First, the Taliban is priming for a spring offensive. Story on new NATO Commander (American) here. President Karzai, against American wishes, appears as he is not going to spray the opium crop this year. The Afghan government is publicly accusing (and likely with much validity) Pakistan of aiding the Taliban. I long ago argued that Pakistan has to have a Taliban or Taliban-like gov't ruling in Afghanistan. Iran has strengthened its power in Western Afghanistan. The tribal areas are ungoverned, and the Taliban is strongly surging in the South. Meanwhile because of Iraq, Afghanistan is left to itself.
Iraq. A massive car bomb exploded yesterday killing over a hundred in Sadiriya, Sadr City. The Sunni insurgents are trying mightily to pull the Mahdi Army in on the possibility that the Americans will go after them and do their (the Sunnis) work for them. The pattern is roughly this: a car bomb, suicide bomber Sunni (generally) kills Shia. Then the next mornings, over say a week, a roughly equal number of Sunnis will be found dead in the streets with signs of torture--most common: electric drill holes in their body/heads.
Tit for bloody tat. These individuals die from the so-named Shia death squads--often the police going around at night.
People are holding (if they hold) their weapons in their closet, waiting for the Americans to leave, knowing as they do, enough of what is occurring on the so-called home front. When that finally breaks--with or without a Constitutional crisis--the bloodshed will be horrific. It will be an awful tragedy, however it goes down. It already is.
I see really no way at this point, that Iraq does not go from Civil War to Regional War. Iraq War 3.0 as it were. 1.0 Insurgency, 2.0 Civil War, 3.0 Regional War. Iraq in this scenario becomes a Congo-like killing field with neighboring countries send arms, moneys, even persons into the fight.
[You can listen to this interview with Michael Yon on instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) where he gives a much more positive view of the surge and the Iraqi Army. --of varying quality I would say. Although he does mention increase violence e.g. in Mosul, Arab v. Kurd.]
The Jordanian government is really weakened. It will have to give free rein to Sunni cousins of the Iraqis to join the fray as soon as the Americans withdraw. The Saudis are gearing up against Iran, at the same time they are working to pacify the Palestinians.
The Jordanians are actively trying to stop Iraqi refugees from entering the country or deporting those already in. Story here. The Iraqis will likely become a neo-Palestinian group: stateless, easily radicaliz-able, and a source of frustration for the countries for Sunni regimes. As well as a new excuse, a new rallying cry for non-reform at home and victimhood abroad.
Oh, btw the Palestinians actually in Iraq are being targeted--by other Arabs. The Palestinians were part of the Hussein Regime--Arafat supported Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Hussein sent moneys to relatives of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Speaking of which, the Palestinians are breaking apart. There aren't (so far as I know) bodies with electric drill bit holes in them...yet. But kidnappings are becoming common, roadblocks, and Hamas controlling the north, Fatah the south. While both are training with Hezbollah and could still re-unite if only to fight the Israelis.
If the Palestinians do perform Hezbollah like operations---katusha rockets, disappearing into civilian populations, pull the Israelis in with tanks, send photos of civilians killed to internet, knowing the world population, minus the US, is against Israel. Israel will then lose the psych ops and be shamed into an early retreat.
Then Israel will have a "hedgehog" on both its north and western borders could bring about a resurgence of the Likud Party and increasing apartheid tactics in the occupation--precisely what jihadis want.
Bush is taking advice from Henry Kissinger on Iran. Too bad he isn't actually following it through. Kissinger (just like in Vietnam) is pushing for a "surge" to strength, mixed with diplomacy, from which you pull out. Bush however won't do the diplomacy and might not pull troops out at all for his last 2 years. That is until his popularity sinks to Nixon levels.
Bush is pushing hard on banks to close off support to Iran, economic sanctions, strengthening our alliances with Sunni dictators, UN sanctions, an extra carrier in the gulf, disrupt supply lines of the Iranians inside Iraq. But it needs to be timed with diplomacy, especially with Syria. Scare the Iranians, by which I mean Supreme Leader Khamenei, to put Pres. Ahmadinejad on the block. They would sacrifice him for stability. In a heartbeat. But the bomb is probably going to happen no matter what. I'm arguing for a regime bought into deterrence as opposed to now when they can afford to be radical.
The Middle East, as a result of the Americans losing the peace, the Iraqis "wanting" civil war as right-wing press now says, whatever the explanation, is going to be violent for sometime. Really violent. Just like after Vietnam, violence ripped through Cambodia, Laos, S. Vietnam. In the same way, this killing has a momentum of its own. Baghdad may become temporarily more secure due to the surge. The violence will move to other parts and actually will not likely be tampered down except for very short term in Baghdad. I don't see it going down. The daily car bombs and revenge killings say differently.
Violence does not end in these situations until one side wins and/or everyone is tired of killing. Neither of those are anywhere near in sight in Iraq. Baghdad is a symbolic city for the Sunnis--it was the home of their great medieval empire. I don't see them giving it up and heading to a Sunni country of Anbar for a long time. It will be a reactionary fight for years to come.
Once the Americans leave and the Saudis and Iranians join in, there is going to be another massive wave of violence. The beast will gain a new life. The Protestants and Catholics (minus N.Ireland) fought for a century plus before giving up. Baghdad, as a juncture point between the two communities could be a N.Ireland like pocket in the sea of Sunni (West), Shia (East) detente after hundreds of thousands of death in the ensuing wars to convulse that region.
The best the US can do, now, in my estimation, is work whatever diplomatic ends can be worked. Especially Saudis and Iranians. There is a huge historical animus and mutual suspicion between the two, so the only way it works is if the US is a "honest" broker. i.e. Grand Bargain with Iran. Think of ways, to deal with the refugee crisis that is going to happen, secure the borders as much as possible (again deal with Syria) to stop the influx of foreign jihadis and do the best that can be done to contain this wave of violence that is about to explode.