When Do You Call It A Day?

skunk

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4145585.stm
Blistering attacks threaten Iraq election

Analysis
By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs Correspondent, BBC News website

While the world's attention has been on the disaster in Asia, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated so much that the insurgency has developed into near-open warfare.

The head of Iraq's intelligence service Gen Muhammad Shahwani now puts the number of insurgents at 200,000, of which 40,000 are said to be the hard core and the rest active supporters.

These figures do not represent an insurgency. They represent a war.

Despite calls for the election to be delayed from its scheduled date of 30 January, the interim Prime Minister Iyyad Allawi insisted on Wednesday that the vote should go ahead.

"The violence, terrorists and the outlaws will not be allowed to stop the political process and destroy the country," he said. "Elections will play a big role in calming the situation and enable the next government to face the upcoming challenges in a decisive manner."

Questions

However, questions have to be asked about what happens after the election if the fighters, mainly Sunni Islamists and nationalists, continue their attacks.

If they do, they and the likely winners of the election, parties representing the majority Shia population, could come into conflict. This in turn could lead to a possible civil war.

Shia leaders have called for talks with Sunni representatives in the hope of averting such a scenario.

Nobody has as yet openly called for the withdrawal of US troops as the price of ending at least the nationalist part of the insurgency. But the idea could arise at some stage.

Matters post-30 January would be made worse if there was a low turnout in the Sunni areas because there would then be at best only a weak voice for a powerful section of Iraqi society and the one supporting the current fighting.

Calls for delay

A leading Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, is boycotting the vote. Elder statesman Adnan Pachachi has again called for a delay and a few more voices have been added to his chorus.

Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan said he had asked Egypt to approach Sunni leaders and urge them to participate.

"We want to give our Sunni brothers another chance even if this means delaying the vote," he said.

Iraq's UN ambassador Samir al-Sumaidaie had earlier proposed a delay of two or three weeks and suggested reserving some seats for the Sunnis for later selection, in an interview with the Washington Post.

The power of the insurgents was demonstrated again on Tuesday with the assassination of the governor of Baghdad Ali al-Haidri - the latest in a blistering series of attacks.

Many of these have targeted the Iraqi security forces which just do not have the ability to fight back effectively.

An example of this also came on Tuesday. A tanker loaded with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber - of whom there appears to be an unlimited supply - blew up at an Iraqi interior ministry commando headquarters in Baghdad, killing eight commandos and two civilians.

These commandos were formed as a special unit to target insurgents and to help make up for the ineffective regular police and national guard. Instead they are the target.

Loss of control

Until recently, the US military has talked of there being about 25,000 fighters in Iraq.

Gen Shahwani has not just upped the estimate, but has put it into the wider context of the active guerrilla support which perhaps gives a truer picture. There are 150,000 US troops.

Anthony Cordesman, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington commented: "The Iraqi figures do... recognise the reality that the insurgency in Iraq has broad support in Sunni areas, while the US figures downplay this to the point of denial."

Mr Cordesman has for months pointed out the weakness of the local Iraq forces, saying recently that they were basically unprepared and "sent out to die."

The level of attacks is now so intense and sophisticated that it is not surprising that the former British representative to the former Coalition Authority, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said recently that the insurgency was "irremediable" and "ineradicable" by US and other foreign troops alone.

"It depends on the Iraqis. We have lost the primary control," he said.

Recent events indicate that Iraqis have lost the primary control as well.

MOUNTING VIOLENCE

3 January 2005: More than 20 people killed in a day of violence across Iraq
2 January 2005: At least 23 Iraqi soldiers killed by a car bomb in Balad
27 December 2004: 13 die in a Baghdad car bomb targeting a top Shia political leader
21 December 2004: Suicide blast in a US military base in Mosul kills 22 people
19 December 2004: More than 60 die in twin suicide car attacks in Najaf and Karbala​
Something's gotta give. This chaos is not going to stop. Exit Strategy, anyone? Does anyone here still think that this ill-advised, ill-planned and ill-executed piece of geopolitical opportunism can be brought to a just and worthwhile conclusion?
 

