War and peace in the Middle East

The United States has declared its involvement in the war in Iraq over (Thom Shanker & Michael S. Schmidt, “U.S. War in Iraq Declared Officially Over,” New York Times, 15 December 2011):

The United States military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq on Thursday even as violence continues to plague the country and the Muslim world remains distrustful of American power. [...]

The tenor of the hour-long farewell ceremony, officially called “Casing the Colors,” was likely to sound an uncertain trumpet for a war that was started to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction it did not have. It now ends without the sizable, enduring American military presence for which many military officers had hoped.

Although Thursday’s ceremony marked the end of the war, the military still has two bases in Iraq and roughly 4,000 troops, including several hundred who attended the ceremony. At the height of the war in 2007, there were 505 bases and more than 170,000 troops.

According to military officials, the remaining troops are still being attacked on a daily basis, mainly by indirect fire attacks on the bases and road side bomb explosions against convoys heading south through Iraq to bases in Kuwait.

Even after the last two bases are closed and the final American combat troops withdraw from Iraq by Dec. 31, under rules of an agreement with the government in Baghdad, a few hundred military personnel and Pentagon civilians will remain, working within the American Embassy as part of an Office of Security Cooperation to assist in arms sales and training.

But negotiations could resume next year on whether additional American military personnel can return to further assist their Iraqi counterparts.

In short, Thursday’s declaration means that the war in Iraq is finally over — except for the continued fighting.

Meanwhile, concerns about the future of Iraq, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the continuing war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), the potential for escalation of and international involvement in the fighting in Syria, instability resulting from the “Arab Spring” movements in other countries, and the possibility of war with Iran continue to roil the region (see, for one round-up, Peter Goodspeed, “Power shifts push Mideast closer to war,” National Post, 15 December 2011).

According to at least one account, Canada and other countries may already be involved in contingency planning for intervention in Syria.

On top of all that, although it may or may not lead to outright war, it is clear that a “secret” war against Iran’s nuclear weapon program is already underway (“Incidents Point to Shadow War Against Iran, Experts Say,” Global Security Newswire, 5 December 2011).

Photo by Gunner’s Microcosm

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