Break-Up of Iraq Threatens Mideast Stability
Mahmudiyah Bombing Kills, wounds Dozens
The Guardian reported Saturday on the 8 options for Iraq allegedly being considered by the Bush administration:
1. British out now. This is possible, but as the events in Amara on Friday show, will be attended by instability.
2. US and Coalition troops out now: ‘ “We could pull out now and leave them to their fate,” a [British] Foreign Office official said. “But the place could implode.” ‘
3. Phased withdrawal. (Can be easily derailed by events.)
4. Talk to Iran and Syria.
5. Remove Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in favor of a strongman. (Iyad Allawi, the CIA asset and former Baathist thug has been mentioned.)
6. Break-up of Iraq
7. A US retreat to super-bases.
8. One last push.
The most promising thing on the list is talking to Syria and Iran, but apparently even that would be done not by the US but indirectly. I’m not sure indirect contacts are enough. I’m sorry that a continuous and inexorable phased withdrawal of US troops is not on the list. It could be done by making a rule that once the US force level falls to level X, it cannot again exceed that number no matter what. Otherwise, I don’t see anything on this list that will help the situation much less resolve it. No. 8, “one last push” is the stupidest and most dangerous tactic of all.
Liz Sly reports on how the prospect of an ethnic and religious partition of Iraq terrifies local Middle Eastern elites, who fear the consequences for other Middle Eastern countries. Ethnically diverse Syria could go in the same direction. Or south Lebanon could become a Shiite mini-state. Sly quotes Syrian President Bashar al-Asad:
‘ “Imagine a necklace that breaks and all the pearls fall to the ground,” he told the German magazine. “Almost all countries have breaking points, and when the ethnic-religious break occurs in one country it will not fail to occur elsewhere too. It would be as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, only much worse. Large wars, small wars: No one will be able to get a grip on the consequences.” ‘
She also quote International Crisis Group project director Joost Hiltermann,
“there is also a risk that neighboring states will seek to pursue their own agendas and turn the country into a regional battleground, said Joost Hiltermann . . . “We’ll have a replay of the Iran-Iraq War between the Iranians and the Arab states over what’s left of Iraq,” he said. And for a part of the world whose borders were drawn less than a century ago by British and French administrators, the consequences could indeed be dire, Hiltermann warned. “Everything here is new, a century old. The system has endured, but once it comes unstuck, anything can be challenged,” he said. “It’s madness, but if Iraq falls apart madness will rule the day.” ‘
If Americans think that these sorts of big changes in the Middle East will leave them unaffected, they have another think coming.
Sunni Arab guerrillas killed three Marines in al-Anbar province on Saturday, bringing the October death toll for US troops to 78.
Five cycle bombs in Mahmudiyah south of Baghdad targeted markets busy with shoppers preparing for the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast (Id al-Fitr), killing at least 20 and wounding 50. Another bomb hit a bus of shoppers returning from Baghdad, killing 4 and wounding 15.
The Mecca Declaration, a joint ruling of Shiite and Sunni clerics from Iraq, forbidding a Muslim to shed the blood of another Muslim, is in danger of going unheeded, according to close analysts of the region.
Be that as it may, the declaration is historic. According to al-Sharq al-Awsat [Ar.], it maintains that the differences between Sunnis and Shiites are a matter of personal interpretation (ta’wil), not a difference over basic principles (usul). To have such a declaration sponsored by Saudi Arabia, which adheres to the Wahhabi branch of Islam that was historically negative toward Shiites is a conceptual revolution. The statement has implications for Sunni-Shiite relations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.– not just in Iraq.
Events in Iraq demonstrated that Western Powers could use the Sunni-Shiite divide to help overthrow governments, dominate major countries in the region, and even break up whole countries. The regional elites are increasingly deciding that Sunni-Shiite ecumenism is necessary to avoid more of these disasters.
Saudi investors are eyeing Iraq after the passage of an Iraqi law on foreign investments.
Atrios on Yglesias on the illogicality of the US partitioning Iraq. Only, Muqtada al-Sadr is against partition and is a strong Iraqi nationalist albeit with a Shiite tinge.