IJ Reilly

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So far as I can see, the we've been painted into a corner on the Iraq elections. If they are postponed, it would certainly be read as a victory for the insurgency -- a very bad result. If they are held on January 30 as planned, and much of the country either can't vote or boycotts the proceedings, then the resulting government will lack legitimacy.
 

skunk

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And what have all those highly-paid "experts" at the Pentagon and the State Department to say? It's a shame that falling on one's sword seems to have gone right out of fashion.
 

Dont Hurt Me

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Its a sad situation. i imagine these insurgents are walking into Iraq from other countries. Guess Bush is doing as good of job on the Iraqi borders as he is here on the Mexican border. :rolleyes: I havent seen anything showing how they are monitoring the border and stoping these Muhamads Iwannakillmyselfs from entering the country. What a mess and the lucky American taxpayer gets to pay for it all.
 

skunk

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Dont Hurt Me said:
Its a sad situation. i imagine these insurgents are walking into Iraq from other countries. Guess Bush is doing as good of job on the Iraqi borders as he is here on the Mexican border. :rolleyes: I havent seen anything showing how they are monitoring the border and stoping these Muhamads Iwannakillmyselfs from entering the country.
On the contrary, all the evidence is that these are Iraqis for the most part. Resistance fighters. Freedom fighters. Patriots. There are many names for them.

What a mess and the lucky American taxpayer gets to pay for it all.
The lucky American taxpayer is paying only in borrowed dollars. The unfortunate Iraqis whose relatively stable if brutal regime you have destroyed for electoral and supposedly geopolitical advantage are losing their lives, their children, their future, their livelihoods and their country.
 

IJ Reilly

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skunk said:
On the contrary, all the evidence is that these are Iraqis for the most part. Resistance fighters. Freedom fighters. Patriots. There are many names for them.
Those are three names I wouldn't personally chose to describe people who slaughter their fellow countrymen.
 

IJ Reilly

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Sigh. Look, you know how I feel about this war. But let's not try to make the insurgents out to be "freedom fighters," or apologize for their tactics. They're not trying to produce any good result for their country.
 

blackfox

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While I agree with IJ, in that we are seemingly damned if we do, damned if we don't, I see no choice but to set in for the long haul.

This probably means a commitment of at least another few years.

As what to do in terms of actions/policy in this time, I cannot say, although somesort of limited federalism of the Kurdish, Shia and Sunni areas seems the best bet.

Generally, I would hope that the State Dept and the Bureau of NEA will be given more independence and power of decision making, instead of being a tool of Policy planners, who tend to be more ideological and long-term in their thinking. Traditionally, the State Dept has been immune to politics and influence or influx of political appointments, and as such is a decent and fair gauge of the realities on the ground via it's embedded staff.

A reassessment of staff in the NEA, from ambassadors in the key countries to undersecretaries is in order. Perhaps an opening of at least a consulate in Iran would be a helpful tool. In any case, one small improvement resulting from the current chaos in Iraq is the potential ability for US FSO's to actually be able to collect relevant and accurate information in Iraq, which was not possible under Hussein's Police State. Of course, the safety of this staff certainly comes into question currently, but it is an improvement potentially.

Moreover, the use of skilled diplomacy through ambassadors in other key countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan (perhaps Egypt) could allow for increased maneuverability by involving other Arab countries. This certainly has a precendent, as Lebanon and various mediations after the '67 and '73 wars involving Israel have shown.

Alternately, we might appeal to the Embassies/consulates of other allied countries to share information with the US to the same end.

In any case, it is as simple as collecting accurate and relevant information on the ground.

Not that I am filled with hope or anything.
 

