If you haven't seen Anthony Cordesman's latest (13 FEB) briefing from the battlefield on Iraq out of the Center For Strategic And International Studies you should take the time to download it (full text can be downloaded here. Caution: It is a large file -- 7.3 MB). Cordesman is both comprehensive and current in his generally positive assessment of the situation in Iraq. Of particular note are the wide variety of graphs and charts he uses (the map below is of ethnic and sectarian divisions in Iraq). These alone are worth the price of admission...
Highlights from the synopsis on the website include:
- "No one can spend some 10 days visiting the battlefields in Iraq without seeing major progress in every area. A combination of the surge, improved win and hold tactics, the tribal uprising in Anbar and other provinces, the Sadr ceasefire, and major advances in the use of IS&R have transformed the battle against Al Qaida in Iraq."
- "At the same time, this progress is dependent on major additional Iraqi government action well beyond the passing of the Iraqi FY2008 budget, the provincial powers act, and the laws easing de-Baathification."
- "...it is clear that Iraq can only succeed with years of additional US support in security, governance, and development."
- "It will take strong US involvement throughout the life of the next Administration to succeed, and it may well take US aid through 2016. There is a strong case for limiting troop reductions beyond a force of 15 brigade equivalents to patient conditions-based steps that ensure there will be no need to rush back US forces or see Iraqi forces become vulnerable. There is an even stronger case for sustained aid in governance and development until the Iraqi central government learns how to spend effectively and do so with limits to waste, corruption, and ethno-sectarian bias."
- "Serious threats can still bring defeat or paralysis over the coming years, although this seems significantly less likely than during the fall of 2007:"
- "A central government failure to move funds to key provinces, improve services, fund development, and employ young men."
- "A central government failure to reach out to the Sunni and Shi'ite Sons of Iraq and incorporate many into the Iraq security services."
- "Potential Arab-Kurdish-minority divisions over Kurdish autonomy in the north, and creating some form of Kurdish federal zone."
- "The risk of Shi'ite divisions and infighting in the south, particularly between the Hakim and Sadr factions, and Sunni-Shi'ite tensions over some form of Shi'ite federalism."
- "Continued Iranian support of militias and divisions and growing Iranian influence in Basra and the south."
- "The need for local legitimacy through provincial and local elections in 2008, and open lists and local representation in the COR election in 2009."
- "Moving towards full development and sustained employment, and for a fair sharing of petroleum wealth a resources."