Wednesday :: Sep 8, 2004

Welcome to the Madhouse

by larre

Downthread, Steve Soto quite rightly excoriates Rumsfeld's war drum beating against Iran today.

"Iran is a country that is not part of the civilized world in terms of its behavior," the Secretary of Defense is quoted in some wire dispatches as saying. He added, with no hint of irony or self-recognition, "When you have countries of the world that are not willing to participate in an organised effort to try to persuade a country to behave in a civilised way, it encourages them simply to continue on its merry way."

Why would Rumsfeld utter such a provocative statement? The answer isn't what Steve or you may think. I now doubt that the Bush administration could be planning another "preemptive war" -- not, at least, so long as there is one sane mind left in the White House.

George W. Bush's policies have so weakened us that the only realistic weapon we have left to use against our enemies is Donald Rumsfeld's razor tongue and George Bush's battering-ram skull. Beyond that, the chickenhawk brigade would have to be sent into the fight.

The secretary's bellicose remarks came just one day after The Christian Science Monitor summarized a number of new Iraq analyses around the world. None of them is good and almost all of them end up concluding the hard-liners in Iran are in a stronger position than ever before.

Welcome to the madhouse that is the Bush administration's foreign policy. Here, the weight of international opinion is ignored, preemptive war is waged thousands of miles from home, neighboring countries are destabilized, our soldiers are sent to their deaths daily, our troops are exhausted, and the world's good will is squandered -- all to unseat an aged tinpot dictator with no weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq war that Bush Administration advisor and John Bolton mouthpiece, David Wurmser , predicted just a year ago would "remove the Iranian mullahs' most powerful claim to legitimacy" has instead given a historic boost to the crazed clerics of Iran. Under cover of our invasion of Iraq, they've been able to stifle the Iranian democratic reform movement and are on the threshhold of aiming nuclear weapons at us -- and there's not much we can do about it except unleash Mr. Rumsfeld's mouth.

As concluded in the Carnegie Endowment's July report titled Iran: Time for a New Approach, 'No longer chastened by fears of Washington expanding its program of regime change, Iranian hard-liners are already asserting a newly reborn confidence that could easily tend toward greater audacity on the international scene.'

The Christian Science Monitor gives prime space to last week's 26-page Chatham House report titled Iraq in Transition . That report, like the Carnegie Endowment analysis, essentially identifies three potential outcomes for Iraq, two of which would be terrible for U.S. interests and one of which they view as an unlikely continuation of the present muddle. The most likely scenario of all, they conclude, is an Iraqi civil war and a fragmentation of the Middle East that will destabilze the entire region for generations to come.

All three scenarios hold promise for Iran to become the dominant influence in that part of the Middle East.

The Chatham House, also known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, long has been one of the world's foremost analytical resources in global affairs, offering knowledgeable, well informed, incisive, nonpartisan, and thorough policy papers. "Iraq in Transition" continues that tradition. But it isn't going to comfort anyone this side of al Qaeda.

The only three outcomes they see growing out of the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq are --

1. Fragmentation: [This] represents what will happen if competing elements and interests in Iraq fail to cohere under the new interim government and the combined efforts of the IIG, the US forces and UN personnel prove powerless to reverse the trend. * * * On the whole the Iranian state will benefit from the fragmentation of Iraq for the simple reason that in geopolitical terms it will no longer have a viable rival on its Western border. If Iraq fragments into separate states...Iran's influence in both cultural and economic terms is likely to increase. * * *

2. The "Holding Together" Scenario represents what will happen if the interim government proves inclusive and effective enough to keep the Shi'a majority, the Sunni Arab minority, secular nationalists, tribal elders and the Kurdish leaders more or less on board. A critical mass of people prepared to work with the interim government for the sake of avoiding fragmentation is secured. No one will be very happy, but no one will monopolize power either.

Essentially this scenario represents the best the United States can hope for, and will require a trade-off between the level of control that the US is able to exercise in Iraq, the powers of the IIG and the involvement of the wider international community.
* * *
Few in Iran believe this is a realistic outcome, however.

3. The Regional Remake Scenario could take over from either of the other two if the regional dynamics unleashed by intervention in Iraq overtake not just Iraq but the regional state system. * * * If Iraq fragments it is increasingly likely that Iran will intervene both culturally and economically Iran will seek to protect its interests among both the Kurds and the Shi’a, supporting those groups which it feels will optimize its position. Iran will seek as far as possible not to become directly involved militarily, preferring to use proxies, but if other regional powers begin to intervene militarily, then it is possible that Iran will, albeit cautiously, relocate troops across the border – if for no other reason than to protect its borders and contain the flow of refugees.

The report concludes that --

If the Holding Together scenario produces a Shi'adominated democracy with Kurdish autonomy, both Shi'a and Kurds will be emboldened elsewhere and some governments may seek to derail the experiment. If Iraq holds together only by perpetuating the position of the various militia in different parts of the country they could serve as a conduit for external interference. And if Iraq fragments, then the neighbors cannot but become involved. In any event, this would presage the potential unravelling of the state system that has been in place since the 1920s, and the US intervention in Iraq would indeed have triggered a transformation of the region -- albeit clearly not the one hoped for under the US democratization agenda

* * *
Overall, in all three scenarios, there is likely to be cause for anger and frustration to intensify across the Muslim world, leading to further radicalization, though not dominance, of the Islamist political groups. Attacks on Western targets can be expected to continue.

So just who does our insane Iraq war policy benefit? The "Iranian neocons," in the Carnegie Foundation's phrase.

For these people, anarchy in Iraq is not only an economic opportunity; it is a political necessity inasmuch as it keeps America preoccupied and away from Iran. Furthermore, with the difficulties mounting in Iraq, some actually see an opportunity to inflict a defeat on the United States and seize the moral leadership of the Islamic world. Any scenario in which Iraq remains unstable will help conservative authoritarians within Iran to justify their tough grip on the country. Arguably a dynamic exists in which conservative authoritarians have a vested interest in continued instability within Iraq, as a means of both keeping the US preoccupied and justifying further repression at home. The growing Salafi movement, the US neo-cons and the Iranian revolutionary radicals could all fuel the fire of continued instability... .

George Perkovich, a Carnegie Endowment Iran specialist, in press interviews has summarized it all with depressing precision:

"What's happened is the U.S. has gotten bogged down in Iraq... .And so the Iranian bad guys look at it and say, 'If we think the Americans are going to come after us, we'll kill a lot of Americans in Iraq. We'll make Iraq such a mess for the Americans, they'll never leave in order to then come to Iran.'"

It's come to this: George W. Bush's administration has remade the United States into precisely the poor, pitiful giant that another crooked president, Richard Nixon, warned us about.

larre :: 10:03 AM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!