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Iraq: The Worst Lies Ahead

Published on: May 5th 2007 13:12:03
The circle of those in Washington who believe that President Bush’s current strategy will deliver tangible success is shrinking. Committed advocates of the war in institutions like the American Enterprise Institute continue to produce “strategies for victory” but, based on our contacts, these enjoy little credibility in the Pentagon. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and Central Command (CENTCOM) commander Admiral William Fallon are said to be significantly less hopeful than General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq. Their assessment is, we are told, closer to the picture described in the April 25th UN Human Rights report. Personal relations between Fallon and Petraeus are distant and the latter is unpopular in the Pentagon for what is regarded as his willingness to accommodate Bush in an unpromising strategy that will damage the US Army. Further, Gates has little confidence in the Iraqi political leadership, notably Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. A comment we hear time and time again is “the worst lies ahead.” The crunch will come after the summer when the results of the “surge” are to be formally assessed. Against that background, senior Republicans are urging Gates to act as the intermediary between the White House and Capitol Hill to launch the process of reducing US force levels in time for the 2008 presidential campaign. In addition to the debate about military tactics, the Administration is being advised by petroleum experts to soften its pressure on the Iraqi government to conclude the hydrocarbon law governing access to oil resources. They are concerned that the “production sharing agreements” set out in the law are so favorable to foreign companies as to be “unsustainable.” “Even we are concerned,” one oil executive told us. “This could be Russia all over again. That is, we would invest heavily, only then to be dispossessed once Iraq recovered from its present weakness.”

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