Renowned Islamism scholar Oliver Roy has claimed that “One of the key questions in the U.S. presidential race is what will happen if U.S. troops leave Iraq, (The International Herald Tribune). I am not sure which U.S. presidential race, 2004 or 2008, Professor Roy has in mind. For anyone following the present race knows that Iraq is not the key question, let alone the concern about the aftermath of U.S. leaving Iraq.
Having arbitrarily established American mind-set for the presidential race, he goes on to say that “Of course nobody knows for sure. But I can say this: Al Qaeda will not take power and establish an Islamic state.” Though this a good news, the question is: What expert or scholar, who knows what is going on in the Middle East, has ever mentioned about the slightest possibility for al-Qaeda to take over in Iraq, to begin with?
For good reason: if Middle Eastern experts agree on anything, it is that a premature withdrawal of U.S. forces will ignite a civil war in Iraq with an obvious result: The Iraqi Shi’as would have Arab Sunnis for lunch, and the Iraqi Kurds, in association with Shi’as, would have the rest for desserts.
After reassuring us that al-Qaeda will not take power, Professor Roy advises Western forces to leave Iraq: “It would have been better to concentrate the Western forces on Afghanistan, which has been the real cradle of Al Qaeda. If only part of the brains and armor devoted to the “surge” in Iraq had been devoted to Afghanistan, instead of the incessant turnover of disparaged NATO troops with little knowledge of the country, things would have been better.”
The biggest problem for the time being seems to revolve around the transfer of sovereignty, and who occupies the driver’s seat in Iraq. Roy’s choice is clear: as long as there will be no Qaedistan, anything goes, as if though there is no natural candidate for saving the state.
Here it helps to remember that the Iraqi elected government did not exist as a union of prominent personalities, it was the United States who made it possible for them to join the dance, and it is the United States and the Iraqi government who will decide that dance is over and that the time has come for U.S. to return home.