Thursday, June 22, 2006

Iran, I Ran So Far Away

I have an idea on how George Bush can weaken Iran's hand in the Middle East.
An immediate, precipitous pull-out from Iraq. The inevitable civil war is the last thing the Iranians want. Of course full scale civil war may be inevitable anyway. Our continuing presence there is buying Iran more time to determine which mad mullah will prove out, al-Sadr or al-Hakim (or whoever else has surfaced). Our troops are presently Iran's bulwark against regional instability. Of course, Cheney and Rumsfeld are still holding out hope for a permanent military presence in Iraq; watch how they lower their expectations of democracization long before they give up those military bases and oil contracts.

Asia Times Online's Spengler pointed out here that Iran, whatever it may say, has a vested interest in the U.S. succeeding in its nation building enterprise, leaving Shi'ites dominant and presumably open to Iranian influence.
Ahmadinejad's high profile, anti-Semitic bluster has been in no small part an attempt to place Iran (and himself, perhaps to the dismay of the ruling clerics who reserve international policy for themselves) at the apex of a newly revolutionary and anti-Western ummah. He has made remarkable headway among the mostly Sunni populations of the region for his fiery bombast. He threatens to unite Shia and Sunni in an new Islamic revolution. I don't think it's likely; these guys take their sectarian differences a little more seriously than that.

Forcing Iran to either enter the civil war on behalf of a Shia faction and become natio non grata with its Sunni neighbors (or worse), or try its hand at occupation, or sit still and watch its influence dwindle away in the chaos ensures a weakened Iranian state, already under pressure from within.
The situation as it is may not be the boon to Iran that it should be after all; it seems the Shi'ites are already starting to break up into factions as they anticipate an American withdrawal, from The Australian:

In an exclusive interview with The Australian, former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has given a gloomy assessment of the situation.
"The British used to make a big deal of walking around in their berets in the south," he said. "Now they won't even go to the latrines without their helmets. The south has got much rougher, it's mainly Shia on Shia violence."
Of course, the increased bloodshed that almost certainly will follow our departure is still on our hands. We set this all in motion through classic imperial overreach. Something to remember when someone says time to get out and leave this mess to the Iraqis. The tragedy is that we will almost certainly have to do just that, after it becomes clear that our remaining is the greater evil. That clariy is just about upon us.

Leon Hadar has been arguing for a while now that we need to sit down with Iran for comprehensive negotiations beyond the nuclear issue. Wouldn't it have just been easier to leave Iraq be and sit down with Iran when they were reaching out previous to the Iraq war? (sullen leadership responds with dirty look) Just asking.

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