Iraq: the worst option

Source: “Exit Strategies” from the Washington Post
By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Tuesday, July 17, 2007; A01
Emphasis added.

“Critics of complete withdrawal often charge that “those advocating [it] just don’t understand the serious consequences of doing so,” said Wayne White, a former deputy director of Near East division of the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau. “Unfortunately, most of us old Middle East hands understand all too well some of the consequences.”

White is among many Middle East experts who think that the United States should leave Iraq sooner rather than later, but differ on when, how and what would happen next. Most agree that either an al-Qaeda or Iranian takeover would be unlikely, and say that Washington should step up its regional diplomacy, putting more pressure on regional actors such as Saudi Arabia to take responsibility for what is happening in their back yards.

Many regional experts within and outside the administration note that while there is a range of truly awful possibilities, it is impossible to predict what will happen in Iraq — with or without U.S. troops.

“Say the Shiites drive the Sunnis into Anbar,” one expert said of Anderson’s war-game scenario. “Well, what does that really mean? How many tens of thousands of people are going to get killed before all the surviving Sunnis are in Anbar?” He questioned whether that result would prove acceptable to a pro-withdrawal U.S. public.

White, speaking at a recent symposium on Iraq, addressed the possibility of unpalatable withdrawal consequences by paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s famous statement about democracy. “I posit that withdrawal from Iraq is the worst possible option, except for all the others.

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