What to watch in 2008 Iraq

Candy in MuqdadiyahCandy is Good
U.S. Army Spc. Hospedales gives candy to an Iraqi girl during a patrol in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, Feb. 7, 2008. Hospedales is from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. DoD photo by Spc. Shawn M. Cassatt, U.S. Army.

Senior official: 2008 crucial to surge success

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the senior Defense Department official responsible for Middle East policy, tells us what we need to keep an eye on to see if the successes of 2007 are going to start paying dividends in 2008. As I noted previously, things in Iraq are never fast enough, particularly for critics.

One of his points:

–I’d advise people to watch Basra,” Kimmitt said, referring to the southern Iraqi city where British forces have chosen to operate with what he described as a –very, very light hand.” –The Basra experiment will important in 2008,” he said. –It’s going to be interesting to see who wins out in the end in Basra: the free-market entrepreneurs who want Basra to look like Dubai, Iranians who want Basra to look like Herat [in western Afghanistan], or local militias who want Basra to look like Mogadishu?”

Last fall I said that we should be Watching Basra, and I think that’s going to be more important than ever during 2008.

UPDATE: Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates write What We Need Next in Iraq. Namely, a Status of Forces Agreement.

UPDATE 2: Major Breakthrough In Iraq