Friday, November 23, 2007

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.


Blogger NahnCee said...

I'm waiting for the first report of people fleeing from repression in Syria, Libya and Iran, to look for a better life in Iraq.

11/23/2007 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Richard Heddleson said...

A collapse in the price of oil is what did in the Soviet Union. And the same may soon be true of Iran. And it may again be due to the success fo the U. S. military.

11/23/2007 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Don M said...

There were 120,000 US servicemembers in Iraq before the surge. 99,000 of them were Army.

We owe so much to these fine youngsters! What a wonderful example they provide to the Iraqis! What a wonderful example the Democratic party is ignoring!

11/23/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

Yes, this is the real surge. . .if the Iraqi Army can be properly trained and, with the police, be reliable instruments in the hands of the Iraqi government, and not a rabble of militia or uniformed bandits. Assuring that will take some time.

11/23/2007 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard, that assumes that the Iranian regime does not already have a trump card, i.e. nukes from North Korea.

Suppose they do. And suppose they threaten several US cities, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, and Baghdad unless the US surrenders by retreating from the Gulf.

Nukes plus terrorism plus guerilla war may be the formula that Tehran plays to win. Certainly their leadership is aggressive and inclined to roll the dice constantly. It's not as if they've come on the losing side of aggressive bets.

Why not? Dangerous men who rise to power don't suddenly become housecats. Iran also has leverage with the Taliban and AQ in Pakistan, who they could help to power and assist in staging a rout in the Afghan theater.

We could well "win" in Iraq and face the British experience in Afghanistan in say, the 1840's and 1870's. Our own China Gordon?

11/23/2007 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Dangerous men who rise to power don't suddenly become housecats.

No, frequently they become dead.

11/23/2007 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...


I think the Mullahs and the Eye Doctor will remember our attack strategy during the invasion of Iraq.

They will remember that we assumed Iraq had WMD of some sort.

We still struck.

When we thought the enemy had, and would use, WMD.

How many nukes could Iran employ? And, remember the NK nuke test was rather meager, eh... Confidence inspiring???

I love the thought of Iran defending the borders to the north, east, and west in a major way. With 500,000 Americans - or American trained and equipped - forces to the west. That takes resources away from other things. Iran is not in an enviable position.

And, I like the thought of popping an oil bubble just as the oil ticks get used to spending their new wealth. It may be difficult to tighten ones buckle by 50%. It might be difficult for the Mullahs to sustain any form of control over their subjects.

2008 may well be a banner year.

11/24/2007 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Brian H said...

Stephens thinks the "Unthinkable", and concludes that an Israeli-Arab nuke war would leave Israel wounded but alive, and Iran, Syria, Egypt and/or any other Arab/Islamic state stupid enough to pitch in moribund for the long foreseeable future. Given the sophistication and numbers of weapons, defenses, and delivery systems, the death ratio would be on the order of 20:1 to 50:1. The Arab economies would collapse, as would their oil-fueled customers. That's China and India, btw; the Oil Age and globalization would end.

Personally, I'm sure Condi and Barnett and State would be able to persuade the US to make a preventative strike to stop Israel from so recklessly defending itself.

12/05/2007 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Brian H said...

Corr: Cordesman is the author. Stephens reported, as did Daniel Pipes.

12/05/2007 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen R. Maloney said...

Brilliantly done, Brian. One of the best pieces I've ever read on Iraq.

steve maloney
ambridge, pa

1/01/2008 07:17:00 PM  

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