Iraqis ready to take control of own problems

Freedom New Mexico

A coordinated suicide bombing that killed at least 14 people and wounded 53 in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, is a reminder that the country the U.S. has tried so hard to pacify, through military action and nation-building advice and subsidies, is still plenty turbulent. While this fact might tempt some to prolong the U.S. military presence in Iraq, that would be a mistake, as Iraqi leaders themselves are quick to remind us.

Anbar province, you may remember, was once dominated by al-Qaida in Mesopotamia until its dictatorial ways inspired the Anbar Awakening of tribal chiefs who began (well before the U.S. “surge”) to fight back and eventually drive al-Qaida from power. However, al-Qaida has not entirely disappeared. The Dec. 27 attack followed (and was almost certainly retaliation for) a roundup of suspected al-Qaida terrorists, as was a Dec. 12 attack at the same site. It was followed by an attack Wednesday in Mosul that killed a top police commander.

These indicators of turbulence come amid signs that the Iraqi government, imperfect as it is, is increasingly willing to handle such problems. Also Monday, the Iraqi oil minister announced that oil production, a key to future Iraqi stability, had reached its highest level in 20 years. The following day, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that he anticipates that no U.S. troops will remain in Iraq by the end of 2011.

Mr. Maliki says the Iraqi government is capable of handling future security threats. Maybe so, maybe not. But it is worth noting that Monday’s suicide bombers delayed their attack while a U.S. detachment passed by, concentrating the attack on the Iraqi government. Both the government and the insurgents seem to believe that this fight is between Iraqis, with the U.S. as a bystander.

That is appropriate. We argued from the beginning, nearly eight years ago, that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and the prolonged U.S. occupation seems to have led to an Iraq that is more shaky than stable and has serious tolerance problems, leading, for example, to most Iraqi Christians fleeing the country.

For better and for worse, however, it is time to allow Iraqis to handle these Iraqi problems. The U.S. should continue to withdraw troops on schedule and allow historians of the future to weigh the pluses and minuses of our misadventure in Iraq.