Staying on in Iraq: An Inconvenient Truth

The Democrats have an al Qaeda problem. As they beat the GOP bushes for votes against the war, intelligence showing a healthy al Qaeda presence growing ever stronger in Iraq could turn the current war debate on its head. According to an Associated Press report today, al Qaeda will "likely leverage its contacts and capabilities in Iraq to mount an attack on U.S. soil, according to a new National Intelligence Estimate."

War opponents can make a case that the terrorist network hardly existed in Iraq before we invaded and that sectarian strife remains the worst threat to security there. But you can't fight apples with oranges — even if the al Qaeda threat takes a back seat to the civil war in Iraq, it remains a threat to our national security nonetheless. Not only may there be no hope of a political solution to sectarian violence there, but are we to expect a stronger effort by the Maliki government could possibly quell a burgeoning al Qaeda?

At a time when most Americans oppose the war and a growing majority in the U.S. Congress — albeit not a veto-proof one — seeks a withdrawal or redeployment from Iraq, this is an inconvenient fact to face. Yet the threat of Iran's influence in Iraq, of Turkey's troops poised at the border, of the strength of Hezbollah and of Hamas, make leaving Iraq a frightening thought.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who just returned from Iraq to enter what could be the final stages of his presidential campaign, said he saw firsthand that Gen. David Petraeus has — with the full surge of troops — been able to begin beating back al Qaeda's foothold in Iraq. More news of a looming threat at home will have a direct link to how many defections there are in September, when everyone expects McCain and President Bush will finally be left all alone. On the contrary, by then Bush and McCain could actually be right.



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