Thanatoast

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IJ Reilly said:
Sigh. Look, you know how I feel about this war. But let's not try to make the insurgents out to be "freedom fighters," or apologize for their tactics. They're not trying to produce any good result for their country.
Is it still okay to call our occupation force "liberators"? What would an Iraqi's answer be?
 

skunk

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IJ Reilly said:
But let's not try to make the insurgents out to be "freedom fighters," or apologize for their tactics. They're not trying to produce any good result for their country.
I'm not condoning their actions by any means: I was trying to emphasize the bias and subjectivity of DHM's argument by adducing a couple of counterpoints. Once you have invaded a country, however, especially in such a deceitful, arrogant and loutish fashion, you inevitably incite a commensurate response. They are, after all, only saying: "If you're not with us, you're against us". Sound familiar?
 

skunk

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blackfox said:
Perhaps an opening of at least a consulate in Iran would be a helpful tool.
Certainly.

In any case, one small improvement resulting from the current chaos in Iraq is the potential ability for US FSO's to actually be able to collect relevant and accurate information in Iraq, which was not possible under Hussein's Police State.
Careful who you're calling a police state...

Moreover, the use of skilled diplomacy through ambassadors in other key countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan (perhaps Egypt) could allow for increased maneuverability by involving other Arab countries.
The trouble is, far too many of your diplomats are "Pioneers" for your Foreign Service to be of much use. You reap what you sow. In this case, it's a pretty shoddy crop.

Alternately, we might appeal to the Embassies/consulates of other allied countries to share information with the US to the same end.
But would you listen? The prospects do not look promising from where I stand.
 

IJ Reilly

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skunk said:
I'm not condoning their actions by any means: I was trying to emphasize the bias and subjectivity of DHM's argument by adducing a couple of counterpoints. Once you have invaded a country, however, especially in such a deceitful, arrogant and loutish fashion, you inevitably incite a commensurate response. They are, after all, only saying: "If you're not with us, you're against us". Sound familiar?
No, not really. However many active fighters there may be (we've heard several numbers, mainly in the low thousands), they certainly don't represent the will of anyone in Iraqi but their own. Even if this violent insurgency hadn't taken hold, Iraq would still be a chaotic mess with many political issues to resolve. But we should keep in mind that the insurgents are not aiming their efforts towards that resolution, they are attempting to prevent it from occurring. I don't believe that the insurgency would end if the occupation forces departed, and I don't think the current evidence suggests that it's mainly directed against occupation forces at this stage.
 

skunk

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To get back to the question, I believe it's time to admit that you're unable to keep order over there. You simply can't do it without thousands more troops, which you have not got. Without a sincere out-break of US humility, the rest of the world will be happy to sit back and watch your pretensions crumble along with your reputation.
 

skunk

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IJ Reilly said:
However many active fighters there may be (we've heard several numbers, mainly in the low thousands), they certainly don't represent the will of anyone in Iraqi but their own.
Don't be so sure.

Even if this violent insurgency hadn't taken hold, Iraq would still be a chaotic mess with many political issues to resolve. But we should keep in mind that the insurgents are not aiming their efforts towards that resolution, they are attempting to prevent it from occurring. I don't believe that the insurgency would end if the occupation forces departed, and I don't think the current evidence suggests that it's mainly directed against occupation forces at this stage.
They're clearly not aiming at a resolution on your terms. By destroying the morale and assets of the Iraqi National Guard, however, they are effectively removing your proxies, thereby preventing you from executing an exit strategy on your terms, either. This would seem to be a very effective approach. You're basically shafted - and us along with you, unfortunately. You can't put any more troops in, and you can't pull them out. And it's costing you hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars to simply keep your head above water. Who do you think has the more effective plan?
 

IJ Reilly

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Forget reputation, that's long gone. Disappeared the day George W. Bush was elected the first time (let alone, the second). I wish humility actually mattered, but at this point, no nation in its right mind would want to be any more committed to Iraq than they are today. Even begging and self-flagellation would not change any minds I suspect. No, the US is stuck with this donnybrook -- and sadly, we can't even walk away and turn it over to the communists, like we did in Vietnam. If we left now, the country would likely descend into outright civil war, which could easily spill over into neighboring countries.
 

