Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy. It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq began 9 years ago this week, triggering a conflict that cost the U.S. approximately 4,500 lives and a trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money. In honor of that anniversary, Wikistrat’s analytic “crowd” debated: a) what America ultimately accomplished in Iraq, and b) where Iraq is likely headed in the years ahead. These are our six primary judgments.
1) Iraq like the fall of the Ottoman Empire
Like so many U.S. post-Cold War interventions, the takedown of Saddam Hussein saw America’s military inadvertently playing midwife to three de facto mini-nations within the shell-shocked state that remains Iraq: the increasingly autonomous Kurds in the North, the decidedly super-empowered Shia majority in the south, and the now-dethroned-but-still-defiant Sunni in the center. Each features its own militia-style military, and each enjoys the external support of a regional great power intent on not “losing” Iraq - namely, Turkey (Kurds), Iran (Shia) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni).
The internal and external dynamics roughly correspond: Out of fear of the others, no one side is so intent on collapsing the fragile middle (Baghdad and the “central” government) as to trigger a civil war - especially with Syria dissolving in that direction presently. That leaves current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki as the all-placating leader who continues to convince all sides that they are best served by a central authority in some matters. So, much like the case of the late Ottoman Empire (19th and early 20th centuries), each side works to prop up the weak middle, preferring the coherence it imparts to the uncertainty of a decisive struggle, which, in many ways, awaits the playing-out of Iran’s reach for the Bomb.
2) The strongman must return
A second view stipulates that Iraq is on a trajectory of significant deterioration. This week’s multiple bombings and sniping attacks across Iraq prove the direness of the security situation. Coordinated attacks in at least 14 locations from Karbala to Kirkuk show that Sunni Islamist groups operate at will. Mass protests by Sadrist supporters demanding jobs and local investments, estimated anywhere between 100,000 and 1 million, show that pressure on the al-Maliki government is unrelenting - even from co-religious Shia. In Kurdistan, President Massoud Barzani has toughened his anti-Maliki rhetoric. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq. Corruption is legion. In short, the country is a mess and is on the brink of multiple insurgencies and insurrections.
Toppling Saddam successfully removed an anti-American and anti-Iranian Sunni strongman, and reduced Iraqi military power for a period of years. But nothing fundamental about Iraqi culture or politics was changed as a result of the war, occupation and reconstruction, except that the majority of politicians who now squabble for power and prerogatives are now Shiites rather than Sunnis. Iraqi national identity was and remains secondary to tribal and sectarian ones, and the sectarian fighting in the wake of the Iraq War helped raise the Muslim schism again to the world stage. Iran undoubtedly benefited from the removal or its historic rival and from the opportunity to patronize Iraq’s Shiite majority, but it remains unlikely that historic hatred between Mesopotamians and Persians will be overcome.
American nation-building and democracy building have been unsuccessful among Shiite and Sunni communities, the majority of whom hate and loath each other and for whom ‘Iraqiness’ remains secondary. The fate of Kurdistan is still an open question, but the deep rivalries between factions there, and their deeply anti-democratic tendencies, bode ill. In any case, no Kurdish neighbor wishes to see an independent Kurdistan.
Iraq will probably muddle along for a few years until the situation becomes so bad that there are widespread indigenous demands for forceful efforts to create stability. This will be license for violence and repression, but will likely be presented - and even sympathetically regarded - as a “republican” response to “democratic” demands. Should chaos break out fully, it will present an opportunity for al-Maliki or a local strongman to crack down in the name of security and ‘Iraq’.
One new possibility is that Arab-Spring-type uprisings could also bring forward new politicians or even old ones like al-Sadr, which would result in either a swift Islamist takeover as in Libya or more likely a slow-motion takeover, as in Egypt. Pressure to Islamify Iraq society will also likely increase after Egypt is taken over fully by the Muslim Brotherhood.
