07 November, 2011

With Liberty, and Instability For All; What America's Withdrawal from Iraq Could Mean

"The security, political and economic trends in Iraq continue to be positive; however, they remain fragile, reversible and uneven." -Department of Defense on Iraq's future in 2008

President Obama announcing the withdrawal
of troops from Iraq
            As American forces are being called home from Iraq, there are still many questions left unanswered. After almost a decade of fighting, almost 5,000 American deaths and countless billions spent on fighting a war that was claimed to be unjust from the beginning, is the country stable enough to ward off potential internal and external threats posed by competing powers? Is America ready for the huge influx of thousands of unemployed soldiers to be integrated into a faltering economy? Will this country remain an area of concern for the international community where further aid and assistance will have to be provided to maintain the country's stability?
           According to the Failed States Index by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, Iraq was named one of the world's top 5 unstable states from 2005 to 2008. While conditions have improved, a huge factor that contributes to the instability or Iraq is that different Muslim sects, the Sunni and the Shiite's, have been waging an almost endless civil war in Iraq since America's invasion in 2008. This has not only posed a serious threat to American forces throughout their occupation of Iraq, but it will certainly remain a potentially devastating force in disrupting the incline in the improving stability of the country since 2008. The U.S. Department of Defense reported in 2008 that the ongoing conflict between the two sects has been detrimental in the progress of Iraq's stability, saying "The security, political and economic trends in Iraq continue to be positive; however, they remain fragile, reversible and uneven." (2008).
          Although Iraqi security forces took the lead in military operations in 2009 which has resulted in a dramatic decrease in sectarian violence, hundreds are still killed every month by sectarian groups wishing to destabilize the country's vulnerable government for their own advantage.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Foreign Minister from Iran says Iran and Iraq
are 'two branches of the same tree'
Another factor that is contributing to the destabilizing forces internally are in fact actually external; Iran. Iran and Iraq which have never seen eye to eye after their decade long war in the 1980s, still remain bitter rivals over both economic and political control over the region's potential exploits. Neighboring Iran since the beginning of the American invasion of Iraq has covertly and even overtly supported militant Shiite groups by arming, funding, and training the groups to wage a war against the Sunni population of Iraq. The Sunnis which experienced relative security and prosperity under the Saddam regime, have seen their power decline as the majority Shiite population exerts it's power over the newly formed Iraqi government. While the international community has denounced Iran's subversive actions in aiding these militant organizations, Iran claims it only seeks to strengthen ties to the Shiite dominated country of Iraq as a defense against the Sunni controlled Middle East.
           By facilitating the weakening of the Iraq government, Iran could wield it's power to assert influence over the country, possibly even subjugating it to it's will. As a result of these fears, American officials have suggested leaving a small portion of American forces to maintain stability to fend off Iranian influence. This call has been unheeded, as all troops under Bush's Status of Force's Agreement whether combative or defensive are to withdraw from the country by December 31, 2011. This dilemma comes at a crucial tipping point in Iraq's future and there is no room for error.
           While Iraq is dealing with their own set of potentially devastating issues, there is still another country's future that is at odds with the decision to withdraw troops from Iraq; America. Over 40,000 American troops remain in Iraq and all of them are required to return home for the holidays. While this is celebrated and adored by the American public as a final conclusion to a fruitless war, there still remains a huge dilemma; what are these veterans to do when they come home? With unemployment stagnating at 9.1%, a precariously unstable economy, and political debacles engulfing Washington, it's going to be extremely difficult to reintegrate these valued men and women who served for so long fighting a war for the sake of our country.
            “Our veterans did their jobs. It’s time for Congress to do theirs. It’s time for them to put country before party,” President Obama said to a group of Veterans in the Rose Garden this past week. The President is speaking of the current Congress in Washington, which has been less than productive. As a result of the concerns posed by this impending problem, President Obama even suggested issuing a 'Veteran gold card', which would allow former military members to get six months of personalized case management, assessment and counseling at career centers.
             Whether or not this measure will be passed by both the Senate and the House remains a whole other situation. Earlier this year the two parties couldn't agree on whether or not to provide aid to injured 9/11 workers, providing a symbolization of the strong divide in this nation's political system. With funds running short and threats of even the most essential of entitlements being stripped away from average Americans, it seems as if Washington is going to have a lot of thinking to do about how it's going to approach this potentially hot political potato.
             All we can hope is that the returning veterans of Iraq are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve for serving our country during some of the most hostile times in recent memory. Without these brave men and women we would not have the safety and security we have all grown so accustomed to. It would be a shame to watch Congress indignantly deny this group of young, dedicated and courageous men and women an opportunity to prosper and flourish as a reward for their sacrifice.
              All these questions remain unanswered and only with careful analysis and oversight will we see how the conditions of these situations will improve or deteriorate. If a settlement can't be made between the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, a civil war may engulf the country, only furthering the dominance of Iran over it's neighbor, potentially posing a problem America did not foresee. If Iran gets it's way and is able to exert it's influence and control over Iraq, the dilemma could be catastrophic. As for the returning soldiers, whether or not Congress can facilitate a productive and comfortable transition back into the throws of American life remains to be seen. All we can hope for is that cooler heads prevail and the outcomes will produce peace and prosperity rather than chaos and further instability for both Iraq and America.

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