Last week, just two days before the U.S. presidential election, Robert Kaplan predicted in a LAT op-ed that if Obama is elected, there will be “a measurable uptick in violence in Iraq”:
The uptick will be significant enough to muddy the results of the surge, and the president-elect, rather than respond vigorously, will be tempted to say ‘I told you so’ and thus win the Iraq debate with his Republican critics. The upturn in violence, he will be tempted to argue, only means we need to get out of Iraq even faster.
Kaplan supported the 2003 invasion (although he now regrets it), and he has been an early proponent for rehabilitating Donald Rumsfeld. Still, judging by news reports from Baghdad, his prediction turns out to be not altogether wrong. According to LAT:
Since Monday, according to police statistics, roadside bombs, car bombs and suicide bombers wearing explosive belts have killed 58 people in the capital. Deaths elsewhere included two Christian women who police said were killed by unidentified gunmen in the northern city of Mosul, where Christians say they have been caught in the middle of a war for power between Kurds and Arabs.
The explanation? “We’re in the post-Ramadan, pre-provincial election, post-U.S. election season,” says Army Brig. Gen. William Grimsley, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad.
I’m a pessimist, but for once I’m not inclined to read too much into this. I certainly wouldn’t call the violence an “insurgent comeback”. And I think the attacks have more to do with pre-election power struggles and the continuing SOFA negotiations than Obama’s victory. I would also be surprised to see a knee-jerk, “I told ya so” reaction from the preternaturally calm president-elect.