3) The strong (enough) man is already there
A third view triangulates the first pair: Iraq is a dysfunctional but not a failed state. Baghdad still holds, and the Kurds maintain their historic role as honest brokers between the South’s Arab combatants. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki does just enough to prevail - time and again - in power showdowns with all three groups. With al Qaeda now thoroughly discredited throughout the region, thanks to its over-the-top behavior during Iraq’s de facto civil war (2005-8), the U.S. legitimately claims a victory in its global “war on terror.” And with several genuinely free elections under its belt, Iraq must be recognized as a functioning democracy, notwithstanding the brute force politics that typically plagues any recently pluralized political system. This glass is half full.
Having said all that, the ability to vote doesn’t change the underlying centrifugal forces that have consistently threatened to tear this British colonial concoction apart. Political figures enter the game with their own interest first and foremost in mind, followed by the needs of their tribes. The needs of the “nation” finish a distant third. Arab democracy still follows the rule of “one man, one vote, one time,” so expect Maliki to remain in power, slowly hollowing out what democratic impulses remain in the system. If we’re lucky, we’re looking at another Pakistan - minus the nukes - down the road.
* * *
If those are the three primary paths ahead, Wikistrat’s crowd would also offer the three following wild cards.
A) Lost generation, found opportunity?
Amidst the region’s youth-bulge-driven Arab Spring, Iraq’s young people remain a scarred and scared lot. With a median age just under 21, we’re talking a generation that has - in coming-of-age terms - only known incredible civil strife. Everybody knows what that did to Lebanon over the past several decades.
And yet, the power of example should not be underestimated, especially if the Arab Spring basically dismembers Syria, opening up the possibility of merged mini-nations: Syria’s Sunnis + Iraq’s Sunnis? Syria’s Kurds + Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government?
B) The un-Iran? (In search of Iraqi nationalism)
Iraq has never enjoyed a genuine nationalism. What it has had over the centuries is a shared hatred of the Turks, Brits, Iranians and - most recently - the Americans.
But given a chance to re-Islamify itself, a quiet hearts-and-minds battle ensues between two theological power centers: Iraq’s Najaf and Iran’s Qom. In sharp contrast to Iran’s theocratic order, Najaf’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, promotes the view that Shiite Islam remains most virtuous when it stays out of political power. As Iran’s disenchanted souls look increasingly to Najaf for spiritual guidance, expect an intra-Shia rivalry to sharpen.
C) The race for environmental sustainability
Iraq is short on clean water and grows more environmentally stressed with each passing year. The latest UNESCO World Water Development Report indicates that surface water flows in the Tigris, Euphrates, Karoun and Karkeh Rivers have diminished over time because of growing demand and diversions in upstream areas of Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq (Kurdistan) itself.
Ironically, the nation’s most viable path forward is to continue fast-tracking the expansion of its oil industry, because that wealth is crucial for reviving de-salinization capacity. But even that may not be enough.
Given the region’s overall water issues, Iraq’s situation is far more unique. It’s just the one most likely to explode first.
That’s Wikistrat’s “wisdom of the crowd” effort for this week.
Now tell us which path you find most plausible, or what other scenarios you can envision in the comments section below. And be sure to check out more at Wikistrat.com, a cutting-edge global consultancy.
i wonder if people preferred sadam hussein in power in iraq. sunni in baghdad for sure but i wonder kurds and shia are better off (not economically i assume).
america would have been better off not invading iraq for sure. not with the cost and lives and political damage.
Well stated, shibumi. That war should never have taken place, period! Now the future for Iraq is quite bleak indeed.
Hey who the F are you and what are you doing with my screen name Ignore the post of whomever this is.
Hey you above, would you mind not using that Tea Party lingo here? Like I said before, the English language itself is quite extensive so there's absolutely no need for that kind talk!!!
Because of your previous posts here and in other forums, there is nothing you say that is believable.
Kurds and Shi'a of Iraq I would argue are much better off without Saddam simply for the reason that they no longer live in a paranoid police state, and in the case of the Kurds, no longer fear chemical weapons being deployed on their villages.
Wrong, Joseph. The Kurds in Eastern Turkey are still being attacked and gassed by Turkish planes, but this is one thing the right-wing news media never talks about as they continue to sugar-coat NATO!
The question is Iraq's viability as a state! Maliki said he wants an Iraq built on nationalist principles. However, many of the minority Sunnis don't believe that he lets them have a larger share of power. He capitalises on successes of his first term in office but underestimates the strength of his security forces.
