US president George Bush announced yesterday that the US will send another 20,000 troops into Iraq next week. He claimed that the new deployment would “hasten the day our troops begin coming home”. The plan is to pile 17,500 new troops into Baghdad by sealing off districts of the capital and creating gated communities which would become “safe zones”. One of the sectors is Sadr City, a poor district where two million Shia Muslims live. US troops would have to leave their fortified positions around Baghdad and move into such districts to disarm the militias and other fighters.
So, far from a strategy to bring the war in Iraq to an end, increasing its troop commitment to a 150,000 total will see the US mired in an ever deeper war. Its longer-term success depends largely on the performance of Iraqi forces and police. But as Bush made his announcement, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki failed to appear as scheduled at a news conference and did not make any public comment.
The US plan to take control over Baghdad is riddled with unknowns. As one military analyst, Anthony Cordesman, from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington has said: “It is uncertain whether the Iraqi government will or can support the plan.”
Meanwhile, back home Bush has set himself on a collision course with the new Democratic Congress. And there are critics of his policy from within his own party. Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator, called Mr Bush's move the "most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam". Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic congressman and presidential candidate, asked: "Isn't one war enough for this president?" And a telephone survey conducted by AP-Ipsos this week revealed that 70% of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq.
While Prime Minister Blair and his mealy-mouthed ministers Des Browne and Margaret Beckett gave their unstinting support to the US government’s “troop surge”, there were sceptical reactions from top analysts in British think tanks. Dr Rosemary Hollis, director of research at Chatham House, poured doubt on the ability of the Iraqi government to see through their side of the plan. “This strategy does not offer a regional strategy other than to confront Iran and Syria and to provide Gulf Arab states with Patriot missiles.”
And, as if revealing the accuracy of such warnings, only hours before Bush made his announcement, US soldiers raided an Iranian diplomatic mission in Irbil, 220 miles north of the Iranian capital. Stun bombs were used against the building. Six diplomats were arrested and computers and documents seized. The attack was in line with a statement by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that the US would conduct “hot pursuit” operations across Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria. Provocations against Iran and Syria, whilst dropping bombs on countries like Somalia is the pattern for 2007.