The argument whether or not to endorse George W Bush’s plan and send more troops to Iraq, hinges on the idea – extolled this morning by Cheney on Fox, and McCain on NBC – that any phased withdrawal from Iraq would be catastrophic because it would increase Iranian influence in the region and support bin Laden’s view that Americans had no stomach for the fight.
Such a notion is only viable if a) increased Iranian influence in the region will lead to more instability, and aggression towards the West, and b) if anyone gives a tinker’s cuss what bin Laden really believes.
The issue of Iran has been hyped beyond belief by this administration. Certainly, Ahmadinejad is no friend of America, but then if he were he would hardly be welcome in his own country, given the long-standing, aggressive, US stance towards that nation. Post 9/11 rumors of a link between Iran and the al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attacks resulted from confessions we now know to have been extracted under torture and are implausible, given that neither (Shia) Iran and (Shia) Hezbollah have ever indicated any open support for al Qaeda. Though this present administration would have us think otherwise.
Certainly, the (Sunni) Saudis are concerned about a more influential Iran, to the extent they have threatened to support the Sunni insurgency in Iraq if the US were to begin withdrawing troops. It begs the question: is George W Bush defying his people and the majority of his government over this issue because he is convinced his troop “surge” is in America’s interests, or those of his mentor, Saudi Arabia.
From an article in the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram recently, Salah Hemeid writes:
“Earlier this month more than 30 prominent Saudi Islamic clerics called on Sunni Muslims around the Middle East to support their brethren in Iraq against Shias. The clerics said: “what has been taken by force can only be regained by force,” a clear reference to increasing Shia control of Iraq.”
While Hemeid points out at some length the possibility of a Shia uprising throughout the Middle East if Iran achieves key-player status in Iraq, one gets the impression of a somewhat premature Sunni nervousness. Egypt is a Sunni nation but with strong Shia leanings, having been founded on a Shia base. Hemeid may be overly cautious.
Certainly a (Shia) Iraq banded with (Shia) Iran and Syria could be construed as a threat on (Sunni) Saudi’s borders, but this was bound to happen one day, anyway. Saddam would not have ruled forever, and on his demise the infighting would likely have proved as bad as it is today – even without the interference of the United States and Britain.
So why then is George W Bush defying his people and his government to increase troop numbers, rather than withdrawing and leaving the region to sort out its own problems? What is so important that he is prepared to risk more American lives in order to gain further control in Baghdad?
There can be only two answers: Israel – and oil.
If a stable future for the region was at the forefront of George W Bush’s mind, he would instigate the proposals of the Iraq Study Group by beginning political dialogue with Iran and Syria, phasing in a gradual withdrawal of US troops, and turning his attention to solving the Israeli/Palestinian issue once and for all. By those actions, he would be seen as a mentor in the region rather than an aggressor. It would involve squaring up to the strong Jewish lobby in Washington who have no wish to see an Israeli/Palestinian settlement, but even if he was not totally successful, history and the Arabs might well forgive him for his previous Iraqi blunders.
Of course, that’s not going to happen. The reason, apart from subjugation to the Israel lobby, is Iraqi oil.
Sparrow Chat reported recently that behind the back’s of ordinary Iraqis, Maliki’s government is pushing through a US-drafted bill that will effectively hand over control of the Iraqi oilfields to US interests. Those interests need a stable Iraq, or at least one so militarily strangled that any insurgency can be effectively stifled.
If the Iranians gain control of Iraq they are unlikely to allow the US to walk away with the oil, and more Iranian influence in the region is seen as directly against Israel’s interests. Ahmadinejad has already proclaimed he will wipe that nation from the face of the earth. Although such political utterances can seem drastic and sweeping, in reality the Iranian president’s statement was nothing more than a counter to George W Bush’s declaration of his “Axis of Evil”.
An upsurge in Iranian influence would undoubtedly pressure Israel to settle the Palestinian issue if it ever wishes to have any peace within its own, still unresolved, boundaries. Admittedly, Palestinians are Sunni in the majority – Hamas and the PLO are both Sunni organizations – but as was shown only recently in Israel’s abortive war with Lebanon over (Shia) Hezbollah, when it comes to a crunch – they are all Arabs together.
That is one fact George W Bush would do well to remember.
Filed under: Mis-calculations