Under the guise of being "American" we find you islamist boys in every forum trying to sow dissent. You simply are not too bright. The biggest mistake you make is in thinking that Americans are stupid. We can spot you islamist pigs easily. Keep talking!
Depends on who you are, Kurds are way better off now then they were before the invasion.
Maybe Ian, but the Kurds still don't have a homeland to call their own and haven't had since the 2nd century BC! All the West wants is to steal Iraq's oil and couldn't care less for the Kurds or any other Iraqi ethnic group!!!
The reality of Iraqs future is bleak at best. pay close attention to events in the world and events in the middle east. I think that the disassembling of Iraq and the disintegration of tight control by other Arab nations in the region has an underlying reason that has nothing to do with the security of any nation.
1. multinational corporations are increasingly usurping the role of countries and governments in the decision making process. Lets face it multinational oil companies as a whole wield an unbelievable amount of power and have the cash to buy off any politician they choose.
2. A middle East full of fractured nations that spend their time squabbling internally present a much less effecient front than a nation as a whole to multinational corporations that are just waiting to get their hands on crude oil.
3. Small regions of these countries who are trying to remain self autonomous might be even more agreeable to allowing multinationals to come in on less than ideal terms because a quick sale of oil in the short term means quick cash to whatever small leftover piece of a nation is sitting on an oil reserve.
4. The oil companies have the money to pay for whatever private security they need to protect their investments in these countries and there is a wealth of soldiers for hire kicking around the middle east and the US after the pullout from Iraq and the eventual draw down and pullout form Afghanistan.
5. fractured and unstable countries throughout the oil producing region of the middle east also serve a secondary purpose of not only making it easier for huge multinationals to take advantage of the squabbling factions for profit, they also serve the dual purpose of conveniently providing an excuse for oil speculators to drive up the price of crude on the world market and further increase any multinational oil companies profits as well.
Now Iraq sale Oil in exchange of US currency . Then what is the vice of Iraqi people now ? why US care about Iraq? Why US invades Iraqi innocent people by their secret force Al Qaida ?
That is correct, Iraqis are innocent.
They did not and, currently, do not do anything wrong. It is the evil America who is creating problems.
Who are you fooling with this rhetoric?????????????
This so called writer didn't mention the US disbanded the Iraqi Army, which created the power vacuum that was the reason for the chaos
Hey Abdul, it is common in the free world to quote the references from which you derive your information.
We are waiting for any references that would back your lies.
Children enchanted miracle Hallelujah
Can someone explain why these sects cannot get along with each other. It appears the Iraqis have too much time on their hands and have nothing better to do than to constantly annoy their neighbors. Why are they unable to equally share with all their citizens the blessings of their natural resources instead ot their never ending fighting and arguing over nothing that is really important. Isn't it about time they turn over to a new page and try something different and new in the name of national unity? The Iraqis could build a great society if they could learn to love. Otherwise it looks like their blessings will be for naught and just a future of more misery for all of them and all of those around them.
BASHAR AL ASAD AND HIS WIFE, SENDING MILLIONS OD USA DOLLARS TO LEBANON IN A STASH IN A DIFFRENT ANAME ACCOUNT, ALSO SENDING WEAPONS FROM SYRIA TO HIZBOALLAH 10 FULL TRUCKS EVERY DAY CROSSING TO HIZBOALLAH TO PREPARE FOR A RUN AND TO BE USED FOR EMERGENCY , those love birds killers and thug are preparing to empty syria from cash and weapons and move them to lebanon in the hands of the terrorists hizboallah i saw that my self, we have people on the ground at the syria / lebanon boarder sending these informations , some of the trucks also contain chemical weapoins to hizboallah...please inform the media now before it is too late
The best solution to stop this is that the terrorists stop their activities against government.
