The Real Surge
DJ Elliot at Long War Journal describes the arrival of what he calls "the Real Surge". Not the 30,000 US troop reinforcement that is normally associated with the word, but the arrival of the 13-division Iraqi Army.
While the "surge" of five US brigades plus their accompanying support elements, about 30,000 US troops total, is the main focus of commentators when discussing the current situation in Iraq, the real surge in Iraq is happening behind the scenes. The rapidly expanding Iraqi Army is where the real surge in forces is occurring. ...
By the time the US plans to reduce its combat forces to pre-surge levels (July 2008), the real surge is planned to have increased the Iraqi Army to 13 divisions, 49 brigades, 154 battalions, and five or six ISOF [Iraqi Special Operations Force (ISOF)] battalions.
The US is considering plans to draw down to 10 combat brigades by early 2009. The Iraqi Army plans to continue growing to 13 divisions, 52 brigades, 162 battalions, and seven or eight ISOF battalions.
Inside this Iraqi Surge is an "exit plan". But it's not an exit plan that everyone -- especially the antiwar Left -- will like, because it has the potential to wind up an offensive spring. The arrival of substantial Iraqi forces will free up a lot of US maneuver brigades for employment elsewhere. Earlier proposals to withdraw US forces to Kurdistan, Kuwait or most ludicrously, to Okinawa and ceding Iraq to the Sunni rebels and Sunni militias were really attempts to dress up a unilateral surrender as a redeployment. A withdrawal following on a defeat in Iraq would never have freed up forces for Afghanistan or other places to because they would have been pinned in place to guard against a rapidly destabilized Middle East.
The Real Surge DJ Elliott describes is really a relief in place of US Forces by a newly generated Iraqi Army. The difference between a relief in place and a rout disguised as a redeployment is very significant.
In the latter case, a redeployment in defeat would have put US forces on the defensive for the forseeable future. A relief in place by new forces is really also another term for a strategic reinforcement. The danger which the antiwar Left will rightly see in the Real Surge is that it contains the kernel of offensive action. That's not to say that any kind of military action against Iran or Syria is contemplated or even wise. There may be no intent. But it is fair to say that a Real Surge will create the capability to do more things than would be possible in the aftermath of a pell-mell retreat.
Even if the US never takes any military action against Iran the creation of a new and modern Iraqi Army, well supplied with artillery and logistics (as appears to be the case) will create a threat in being for the Ayatollahs. From a situation in which the Teheran could contemplate virtually annexing southern Iraq (as would have occurred if the US had admitted defeat in early 2007 and left) the Ayatolahs now face the prospect of having to maintain large permanent standing forces on their border with Iraq. Nor is this all. If most US ground forces are freed up by the Real Surge the Iranians will suddenly face the prospect of dangerous mobile US reserve. All in all it would be a nightmarish burden for Teheran to shoulder.
Does this mean war in the Middle East? Ironically the Real Surge may actually reduce the prospect of war considerably, while at the same time improving the prospects for the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem. While it is possible that Iran, watching its window of opportunity closing, may become suddenly reckless and launch an all-out attack to destabilize Iraq, it is probably too late for banzai measures. The odds are that Iran has been strategically beaten, first by the American Surge and worse, by the follow-on Iraqi resurgence.
The intolerable burden of maintaining a war-footing against the new Iraq, guarding against possible American action, Western sanctions and the need to refurbish its collapsing oil industry while maintaining a nuclear program may collapse the theocrats in Teheran in the same way it did the old Soviet Union.
That might be a good thing. For Iran, Iraq, America and the whole world.