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Research Report

Phased Transition:: A Responsible Way Forward and Out of Iraq

James N. Miller
Shawn W. Brimley
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2007
Pages: 68

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-4)
  3. (pp. 5-12)
  4. (pp. 13-14)

    Iraq is the most politically charged issue facing America today. There are no easy answers, but there is an urgent need for an honest, open, and truly bipartisan dialogue on the way ahead.

    The situation in Iraq is grave. After initial indications that violence in Baghdad decreased coincident with the start of the surge, it now appears that both al Qaeda attacks and sectarian murders have actually increased.⁵ The second bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra on June 13, 2007 may cause the civil war to accelerate.⁶ Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Iraqi government appears incapable of quickly pushing through...

  5. (pp. 15-17)

    The security situation in Iraq remains tenuous and complex, and in very different ways the same is true of the political situation in the United States. A change in American policy is inevitable, and with eroding support for the administration’s surge even in Republican ranks, summer 2007 looms as the last best chance for any effective bipartisan approach on Iraq.

    In June 2007, some six months after President Bush announced that more than twenty thousand (now closer to thirty thousand) additional American troops would be deployed to Iraq to help quell violence in Baghdad and contest Sunni insurgents in Anbar...

  6. (pp. 18-22)

    American strategy and plans for Iraq must focus on critical U.S. interests. The Bush administration’s November 2005 National Strategy for Victory in Iraq calls for attempting to create an Iraq that is “united” and “democratic.”25 It is doubtful whether either of these goals is achievable within the foreseeable future, and indeed a near-term effort to press for national unity and Americanstyle democracy—as opposed to an approach rooted in Iraqi cultural history and federalism as called for in Iraq’s constitution—would likely exacerbate rather than solve current problems.

    Instead, the United States should focus on three enduring American interests:


  7. (pp. 23-30)

    We propose a balanced strategy that aims to protect enduring American interests while accounting realistically for the current state of affairs in Iraq and in the United States. While this approach cannot guarantee success, it offers much better prospects of achieving critical U.S. objectives than either the current surge or a rapid withdrawal of American forces.

    This strategy recognizes that Iraq is in many ways evolving into a more decentralized federal structure in which each of three relatively autonomous regions are becoming more homogenous by ethnicity and sect and more powerful in governing themselves. To the north, Kurdistan has enjoyed...

  8. (pp. 31-42)

    American military forces will leave Iraq. The question is when, and under what circumstances. A precipitous withdrawal would leave a power vacuum, and greatly increase the prospects of Iraq descending into a new level of anarchy and civil war that could easily result in genocide and regional war, while allowing al Qaeda to consolidate a new base of operations.

    However, if American forces stay too long, the United States will continue to be seen as a foreign occupier rather than an ally, making al Qaeda’s recruiting in Iraq, the region, and the world all the easier. And if U.S. military...

  9. (pp. 43-49)

    A responsible transition strategy that allows the United States to reduce its force posture while protecting our enduring interests requires an increased advisory presence in Iraq. A significant advisory effort provides a level of connection, awareness, and ability to understand and influence the security environment in Iraq that a rapid withdrawal simply would not allow. The number of military and civilian advisors in Iraq should be increased from today’s approximately 6,000 to 20,000 advisors or more.

    The advisory mission to date has been insufficiently resourced at every level, and must be enhanced to advance American core interests. An expanded advisory...

  10. (pp. 50-55)

    As of the date of this report in late June 2007, the situation in Iraq may not yet be hopeless, but it is both dire and precarious. America’s enduring interests—preventing the establishment of al Qaeda safe havens, preventing genocide, and preventing regional war—are at grave risk.

    To protect our most important interests in Iraq, the United States must pursue a balanced strategy with three elements: assertive regional diplomacy as called for by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group; continued top-down efforts to increase the reliability and capacity of the Iraqi security forces; and a significantly increased bottom-up effort to...

  11. (pp. 65-66)