IRAQI SHIIA ARE STEALING IRAQ READ THE PROVE, I AM IN BAGHDAD NOW
IRAQI SHIIA THUGS ARE SENDING MILLIONS TO SYRIA GOVERNMENT TO KILL THE KURDS AND THE SUNNI, ALSO TAKEN IRAN OIL AND SALE IT FOR THEM
في عراقنا المزيَّنِ بالفقر والعوز والثكالى وفقراء الطرق الذين يمسحون زجاج السيارات في برد بغداد القارس والدولة عنهم في غيبوبة، أقول في هذا المشهد المظلم يخرج الينا مجلس النواب ببدعة جديدة في الإسراف والبذخ، وهذه المرة من خلال شراء عشرين قطعة سلاح لكل نائب. أود تذكيركم سريعاً وقبل الدخول في الموضوع ان كل نائب يستلم ما يقارب 12.000.000 دينار مقطوعة عن 12 يوم عمل في كل شهر اي مليون دينار عن كل جلسة سواء عقدت ام لم تعقد كما يستلم 22.500.000 دينار لثلاثين شخصاً يحمونه علماً ان الغالب الاعم من النواب يقطنون المنطقة الدولية والتي لا يكادون يحتاجون فيها لحماية من أحد، ويعلم الجميع ان عضو المجلس يستلم كامل المبالغ المخصصة للحماية نيابة عن الحماية على اساس ان يوزعها لاحقاً.
وفوق هذا البذخ الصلِف للمال العام الذي يجب ان يكون محلُّهُ فقيرات العراق وعجزته ومعوقوه ومعدموه قرر مجلس النواب ان يشتري لكل نائب عشرة مسدسات (من نوع CZ99 سعر القطعة في بلد المنشأ 500$ كما يظهر فيهذا الرابط وعشرة بندقيات نوع M16 سعر القطعة في بلد المنشأ 586$ كما يظهر في هذا الرابط وبعملية رياضية بسيطة سيتضح ان كل نائب سيكلف الدولة 21.720$ دولار امريكي علماً اننا احتسبنا الكلفة حسب قيمة الاسلحة في بلد المنشأ وتغاضينا عن عمليات الفساد الحتمية التي ستضاعف المبلغ وتضخمه، ومعنى هذا ان مجلس النواب سيقتني اسلحة بقيمة 7.059.000$ دولار امريكي اي ما يعادل 8.611.980.000 مليار دينار عراقي اذا اخذنا بالاعتبار ان عدد اعضاء المجلس 325 نائباً حفظهم الله ورعاهم ذخراً لنا وللفقراء والمعدمين.
ولإنعاش الذاكرة وحسب اود التذكير ان المجلس موشِكٌ على الموافقة على شراء سيارة مصفحة لكل نائب فضلاً عما ذكرنا من قبل من اسلحة، وتود رئيسة لجنة شؤون الاعضاء والتطوير البرلماني الدكتورة حنان الفتلاوي زعيمة مقارعة الفساد ان تجري مناقشة الموضوع بكل شفافية ولكن خلف ابواب موصدة في جلسة سرية خشية الفضيحة طبعاً وليس لسرية الامر، ولو افترضنا جدلاً ان كلفة السيارة المصفحة الواحدة 50.000$ دولار امريكي فان المجلس سيقتني مجمل السيارات بمبلغ 16.250.000$ مليون دولار وهو ما يعادل 18.281.250.000مليار دينار عراقي.
nori al haleki is fk nird and weak he is an iranian agent, he is helping the terrorists hizboallah, and he send weapons and money to bashar al kalb in syria like iran they all do the same and have blood in there hands , they should be in the war court as they are war criminals they kill more than 14000 in syria more than 1,2 million in iraq, and iran prisons full with sunni and kurds more than 120,000 of them, there are 134,ooo prisoners in syria and more than 39,ooo in iraq priosns , tirtured daily
FK IRAN , FK THE SHIIAZIM, FK IRAQI SHIIA AND NORI AL HALEKI, FK AL KHOMINI AND SESTANI, FK BASHAR AL ASAD AND HIZBOALLAH, FK ALL TERRORISTS SHIIA THUGS, FK ALI AND HUSSAAIN AND ALJAFARI FK AL JALABI AND AL PAJAJI ,ALL OF YOU ARE IRAN PUPPETS....GET OUT OF USA TERRORISTS MUSLIMS
Good grief, are you a Tea Partier or what? If you hate the Iranians that much, please try to express it in civil English instead of that unsavory Tea Party lingo. In fact, most Americans do hate them as they were told to by the right-wing establishment on Capitol Hill.
