Winning the Peace in Iraq

Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, closes his WSJ analysis with this:

(…) Yet as things currently stand, all U.S. forces are supposed to depart Iraq by the end of 2011. This prospect fills all sensible Iraqis with dread. As Lt. Gen. Babakir Zebari, the chief of staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces, recently said: “If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the U.S. army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020.”

Mr. Zebari is a Kurd, part of a long-prosecuted minority, so he has particularly acute reasons for fear. Yet I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by most Iraqis I’ve met, Sunnis and Shiites alike.

There is a pressing need for a new U.S.-Iraq agreement that will allow a considerable force (10,000 to 20,000 troops) to remain in Iraq for years to come. But that accord cannot be negotiated until a new Iraqi government is seated. That, in turn, will require more muscular diplomacy than the Obama administration has hitherto displayed. At least the ineffectual Christopher Hill is leaving as ambassador. His replacement, Jim Jeffreys, has actually served in Iraq. He will have to engage in Iraq’s political process in ways that Mr. Hill did not, and he will need the kind of high-level engagement from the Obama administration that Mr. Hill did not receive.

The worst combat is over, at least for the time being. But America must still fight for Iraq’s future if the sacrifices made by so many heroes, Iraqi and American alike, are not to be in vain.