US ponders withdrawing US troops from embattled Anbar province

Ahead of the US president’s talks with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and Arab rulers, the Washington Post quotes a classified Marine Corps intelligence report, which finds that the US military is no longer able to defeat the bloody insurgency in the western Iraqi province or counter al-Qaeda’s dominant influence over its 1.25 m mostly Sunni population. Most are concentrated in Fallujah, Haditha, Hit, Qaim and Ramadi.
The writer Colonel Peter Devlin, who is attached to the Marine Expeditionary Force in Anbar, describes Iraq’s Sunni minority as “embroiled in a daily fight for survival, fearful of pogroms by the Shiite majority” and increasingly dependent on al Qaeda as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance of Baghdad. He says al Qaeda is the dominant organization of influence in Anbar, surpassing all other groups, the central government and US troops.
On his way to Amman, Tuesday, Nov. 28, President Bush declined to classify the Iraq crisis as a civil war and blamed al Qaeda for the deterioration. The following day, US TV ABC reported that the Pentagon is considering moving troops out of Anbar Province to Baghdad.
debkafile‘s military sources interpret this step as more than acceptance for the first time of an American military defeat in the embattled province; it also paves the way for the creation of an Al Qaeda terrorist -Sunni insurgent base in western Iraq, a direct menace to neighboring Jordan and Israel.
The US president on his way to the NATO summit in Riga Tuesday stressed al Qaeda would not be allowed to maintain a territorial haven in Iraq. The plan appears to be to hand Anbar over to the indigenous Sunni tribal confederation which will fight al Qaeda. But once US troops are gone, no one can guarantee who will end up on top. All or some of the Sunni tribes may decide not to fight al Qaeda; they may even join forces with the jihadists against the Shiites to the southeast and the Kurds to the north.
Bush’s talks with Maliki in Amman are therefore crucial for such decisions as: Will the Shiite prime minister remain? A senior Bush administration official publicly questioned Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki’s ability to control the spiralling violence just before the talks began Wednesday. Who will take over the battle for Iraq’s security and stability that will enable US forces to draw down?
An American withdrawal from Anbar will lay one-third of Iraq’s area bare to al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent control.
To prevent this happening, President Bush will have to rope in Saudi Arabia and Syria to prop up the Sunni tribes of the province. Syrian troops would therefore be required to fight al Qaeda alongside the tribesmen. President Bashar Asad will demand as the price for his help substantial economic and military aid, setting up a domino upset in the current strategic pattern of the Middle East with effect on its other nations, especially Israel. Can this turnaround succeed or, given Damascus’ sponsorship of terror, will the United States find itself drawn willy-nilly into indirect alignment with the terrorist camp?

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