The following are experts' answers to the question of whether the United States will pull out from Iraq which was asked by Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Andrew Kuchins, the director of the Moscow Carnegie Endowment, said that the Americans will not withdraw from Iraq before the presidential election in November. In his recent statements, President Bush noted that he would not call for a pullout until the security situation had significantly improved in Iraq. In this matter, Mr. Kuchins trusts Mr. Bush as a politician. The American administration will try to do everything, Mr. Kuchins said, to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq in the next six months. It will be an indicator of progress.
In the near future, it is probable that the United States will increase the number of troops in Iraq before reducing it. The Bush administration will do everything it can to increase the involvement of the United Nations in operations in Iraq.
Ibrahim Tawfik, a leading research associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences Oriental Studies Institute, said that pulling American forces out of Iraq before the U.S. presidential elections is, for Mr. Bush, tantamount to giving himself up as a hopeless case. It would be like acknowledging his defeat, the scholar said. Following the November elections, this or another administration may decide to withdraw from Iraq because considerations other than election will matter. It is still too far from a popular uprising in Iraq. What is going on there now is certainly a threat to the Americans, but not a mortal threat. In case the United States finds a common language with the Shiites, Sunnis, and Iraqis in general, the situation may improve.
Professor Timothy Gardner of the Center for Defense Studies at the Kings College in London said that if the Americans withdraw the majority of their forces, the unrest may spill over to Iraq's neighbors. It will also put to doubt future shipments of Iraqi oil while the American economy is weak and oil prices are high.
America's choices are dwindling because of their weak strategy. If the allies mistreat the Shiite forces led by Muktad as-Sadr, the Shiites led by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani may come out against the coalition authorities' approach to passing power to the Iraqis, which may grow into a large-scale uprising. This is why, Professor Gardner believes the number of troops in Iraq should be increased in order to avoid the use of military helicopters and warplanes, which only worsen the situation.
In the opinion of Timothy Gardner, the coalition authorities should thoroughly discuss how to pass power on June 30 with Al-Sistani and let him use his prestige to pacify the Shiite uprising.