So, I'm thinking maybe I'm just wrong about stuff, that I've not been keeping up. But, as far as I can tell, the context is still:
- Any government, no matter how representative, will have Shiite Arabs running the country, with a practically autonomous province run by Sunni Kurds (with Kirkuk in dispute).
- There will be no Iraqi national defense capability, to speak of--no air, no armor, no logistical capability.
- The US and Israel are quite unpopular in Iraq, and will be for the foreseeable future
- The Iraqis expect to have actual elections
I do not see how an Iraqi government emerges, within this context, that remains allied with the United States, in the absence of occupation forces. Any such government would have to be selected in some way other than through a representative electoral process. I suppose that the US can continue to play its pre-election role in Iraq that the clerics play in Iran through the next election, but after that, I don't see how that can happen.
The original plan, of course, was to install a pro-American, English-speaking*, strong man with trappings of apparent elections, but with a result, as Cheney said in 2003, acceptable to the US. NOT like those Palestinian elections. Leaving aside the insane idea that this strong man was supposed to be Chalabi, I don't see how a pro-American (and hence, pro-Israel) government can possibly come to and hold power in Iraq.
I also don't see how relations between Iraq and Iran do not become closer. Again, this would conflict with the need for a continued US/Iraqi client-state relationship. Even a government installed by the US, propped up with "foreign aid" and supported, in defense terms by air and armor placed over the border would find it difficult to support US bellicosity with Iran.
Now it may be that Obama will retire the Axis of Evil, and try to improve relations with Iran. This certainly is an overripe prospect; the question is whether it has rotted out entirely, as the US position has weakened, steadily if not precipitously, in the region. It may be that Governor Richardson's idea of a regional security pact may be negotiated, with Syria, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia agreeing to leave a defenseless Iraq alone.
But even so, I simply don't see how the US can withdraw and not leave Iran as the major player in the region, with, at best, a face-saving agreement with Iraq that is pretty much limited to oil concessions. And that's the best case scenario.
The worst is an eruption of civil war by proxies of the surrounding states, with the possibility of the conflict crossing borders along ethnic lines, with Saudi Shiites and Turkish Kurds drawn into the conflict, while the isolated, but still angry Sunni Arab Iraqis keep things complicated in Baghdad.
What's bothering me here, more than anything else, is the absence of any discussion of these issues, publicly. Contingency planning for these instances have to be going on, even if nobody is telling the president about them, right? A real plan is being worked out to not make things still worse, even if that does mean a much diminished US role? The possibility of a two-state solution in Israel as part of an overall plan to tamp down the violence is being discussed? Right? By somebody who has some idea about what they're doing?
*It's ridiculous that this seems be a required criterion for American support of a ruler. It enormously limits the possible candidates.