IJ Reilly

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skunk said:
Don't be so sure.


They're clearly not aiming at a resolution on your terms. By destroying the morale and assets of the Iraqi National Guard, however, they are effectively removing your proxies, thereby preventing you from executing an exit strategy on your terms, either. This would seem to be a very effective approach. You're basically shafted - and us along with you, unfortunately. You can't put any more troops in, and you can't pull them out. And it's costing you hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars to simply keep your head above water. Who do you think has the more effective plan?
Enough with this "you/yours" nonsense. Britain became involved in Iraq by its own free will, but still I won't saddle you with unwarranted "you/yours" characterizations because I know you don't any more agree with your government's actions than I do mine.

As for an effective plan, as nearly as I can tell, nobody has an actual plan -- effective or otherwise. It's all going to be muddling along from here on in. And that's if we're very very lucky.
 

skunk

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IJ Reilly said:
I wish humility actually mattered, but at this point, no nation in its right mind would want to be any more committed to Iraq than they are today. Even begging and self-flagellation would not change any minds I suspect.
Maybe not, but it would be a welcome diversion.

If we left now, the country would likely descend into outright civil war, which could easily spill over into neighboring countries.
Odds are it will anyway. And if it does, what can you do about it with the nimble, lean, fighting machine that Uncle Rummy has designed for you? In the end, you may have to get out. You seem to cling to the illusion that, whatever happens, you can stick it out. That may not be true.
 

skunk

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IJ Reilly said:
Enough with this "you/yours" nonsense. Britain became involved in Iraq by its own free will, but still I won't saddle you with unwarranted "you/yours" characterizations because I know you don't any more agree with your government's actions than I do mine.
I have deliberately included "us" along with "you" several times: I am of course not trying to personalize it, but it's a lot quicker than typing "the Bush and Blair Administrations" every time...and, after all, these ****s claim to be acting in our names, so it's worth keeping in mind that, like it or not, we do share a rather depressing collective responsibility.
 

IJ Reilly

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skunk said:
I have deliberately included "us" along with "you" several times: I am of course not trying to personalize it, but it's a lot quicker than typing "the Bush and Blair Administrations" every time...and, after all, these ****s claim to be acting in our names, so it's worth keeping in mind that, like it or not, we do share a rather depressing collective responsibility.
To be honest, you did seem to be trying to pick a fight with me over this, which seemed a bit odd since I doubt we much disagree on this issue. But again, back to the substance: I think the US doesn't have much choice at this stage of the game to at least try to tough it out for however much longer it takes. The downside risk of bolting now is creating an even larger stain on the nation's reputation. I suspect W has maybe two years of political will left on the Iraq occupation, at most. If substantial (almost miraculous) improvement isn't seen by the midterm elections, I think we're probably looking a significant shift in public views towards the negative.
 

mactastic

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IJ Reilly said:
No, not really. However many active fighters there may be (we've heard several numbers, mainly in the low thousands), they certainly don't represent the will of anyone in Iraqi but their own.
First on the active fighters numbers. Today I ran across a story wherein the head of Iraqi intelligence estimated the number of insurgents at 200,000 with at least 40,000 hard core fighters. Even taking those numbers with a grain of salt still leaves far more than the low thousands of insurgents. And if he is anywhere near correct, there are more insurgents than coalition troops in Iraq.