الناشطون وصفوا الأسد بأنه حريص ويلغي ما يكتبه من صندوق الإرسال بشكل مستمر (وكالة الأنباء الأوروبية )
نشرت صحيفة ذي غارديان لائحة بأهم الشخصيات التي ورد ذكرها في ثلاثة آلاف رسالة إلكترونية حصلت عليها، والتي تقول الصحيفة إن جزءا كبيرا منها نسخ من البريد الإلكتروني للرئيس السوري بشار الأسد email@example.com. وتصف الصحيفة الشخصيات التي تبادلت الرسائل أو لها علاقة بهذا العنوان البريدي بأنها مجموعة صغيرة ولكنها متنفذة وهم كالتالي:
بشار الأسد: يقول الناشطون إن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد يستخدم اسم "سام" (Sam) كاسم حركي في مراسلاته عبر الإنترنت. وقد لاحظ الناشطون -الذين راقبوا هذا العنوان لشهور عديدة- أن صاحبه شديد الحذر ويتمتع بحس أمني عال، ويقوم بمسح الرسائل الصادرة سريعا.
أسماء الأسد: زوجة الرئيس السوري، وتستخدم بريدا إلكترونيا تحت عنوان firstname.lastname@example.org للمراسلة مع العنوان المذكور والحرفان الأولان يرمزان إلى عالية كيالي معلوف. وغالبا ما خاطب email@example.comصاحبة الحرفين AوK بعبارة "عزيزتي أسماء".
ويعتقد الناشطون أن عالية كيالي الحقيقية ليس لديها حق الدخول إلى العنوان، ولكنهم لاحظوا أيضا أن صاحب هذا الحساب لا يتخذ إجراءات أمنية عالية مثل صاحب الحساب "سام". وتصف الصحيفة المراسلات بين العنوانين البريديين أعلاه، بأنها تنم عن شخصين يرتبطان بعلاقة زواج، ولكن علاقتهما ترزح تحت وطأة ضغط العمل الشديد، ولكن على أي حال فإن المراسلات بين الطرفين لا تنم عن اكتراث بالعنف الدموي الذي يجتاح سوريا.
شهرزاد الجعفري: ابنة السفير السوري لدى الأمم المتحدة، وهي في بداية العشرينيات من عمرها. ويعتقد أن الجعفري وبعد تخرجها من الجامعة في الولايات المتحدة، عملت متدربة في مؤسسة براون لويد للعلاقات العامة في نيويورك بالولايات المتحدة. وبعد عودة الجعفري إلى دمشق، سرعان ما أصبحت من المقربين من الأسد وأعلى مستشاريه الإعلاميين.
ويقول زملاؤها في مؤسسة براون إنها استمرت في التواصل معهم، واستخدمت علاقاتها مع المؤسسة لتحصل على ثقة الأسد كشخصية لها خبرة في مجال العلاقات العامة. إلا أن إحدى الرسائل التي تبادلتها الجعفري مع مسؤول رفيع المستوى في المؤسسة أظهرت دعمه للجعفري والأسد، ولكن المؤسسة بررت ذلك بأن كلمات المسؤول لم تكن سوى كلمات تشجيع لمتدربة سابقة في المؤسسة، وهي لا تعني دعما للأسد.
هديل العلي: مستشارة صحفية إلى جانب الجعفري، وتتمتع بحظوة لدى الأسد وتأخذ على عاتقها كتابة تقارير عن الصحف اليومية وطريقة تعاملها مع الشأن السوري، ووقع خطابات الأسد على المناصرين، بالإضافة الى تأمين إيصال طلبات مقابلة الأسد من صحفيين يعتبرون مقبولين لدى النظام.
لونة الشبل: مذيعة سابقة في قناة الجزيرة. تقدم دعما قويا للأسد وقد تكون من أشد المطالبين بانتهاج أسلوب متشدد إلى أكثر حد مع المعارضين السوريين. كما تقدم المشورة بشأن كيفية إبقاء الانتفاضة تحت السيطرة.
