Sen. Joe Lieberman reports on his recent visit to Iraq:
The officials I met in Baghdad said that 90% of suicide bombings in Iraq today are the work of non-Iraqi, al Qaeda terrorists. In fact, al Qaeda's leaders have repeatedly said that Iraq is the central front of their global war against us. That is why it is nonsensical for anyone to claim that the war in Iraq can be separated from the war against al Qaeda -- and why a U.S. pullout, under fire, would represent an epic victory for al Qaeda, as significant as their attacks on 9/11.
Some of my colleagues in Washington claim we can fight al Qaeda in Iraq while disengaging from the sectarian violence there. Not so, say our commanders in Baghdad, who point out that the crux of al Qaeda's strategy is to spark Iraqi civil war.
Al Qaeda is launching spectacular terrorist bombings in Iraq, such as the despicable attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra this week, to try to provoke sectarian violence. Its obvious aim is to use Sunni-Shia bloodshed to collapse the Iraqi government and create a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, radicalizing the region and providing a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against the West.
Facts on the ground also compel us to recognize that Iran is doing everything in its power to drive us out of Iraq, including providing substantive support, training and sophisticated explosive devices to insurgents who are murdering American soldiers. Iran has initiated a deadly military confrontation with us, from bases in Iran, which we ignore at our peril, and at the peril of our allies throughout the Middle East.
The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces would not only throw open large parts of Iraq to domination by the radical regime in Tehran, it would also send an unmistakable message to the entire Middle East--from Lebanon to Gaza to the Persian Gulf where Iranian agents are threatening our allies--that Iran is ascendant there, and America is in retreat. One Arab leader told me during my trip that he is extremely concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but that he doubted America's staying power in the region and our political will to protect his country from Iranian retaliation over the long term. Abandoning Iraq now would substantiate precisely these gathering fears across the Middle East that the U.S. is becoming an unreliable ally. …
Some argue that the new strategy is failing because, despite gains in Baghdad and Anbar, violence has increased elsewhere in the country, such as Diyala province. This gets things backwards: Our troops have succeeded in improving security conditions in precisely those parts of Iraq where the "surge" has focused. Al Qaeda has shifted its operations to places like Diyala in large measure because we have made progress in pushing them out of Anbar and Baghdad. The question now is, do we consolidate and build on the successes that the new strategy has achieved, keeping al Qaeda on the run, or do we abandon them? …
While benchmarks are critically important, American soldiers are not fighting in Iraq today only so that Iraqis can pass a law to share oil revenues. They are fighting because a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al Qaeda and Iran, would be a catastrophe for American national security and our safety here at home. They are fighting al Qaeda and agents of Iran in order to create the stability in Iraq that will allow its government to take over, to achieve the national reconciliation that will enable them to pass the oil law and other benchmark legislation. …
I returned from Iraq grateful for the progress I saw and painfully aware of the difficult problems that remain ahead. But I also returned with a renewed understanding of how important it is that we not abandon Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran, so long as victory there is still possible.
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