Friday, July 22, 2005

Iraq: What You're Likely to Get for Your Blood And Tax DollarsIraq.gif

Two very good articles out this week. The first by Seymour Hersh, Get Out the Vote: Did Washington Try to Manipulate Iraq's Election? Hersh takes us back to the much vaunted election back in January of this year and lays out how it would seem to appear that we managed to spill a lot of money into the election process specifically to sway an outcome that we wanted. Well, really, it would indeed be embarrassing to find that we didn't get what we wanted after all that effort, but what's really ironic is even after all that money was spent we still didn't get a result that was favorable to us --- a Kurdish prime minister elect was not in the cards. Hersh's main point is that we went in to bring freedom and democracy, but we really didn't want true democracy as that wouldn't work out in our favor, which is why we were trying to sway the vote. Hersh touches on the fact that more and more of Iraq is moving in the direction of Iran; now who would have thought THAT could occur? Well, I suppose any political science undergraduate with a smattering of Middle Eastern history under his/her belt would, but I digress ...

Then there's Peter W. Galbraith's article in the New York Review of Books, Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic. Galbraith deals much more specifically with where things are going in Iraq vis-a-vis the Iranians. Basically it would seem it's all a matter of time before the Iranians have a new little brother to the west. Already the Iraqi government has apologized for the Iran-Iraq war, which, as Galbraith points out, on the whole may well be historically correct --- though the Iranians have the war years '82 through '88 to take the blame for --- but the Sunni minority were infuriated that an apology was made; the Iraqi government recently established a defense agreement with the Iranians; and there's recently been an agreement to run an Iraqi oil pipeline through Iranian territory into the Persian Gulf, something inconceivable during Sadaam's time. Lastly, but no less significantly, there's now talk about the new Iraqi constitution curbing women's rights and restricting certain freedoms (NY Times - Iraqi Constitution May Curb Women's Rights.)

In addition two Sunnis involved in writing the new Iraqi Constitution were recently gunned down (NY Times - 2 Sunnis at Work on Constitution Are Shot Dead in Car in Baghdad). The Sunnis were the more secular of the participants in Constitution building, with a greater inclination to sustain the secularism that dominanted Iraqi life during the time of Sadaam. The Shiites, on the opposite hand, are inclined to build a Constitution that is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, which would make Iraq's government very similar to Iran's.

So what's our blood and money, not to mention Iraqi blood and money, likely to buy when the final bill of goods is laid out for all to see? Here's what I prognosticate:

1. A country that at best will be divided three ways, with Shiites (about 55% of the population) in the south with 80% of the Iraqi oil reserves. The Shiites have no love for the U.S. - as far as they're concerned out invasion this time made up for the one we didn't do back during Gulf War I, and for which they were killed in large numbers when they believed that Bush I was going to support them when they rose up against Sadaam. Iran, though, has consistently been their friend and supported them when it was possible to do so; who do you think they'll be getting cozy with in the coming years?

The Kurds (about 20% of the population) will take over the north of Iraq, with 20% of the countries oil reserves going to them. Ultimately they will likely try to form their own country, but for the short term they'll be happy with semi-autonomy. They, too, have no great love for the U.S., for reasons similar to the Shiites, but they've been pissed on by so many in the world for so long they don't hold as much of a grudge as the Shiites do.The Sunnis (about 20% of the population) will continue to occupy the middle of the country, and continue fueling the insurgency against the U.S. and the Shiites. In the end it's not clear what they'll be left with, but their fortunes will likely be dramatically different from when they had it good under Sadaam.

2. Iran will be in a much stronger position in the world with a friend to its west that is largely populated by co-religionists who have some measure of gratitude in their hearts for the support the Iranians provided them. They, along with a good part of the Iraqis, will wait until the indigenous Iraqi government is strong enough to survive the insurgents, and a new node of power in the Middle East will arise as the Americans will be asked to leave.

3. If the Bush administration and the Pentagon strenuously take exception with the inclinations of the Iraqi government, or more aptly the majority of the Iraqi people, and Iran, we might well see another war in Iraq. This time, though, the insurgents we'd be fighting would not be solely Sunnis, but well-armed and trained Shiites, and quite possibly equally well-armed and even better trained Kurds as well. If you think we're having a hard time of it up to now, what's going on now would be a side show to what could potentially happen later.

The reason we're at this point? The hubris of the Bush administration, specifically with regard to a complete lack of understanding regarding what it was getting itself into and what it was going to need to do to extricate itself and actually leave something behind that was functional
and friendly to this country (note: I'm not in the least bit sure we could have gone in and left something functional and friendly to this country.) This is additionally exacerbated by a policy of deliberate belligerence to Iran --- indeed, Iran has its problems, as do we, and making nice nice after all these years would have taken some effort, but it's an effort that hasn't extended past our giving the Europeans a nod to use an invitation to the Iranians to join the WTO if they curtailed their nuclear efforts. This is unacceptable, and so shortsighted and fundamentally
idiotic it begs one to question what sort of ding-a-lings are running this show. Hold it, hold it,
maybe the same ones that went into Iraq thinking that they'd dump some democracy on the country and we'd all live happily ever after --- major "duh" epiphany here! To think that we'd take a major incursion next door to Iran, into a country where 60% of the people are co-religionists to the Iranians (you see, that's the other part of the problem here, in this country we don't seem to get the fact that religion drives things in this part of the world), and not expect the Iranians to actively working in their own interests, and then not try to make peace with Iran so maybe we could all meet somewhere in the middle, is totally mind blowing. But here's the hubris part in spades: We're more clever than the Iranians, we're more powerful, of course we'll have our way; who cares that the Iranians have been playing games in this part of the world for over 2,000 years.

The Iranians tried for 8 years to get to Sadaam --- we did it for them. The Iranians wanted an apology from Iraq (badly, I mean they REALLY wanted an apology, you'd be surprised to what degree Iranians and their seeing themselves wronged in the war with Iraq is such a factor in relations here) --- thanks to us and a newly elected Kurdish prime minister, they have one. The
Iranians wanted to feel safe along their border with Iraq --- when we're gone, and thanks to us, they will be. The Iranians want to spread the Islamic Revolution begun with Khomeini throughout the region --- thanks to us they now have their foot in the door in Iraq. The Iranians wanted unfettered access to their holy cities in Najaf and Karballa --- thanks to us they do. The Irony of it all is that they have G.W. Bush, the man who held them up as member number 2 in the axis of evil, to thank for all of this, as well as you and me, the American taxpayer, and our sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who are spilling their blood in the effort for "Iraqi Freedom and Democracy".

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