Thursday, February 15, 2007

Once More Into the Breach

Ray Takeyh and I with our wonderfully optimistic appraisal of the situation facing the United States in the Middle East and the need for hard choices. In today's Financial Times (but also available in full courtesy of CFR.

Great article. My, you've gone sarcastic!

Talabani's son is in the Boston Globe today with another tough choice -- stressing an American guarantee on Kurdistan even if we dash out of Baghdad.

It seems to me that American support of totalitarian and secular(-acting) Middle East regimes was one of the main catalysts for al Qaeda. I think it is safe to say that reverting to a strategy from the 1980s with a mess in Palestine and Iraq far greater than what happened in Afghanistan (and with that country up for grades) we should anticipate even greater problems than the horror of our recent past.
A Shia-dominated Iraq will not carry American water vis-à-vis Iran, Lebanon or Israel —but Iraq’s Shia also have no wish to become Iranian satellites. Indeed, many Shia movements in the region are not implacably anti-American. It is only the perception that the US seeks to marginalise the Shia at all costs which has, in the past, forged the idea of a hostile Shia crescent.

To my non-expert ears, it's strange to hear someone say that a Shia-dominated Iraq would not ultimately be under the sway of Iran. Where would money for reconstruction come from? The Maliki government has already entered into agreements with Iran for oil development, agriculture and the like. That is to say, even if the Iraqi Shia do not wish to become Iran's client, how can they resist? It would seem to me that the U.S. would have to display more adroitness than it has up until now to ensure a Shiite Iraq did not fall into Iran's orbit.

By the way, your FT link is broken.

Nikolas - It isn't clear to me that the Shias could win a civil war even with our support. Half of the Iraqi army is AWOL and the rest won't leave their home provinces to deploy elsewhere.

If civil war intensifies (with or without our help to one side), and the violence doesn't end quickly, stronger support for the Sunnis will come from Saudi Arabia and other states. The Taliban could also get more backing from Sunni Arabs to turn Afghanistan against Iran. I wouldn't put it past the Saudis to use the oil weapon if we openly back a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Iraq.

The one strategy that we still have the leverage to pursue is to offer to evacuate civilians to safe areas. There could still be one final democratic election in Iraq, this time one in which people have the chance to vote with their feet.
It's an interesting idea--but it's also one that the Saudis will never abide. They've sworn to intervene on behalf of the Sunnis--and to some extent they already have. A lot of the money going towards the Sunni terrorists came from Saudi Arabia.
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