In an ambush about 12 miles west of Mahmoudiya this morning, five were left dead and three missing among a patrol of U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. Despite the military's best efforts, the three missing soldiers' whereabouts are still unknown. This is yet another tragedy in the ongoing larger-scale tragedy that is the war in Iraq.
In other news today, Vice President Dick Cheney visited the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah in an effort to gain support for the war. The king, who gave Bush much support in the beginning of the war has now declared the U.S. troops in Iraq as being an "illegal foreign occupation".
Also, Abdullah has criticized Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq and refused to see him on his tour for support around the Middle East. Prime Minister al-Maliki is a Shiite leader while King Abdullah is Sunni. There has been much tension over these differences throughout the Middle East and it has turned one of Bush's strongest allies against the war.
King Abdullah is the leader of the most oil-rich nation in the world and also head of a primarily Sunni culture. Iraq is led by a Shiite leader and holds possibly the second largest natural reserves of oil in the world. It is no wonder that Abdullah's support has dwindled to criticism when it looks like an economic competitor is run by a Shiite leader. And the thought of Iraq siding with Iran is too much to bear.
Despite the highly unlikely possibility that Iraq will somehow form a vigilante alliance against the west in oil exportation, one thing remains certain; that oil is a primary factor in the Iraq equation as well as the sectarian differences between Sunnis and Shiites. The Sunnis, who control most of the Middle East (Saddam was Sunni), would like to see Iraq stay ethnically allied with them against neighboring Shiite Iran. The Shiites in Iraq believe that now is their time to represent themselves from the ashes of oppression but face overwhelming challenges ahead.
The real question here is whether or not the Middle East is willing to compromise and allow both sects to rule democratically in the new nation of Iraq? More importantly--are the Iraqis? In such a sensitive geopolitical and religious environment, that Utopian democracy Bush envisioned might be a little too far out of reach. The best strategy for Iraq at this point is to pull the U.S. troops out of the country, assist diplomatically and allow Iraq to be run by Iraqis. Foreign policy should not become domestic policy. But do our leaders have what it takes to bring our troops home and let Iraq go or are we trapped in the oil?