Now, who do they represent? Many varying interests, but they definitely represent the will of segments of Iraqis. Sunnis are fearing feeling the sting of being a minority part of the government, particularly since the Sunni Saddam gave them disproportional amounts of power previously. The Shia have decided that the fastest way to power is through the ballot box, but don't think the incident with al-Sadr can't be repeated if the Shia aren't satisfied. They've been oppressed and crapped upon for too long now to not resort to violence if they think they aren't being heard. And don't forget that Iran has a vested interest in the way things in Iraq shake out. The Kurds want to be left alone with the oil fields of the north largely under their control. Al-Zarquai would like to see the country devolve into civil war, and bin Laden no doubt would as well, since it not only keeps American forces occupied as well as providing plenty of recruiting propaganda, but it provides a training ground similar to Afghanistan during the Russian occupation. Iraqi fighters today will become the next generation of 'blooded' leaders against us.

So while I don't think the vast majority of Iraqis want to see a continuing war going on in their cities, there are large sections of the population that stand to lose power of some sort if the scheduled elections take place. If it were only a few individuals, this wouldn't be so concerning, but it is whole tribes, whole subsets of Islam that we are talking about. Certainly the insurgents are representative enough of the views of residents of the so-called Sunni Triangle to provide tacit if not outright support to the fighters amongst them.
Even if this violent insurgency hadn't taken hold, Iraq would still be a chaotic mess with many political issues to resolve. But we should keep in mind that the insurgents are not aiming their efforts towards that resolution, they are attempting to prevent it from occurring.
While I won't say the insurgents are trying to do what's best for all Iraqis, I do think many are aimed at a specific goal other than civil war. First, I think there are many insurgents who are fighting for nationalism, or because of the treatment of a family member by coalition forces. Second I think there are many Sunnis who think that if they can topple or otherwise marginalize any elected governemnt that they can stage a coup at some point and regain the power they had lost.

There are also definetly a significant number that profit from war, but these are mainly non-Iraqis I would imagine. No normal person wishes perpetual war upon their own land and people.
I don't believe that the insurgency would end if the occupation forces departed, and I don't think the current evidence suggests that it's mainly directed against occupation forces at this stage.
I don't think the insurgency would end in the occupation forces left either. And I don't think we can sustain our current force levels let alone increase them significantly for any length of time. Which is exactly what bin Laden wants to see.

And you're right, the insurgency isn't mainly directed at occupation forces either. It's largely aimed at Iraqis who are helping us. They are the ones taking the brunt of the insurgency.

Saddam managed to keep the lid on the can of festering hatreds between rival groups. Now we've taken that lid off, not to mentioned allowing free access to all the weapons and explosives you could haul away.
 

IJ Reilly

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Well, there's probably no one mind behind the insurgency, but to me it's fairly clear that it's directed mainly against building national institutions which would potentially marginalize those who once held all of the power in the country. Anyone associated with government ("helping us" I think is too simplistic) is being targeted. Nationalism is a motivation, no doubt -- but at its most elemental, this is an old-fashioned power struggle between populations that had been suppressed for decades. The Bush administration should have seen this coming; the fact that they obviously didn't is just mind boggling. And yes, I agree -- it could get worse. Much worse.

It also amazes me that after all this time, we apparently still don't seem to have a handle on the number of active insurgents in Iraq. But even if it's as many as 400,000 this isn't anywhere close to a majority of the population. It isn't even a majority of the Sunnis. All this proves is that it doesn't take many malcontents to create chaos and instability, especially in a country with no strong national institutions, no government and lots of weapons for everybody.

I suspect the immediate goal of the insurgency is instigating a civil war, from which the Sunnis can emerge with the power they held under Saddam. In any other scenario, they become a minority, and quite possibly, an oppressed minority.
 

solvs

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IJ Reilly said:
I suspect the immediate goal of the insurgency is instigating a civil war, from which the Sunnis can emerge with the power they held under Saddam. In any other scenario, they become a minority, and quite possibly, an oppressed minority.
Welcome to the lose/lose situation Bush has gotten us into. I'm glad Saddam is gone and all, but I can't help thinking we made things worse. And considering the fact that the same people Bush should have listened to pre-9/11, warned him about this very thing being a given possiblity in Iraq... makes me think this could have all been avoided had we played it smarter. I mean, hindsight is 20/20 and all, but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

If I screwed up, and the guy who tried to warn me I was going to screw up is warning me I'm going to screw up again, I'd probably listen to him and not be so surprised if I screwed up again because I ignored him again.
 

