SYRIA, IRAN, AND SAUDI ARABIA….By coincidence, I read the following two items one right after the other this morning. First, here is Spencer Ackerman on the future of our military presence in Iraq:

Forgive me if I indulge in a brief rant. Lots has been written over the last several days about the United Iraqi Alliance, the Sistani-brokered slate of mostly Shia candidates for the January election. Practically all the coverage recognizes that the ticket is practically assured to take power. But there’s nearly nothing about what the slate says it wants to do when it finds itself in charge ? namely, get the U.S. out of Iraq.

And here is William Kristol on the future of our military presence in Iraq:

By Bush Doctrine standards, Syria is a hostile regime….What to do?….We could bomb Syrian military facilities; we could go across the border in force to stop infiltration; we could occupy the town of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, a few miles from the border, which seems to be the planning and organizing center for Syrian activities in Iraq…

It’s easy to overstate the problem here, but there is a problem. The Shiite slate is clearly going to win the January elections, and as Spencer points out, there’s only one plank in the UIA platform that its leaders consider important enough to discuss publicly: a desire to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.

At the same time, democracy promoting neocons like Kristol not only don’t want U.S. troops to leave, they want to widen the conflict: to Syria right now and eventually to Iran and possibly Saudi Arabia ? which “may ultimately be more serious than the Syria problem.” But that can’t happen unless U.S. troops have a permanent presence in Iraq.

Sometime next year this will come to a head. Do we leave Iraq if a democratically elected government asks us to? Or do we stick around in order to eventually bring the rest of the Middle East to heel? Stay tuned.

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