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Withdraw Unless Our Allies Join Us

By Ed Koch

President Bush will shortly propose a "new direction" for the United States in Iraq. It is widely believed that part of this new direction will be the deployment of an additional 20,000 or more U.S. troops. That would bring the U.S. forces in Iraq to 160,000 or more.

The New York Times reports that the Iraqi Prime Minister " match the American troop increase, made up of five combat sending three more Iraqi brigades to Baghdad." The Times went on, "They [American officials] said two-thirds of the promised Iraq force would consist of Kurdish pesh merga units to be sent from northern Iraq, and they said some doubts remained about whether they would show up in Baghdad and were truly committed to quelling sectarian fighting."

The jurisdiction of the national Iraqi government does not operate in the Kurdish area, where residents hate and fear both Shia and Sunni. While I pretend no expertise on the ability of the Iraqi army to fight to keep peace in any part of Iraq, it seems unlikely that Iraqi forces who are religiously at odds with the residents of the area that they seek to subdue would be effective. The introduction of Kurdish troops into the areas of Baghdad currently under the control of the forces of Moktada al-Sadr can only inflame the sectarian strife and civil war. What are needed are Shiite soldiers willing to arrest and kill if necessary the al-Sadr led militants. Remember the same Iraqi prime minister prevented American forces from going after the Moktada al-Sadr militia who are supported by a significant number of al-Sadr-aligned members of the Iraqi parliament who are part of the coalition keeping the Iraqi prime minister in office. The al-Sadr led guards were assigned to hang Saddam Hussein and taunted him, yelling their allegiance to Moktada al-Sadr caught on a cell phone camera as Hussein dropped through the gallows' trap door, reported throughout the world and greatly increasing tensions between Sunnis and Shias. Implementing the President's new plan to blanket Baghdad with American troops, with those already there and 20,000 new ones, can only increase the vulnerability of the U.S. military forces. The recent month of December 2006 had the highest number of U.S. military deaths since the start of the war, 115, and ten more American soldiers have been killed so far in January.

While I have supported the war in Iraq and believe that based on the information available to the President in 2003, he was right at the time of the invasion, now that we know the CIA information concerning WMD was totally wrong, it is folly to continue remaining in Iraq to prop up a government not supported by major sectors of the country now involved in a civil war of immense proportions, and unwilling to date to do what the U.S. government has heretofore demanded to bring equity and peace to Iraq.

The cruelty of the Iraqi military forces under Saddam Hussein before the U.S. invaded has not dissipated. It is evident every day in the execution-style killings taking place in Baghdad where Sunni and Shia neighborhood militias confront one another as they do throughout the nation. It is the height of folly to believe that we are obliged to prevent or settle the ongoing civil war or that we in fact could under any circumstances bring it to an end.

The current American military commanders have testified against the proposal to add to our troops in Iraq. They are now being removed and replaced with officers who agree with the "surge" strategy. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated our army in Iraq is "about broken." Without the resources of our allies, regional and NATO, standing with us shoulder to shoulder and an Iraqi government supported by the three major Iraqi communities -- Shia, Sunni and Kurds -- nothing positive can be accomplished by our remaining with ever fewer allies -- Great Britain intends to withdraw its forces this year -- to take the casualties and fight the fight that must be fought, not primarily by us but by the Iraqi army against Iraqi insurgents and terrorists. If they won't or can't do it now, they never will be capable of saving their country and we can't save it.

We should immediately issue the ultimatum that I have urged over the last year, warning our allies that if they don't come in now, we are out -- now. If the President won't do this, the Congress should use its power to end our presence in Iraq by directing that the expenditures of funds authorized by the Congress may not be used to send additional troops to Iraq. All monies authorized should be used to protect U.S. soldiers in place and for their exiting the country.

The Democrats have said they will authorize all monies needed to protect U.S. troops, and they should. They must not out of fear allow the President to dispose of the issue by asserting the only way to protect American troops is to escalate their number. The American public is very smart. They understand properly drawn resolutions protecting American personnel can be drawn by Congress while ordering their evacuation.

If the President wants to continue our military presence in Iraq, he must persuade our regional and NATO allies to join us, which may very well happen if they believe we will otherwise leave. Otherwise, exiting now is the wisest course for the U.S. Using planes and rockets to bomb insurgent and terrorist installations in Iraq from bases outside the country and leaving Iraqi forces to engage in ground combat to protect their own country makes common sense.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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