"The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq," President Barack Obama said on Monday, August 2, in a speech to the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Atlanta. "But make no mistake," our commitment in Iraq is changing – from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats," he added to polite, scattered applause.
These sentiments were premature given the outlook for Iraq sketched by Obama's own military chiefs.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and Washington sources report that a few days before the Atlanta speech, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, handed him a confidential report painting in grim colors the situation forecast for Iraq after US combat troops complete their drawdown by August 31.
The report was prepared by Army Gen. Ray Odierno who winds up his mission as commander of US forces in Iraq. It is an unvarnished prognosis of complete political and security chaos in Baghdad, armed conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites and between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, and the loss of all of southern Iraq, from Basra in the south to the central region of Karbala, to an Iranian land grab.
Our sources disclose the report's four main points:
1. The political vacuum in Baghdad created by Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to step down or join a unity government is unsustainable. Neither of the two leading Iraqi parties which emerged from the general election earlier this year – Maliki's State of Law Party and ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya Party – is seen capable of commanding a parliamentary majority any time soon.
Shiite war preparations replace coalition negotiations
2. Al Maliki has dropped out of the negotiations for joining Allawi in a coalition government. He has turned his attention instead to preparations for a Shiite war against the Sunnis to be launched as soon as the Americans are out of the country.
According to the Odierno report, the Iraqi interim prime minister has lined up senior Shiite commanders in the Iraqi Army who are willing to lead an all-out offensive against the Sunnis in Baghdad and central and western Iraq. The have designated Shiite military divisions for the fighting.
Al Maliki and his helpers are availing himself of Middle Eastern and European arms dealers in the race to furnish their Shiite army with enough weapons systems and ammunition so as not to depend on the Iraqi army's weapons depots which are still supervised by American officers.
3. Al-Maliki believes he is served well by the political impasse. He sees the Saudis sinking tens of millions of petrodollars into its efforts to buy Shiite support away from his camp and is certain that, when his army is marshaled and ready to fight, they will all flock back to his flag.
His plan to conquer large sections of Baghdad as well as Habaniya, Ramadi, Tikrit, Fallujah, and parts of Anbar province to the north and northwest of the capital, has two prime objectives.
One is to defeat Sunni forces and force them to accept their loss of political influence and bow to his conditions, or else face more casualties, the loss of more territory in the cities and more debacles.
The second is to crush the power bases the Saudis are building in Iraq at great expense.
The Kurdish militias are set for expansion
4. The Odierno report foresees a Shiite-Sunni war lasting from one to two years up to late 2012 or early 2013. At least one to one-and-a-half million Iraqi Sunnis will be put to flight and flood neighboring Jordan which has neither the resources not the utilities infrastructure to support that many refugees.
5. The report reveals a second Iraqi community, the Kurds of the north, in the midst of war preparations out of a bitter sense of betrayal by Washington.
Four primary causes of grievance are brought out:
One: Right after the general elections in March, Kurdish leaders saw the Americans supporting a power-sharing administration in Baghdad formed by Shiite moderates, Kurds and Sunnis. Now, they see Washington aiming for a government headed by Alawi in partnership with the radical Shiite Muqtada Sadr, which would push the Kurds out of the positions they attained in Baghdad.
Already, they believe they have lost the posts of national president held by Jalal Talabani and foreign minister filled by another Kurd, Hoshiyar Zebari.
On Tuesday, August 3, Zebari lamented, "The lack of a government in Iraq nearly five months after general elections is embarrassing and impeding any long-term decision-making."
Kirkuk and Mosul are left up for grabs
Two: The Kurds resent the Obama administration's decision to end the US combat mission in Iraq without resolving the towering issue of Kirkuk and its oil fields. They are accordingly preparing to capture the strategic northern city in September, calculating that the Shiites and Sunnis will be caught up in their own war and have no soldiers to spare for stopping them.
Three: Another security headache the departing US troops are leaving the Kurds to struggle with is Mosul, another key northern city. For now, half the city is the battleground of Sunnis, al Qaeda and numerous other armed factions, a constant prey to violence and terror.
Never in Iraqi history have the Kurds controlled the two halves of Mosul, which is split in two by the Euphrates River. They have always controlled the eastern part, while the Sunnis dominated the western half. Now, the Kurds are girding up to take over the entire city.
Four: Taking stock of Shiite war preparations against the Sunnis, the Kurds are planning to exploit their armed feud to drive south and grab parts of central Iraq up to a line some 250 kilometers north of Baghdad. Their Peshmerga is a highly-trained and skilled military force, which the Kurds believe neither the Shiites nor the Sunnis can overcome.
The towns Kurdish strategists are eyeing are Saghir, Chay Khanah, Qarah Tappah, Muhsin Aziz and As-Sadiyah as the doors to control of the eastern provinces bordering on Iran. This would give them the strategic depth for defending Kirkuk and its oil fields and bring Kurdish control up to the fringes of the Baquba-Balad belt which guards Baghdad against invasion from the north.
Iran plans to seize southern Iraq and avenge sanctions
The last points made by the US military report to the president focus on Iran's plans for the post-US era in Iraq.
It makes no bones about an Iranian offensive in the making to snatch the Iraq's main oilfields around the port-town of Basra, which account for 60 percent of national oil output. Deep in preparations for this move are the Iranian Intelligence Ministry – MOIS and the Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades in conjunction with their agents and offshoots in Iraq.
Tehran sees this as payback for the fuel sanctions President Obama clamped down last month.
Iran will at the same time go for the whole pot, seizing also the two holiest Shiite locales, the mass-pilgrimage shrine-cities of Karbala and Najef south of Baghdad.
Iran believes it can wind up as lord of southern Iraq, its rich oil resources and its religious power centers.
The Odierno report concludes that if all these developments are allowed to get going, not only will the 50,000 US non-combat military servicemen remaining in Iraq after August be helpless to stop them, so too will all the US might deployed in the Persian Gulf.