Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Did the Iraqi surge succeed?

Yes, if you think its purpose was to enable the United States to find a way to get out of Iraq with a few shreds of dignity. (But that would be cynical!) No, if you think its purpose was to improve security in such a way that Iraq would have a political breakthrough. I dredge ...

U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos/flickr
U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos/flickr
U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos/flickr

Yes, if you think its purpose was to enable the United States to find a way to get out of Iraq with a few shreds of dignity. (But that would be cynical!) No, if you think its purpose was to improve security in such a way that Iraq would have a political breakthrough.

I dredge this all up because of a good article by young Leila Fadel in the Saturday edition of the Washington Post that examines how all the basic issues in Mosul remain unresolved. She writes that, "Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders battle over disputed lands, provincial and central government officials wrestle for control, and Sunni insurgents continue to slip back and forth across the porous borders with Turkey and Syria."

This is a microcosm of Iraq's problems as a whole: There is no agreement on how to share oil revenue, no resolution of the basic relationship between the country's three major groups, and no decision on whether Iraq will have a strong central government or be a loose confederation. And no resolution on the future place of the Kurds and Kirkuk.

Yes, if you think its purpose was to enable the United States to find a way to get out of Iraq with a few shreds of dignity. (But that would be cynical!) No, if you think its purpose was to improve security in such a way that Iraq would have a political breakthrough.

I dredge this all up because of a good article by young Leila Fadel in the Saturday edition of the Washington Post that examines how all the basic issues in Mosul remain unresolved. She writes that, "Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders battle over disputed lands, provincial and central government officials wrestle for control, and Sunni insurgents continue to slip back and forth across the porous borders with Turkey and Syria."

This is a microcosm of Iraq’s problems as a whole: There is no agreement on how to share oil revenue, no resolution of the basic relationship between the country’s three major groups, and no decision on whether Iraq will have a strong central government or be a loose confederation. And no resolution on the future place of the Kurds and Kirkuk.

On the upside, it is going to be interesting to see how Iraqi officials treat journalists after there no longer are so many Americans about. Here’s a taste that Fadel and her friends got from Iraqi Lt. Col. Shamel Ahmed Ugla when they asked about a detainee who said he was beaten as he was interrogated about his connections to al Qaeda: "If he was beaten, to hell with him," Ugla yelled. "Stop asking these questions."   

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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