With President Obama announcing a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, what comes next?
The nightmare scenario for me isn’t simply a huge rise in Iranian influence. That’s a given, now that the Iraqis will not be able to balance the Iranians and Americans off each other to preserve space for themselves. Nor is it the simple abandonment of all those who allied themselves with the United States–a mistake, Obama seems determined to emphasize, that no one should ever again make.
Rather, with perhaps 160 troops defending the largest U.S. embassy in the world, the danger is what happens should Iranian forces and their proxies want to humiliate the United States completely? Will the State Department sit idly by while Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces rain mortars down on the compound? Or when they begin to fire on the checkpoints? While the United States will maintain forces in Kuwait, these will by no means be rapid reaction in case of a crisis at the embassy.
If the Iranian leadership wills it to be so, it is quite possible 2012 will be the year when American diplomats and contractors abandon the U.S. embassy in droves, adding an exclamation point to Obama’s self-inflicted wound and creating an iconic image to replace the withdrawal from Saigon.