying so much.

As the 19th-century British poet Arthur Hugh Clough, wrote (in one of Winston Churchill's favorite poems):

"SAY not the struggle naught availeth,

The labour and the wounds are vain,

The enemy faints not, nor faileth,

And as things have been they remain."

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

©Creators Syndicate