IJ Reilly

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This is timely. I wonder how long it will take for the White House to muzzle Scowcroft again?
Scowcroft Skeptical on Iraq Vote

The election threatens to heighten the risk of civil war, the former national security advisor says.

WASHINGTON — The election scheduled this month in Iraq could further inflame the country's conflict and increase the risk of civil war, Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to President Bush's father, said at a forum Thursday.

Rather than leading to stability, Scowcroft said, he feared that the election would further alienate Iraq's Sunni Muslim population and that it had "a great potential for deepening the conflict."

"Indeed, we may be seeing an incipient civil war [in Iraq] at the present time."

In one sense, the comments from Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, were not surprising: He has long been a critic of the Iraq war. But his stark warning about potential civil war marked one of the most ominous assessments about the implications of the upcoming election from a high-ranking former official.

Scowcroft made his comments at a luncheon sponsored by the New America Foundation, a centrist, nonpartisan Washington think tank. At the forum, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security advisor, also offered a grim prognosis for Iraq.

Brzezinski said the United States should meet its goals of producing a reasonably stable Iraqi government "if we are willing to put in 500,000 troops, spend $200 billion a year, probably have the draft and have some kind of wartime taxation."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the remarks.

Scowcroft, an international business consultant in Washington, also served as national security advisor to President Ford. Scowcroft recruited Condoleezza Rice, Bush's choice as the next secretary of State, to her first White House job, hiring her as a Soviet expert at the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush.

The current Bush administration hopes that the planned parliamentary elections in Iraq will help end the insurgency by creating a government with broad popular support. But Scowcroft said he believed there was "a distinct possibility" that the balloting could lead to the breakup of the country by triggering violence between Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim forces, which in turn would prompt the Kurds to secede.

At the luncheon, attended by journalists and foreign policy experts, Scowcroft said the risk was that the election would deepen feelings of estrangement among Sunnis, who constitute an estimated 20% of the population but dominated Iraq under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's rule.

Scowcroft said he believed that the insurgency was "gradually morphing" from a resistance by elements of the former regime into a broader "Sunni revolt" driven by fear that the Shiite majority will elect a government controlled by its members.

The election, scheduled for Jan. 30, will elect a transitional national assembly to write a new constitution and select a new government. The leading Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, has withdrawn from the election, saying it should be delayed until security improves in Sunni regions of the country. Interim President Ghazi Ajil Yawer, a Sunni, suggested this week that the election might need to be delayed.

But the Bush administration and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi have contended that the election should be held on schedule.

Scowcroft said that if the balloting produced an election dominated by Shiites, "that could in fact turn the Sunnis to revolution and civil war against a Shia government."

Some other experts, such as Larry Diamond, a democracy expert at the conservative Hoover Institution who advised U.S. authorities in Iraq, have raised similar concerns.

Scowcroft did not say at the meeting whether he believed that the election should be delayed, and he could not be reached afterward. At the meeting, Scowcroft said that Bush should try again to persuade European allies to contribute significant numbers of troops to Iraq and ask the United Nations to take a more prominent role in developing the new Iraqi government.

Reducing American visibility would improve the prospects for success in Iraq, he argued, because "we are now seen as the occupier."

Brzezinski agreed that Bush should make a renewed push for international troops that could significantly swell the overall security force in Iraq. If no other countries are willing to participate at meaningful levels, he said, the U.S. should begin withdrawing its troops from the country this year.

If large numbers of U.S. forces remain in Iraq without more international support, Brzezinski said, "we will be viewed eventually as the other side of the coin of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians."
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-scowcroft7jan07,1,7611761.story