خالد أحمد: أحد اللاعبين الأساسيين في المراسلات، ويقوم بتقديم تقييمات منتظمة عن الوضع المتردي في حمص. وهو مكلف بمهام إشرافية بوصفه مسؤولا سابقا في المنطقة التي تضم حمص. ويعتقد أن لأحمد صلات بالحزب القومي الاشتراكي السوري الذي ظل ومليشياته لمدة أربعين عاما من أشد المناصرين للنظام السوري. ويردد خالد رواية النظام أن هناك إرهابيين إسلاميين مدعومين من الخارج يحركون الانتفاضة السورية.
حسين مرتضى: رئيس قناة العالم التلفزيونية الإيرانية، ويتمتع مرتضى بصلات قوية بإيران وحزب الله ويقدم النصائح والمشورة للأسد بشكل مستمر، ويدعي في مراسلاته مع "سام" بأن ما يقوله يمثل وجهة نظر إيران وحزب الله. ويعتبر مرتضى عنصرا رئيسيا في تسويق رواية النظام عن ما يجري في سوريا.
They have not won yet Iran, because they have not got the bomb yet. Iran had no intention of the letting the USA leave Iraq, that is what bogged down means. Assad is having a party why because no state sponsorship of the insurgents, the US does not have a party in Iraq and Afghanistan why state sponsorship of the enemy. It is a clear contrast.
Anyway Iran was meant to have the bomb by 2009 and in 2007 the US had no choice but to expand the war, Iran did not back down because of the threat of war, they saw it in their interest to do so, there interest was to have a bomb in 2009. In 2007 they did not now if we were bluffing about Qum or we really knew.
That is why covert operations were ratchet up from 2007, once Qum was outed they tried to get the US troops back onto the streets in Iraq, I told straight up that was never going to happen, also the PRC and Russia investment, which could only occur with stability. If the US was not going back onto the streets and Iran pushed it too far and lost control then the PRC and Russia would lose their investments in Iraq. And they would show there displeasure at the UNSC. They were caught in a pincer, we just had to hold our nerve, not panic and put sand on the boots, back on the streets, after what we saw in 2005 that was easy.
US troops in Iraq acted as human shields it was good for Iran, since the SOFA ended you have seen increased use of the Straits of Hormuz to protect the nuclear program. Because they lost the human shields. The ability to kill hundreds of US troops a month via proxy, the Straits of Hormuz forces them from indirectly involvement to direct involvement. Iran's preferred method is and has always been indirect actions.
So the real question is not over Iraq being taken over by Iran that was always going to happen, unless Iran was dealt with directly, it is not all beer and skittles, that is why they are trying to influence the Kurds. The real question over the Iraq war is the Iranian nuclear bomb, false intelligence on WMD's by Iranian puppets, US troops used as human shields to protect the Iranians from an Israel strike.
In that regard Iraq was a strategic failure for Iran, the US got out and Iran does not have the bomb. Iran will tell you different that they won because they have influence over the government. But that is not the issue, that is not why they bought a bunch of young men and women from the Mid West USA to the Mid East. Perceptions it is all perceptions.
That is what victory looks like, Bush and Cheney beat them, they got out of Iraq and left it in reasonable condition and did not allow Iran to build the bomb. That is why the Iranians are narky at the moment. The point is they cannot stop the US or Israel from bombing them, sure they can respond to an attack, they cannot deter one. That is the issue.
For the record we would have bomb them in 2007 and 2009 would have turned out much different the regime would have fallen. Iran is always getting lucky breaks.
Wow ! What a blog!
Best suggestion I can think of is to start off by separating religion from government. Governments are generally confused enough and have plenty of problems without the religious factor. Keep God, Allah, Buda, the Pope, or what have you in their churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, whatever, and let logical humans run nations. Goodness knows, just finding that is challenging enough!
The main thing Iraq needs to do is revalue their currency! Their currency the Iraqi Dinar is to low in value for the world to have any respect for their economy. They must revalue their currency to regain that respect!
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CNN U.S.: Sundays 10 a.m. & 1 p.m ET | CNN International: Find local times
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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