James Forsyth

Obama needs a new Iraq policy

Obama needs a new Iraq policy
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If the Iraq War had not happened Barack Obama would not be president. If most Washington Democrats had not discredited themselves in the eyes of the Democratic base by voting for the war, a first term Senator—even one with Obama’s political talents and appeal—would not have been able to win the party’s nomination.

In the Democratic primaries, Obama proposed a 16 month withdrawal plan. The plan owed more to politics than to military strategy; he announced it after John Edwards in a last-ditch effort to stay in the race had produced an absurd rapid timetable for the departure of US forces in an attempt to pander to anti-war voters.

Now that Obama is president and that the political pressure on Iraq is off, he should abandon the idea of a timetable and instead adopt a conditions-based approach. As the Washington Post editorialises today, a 16 month withdrawal—which would need one US brigade to leave each monts—risks the progress made in Iraq since 2007 and will leave the US with too few troops on the ground in a year in which Iraq is having, at least, two crucial elections.

If Obama wants to show that he is now a national leader not a partisan one, he will junk his politically determined Iraq plans and instead work with the generals on the ground to secure the best possible outcome for America and Iraq. It is surely better that American troops come home in two years time leaving behind a relatively stable Iraq than return in 16 months with Iraq at risk of falling back into chaos.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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