If You Build It ...
As the vote to ratify or reject the Iraqi constitution draws closer, different sides are taking their positions. From the Guardian: Iraq Sunnis Want Constitution Rejected
The local leaders from Iraq's insurgency-torn Anbar province, the country's Sunni heartland, gathered for a three-day conference ... held in the Jordanian capital for security reasons. ... "We urge all the Iraqi people to go to the polls and say no to the constitution," Sheik Abdul-Latif Himayem, a prominent cleric from the Anbar capital, Ramadi, who organized the conference, told The Associated Press. ... He accused the Shiite-led government of worsening the sectarian divide in Iraq by carrying out "unjustified" arrests in Anbar, where the insurgency has been centered.
And from the New York Times, a train going in the opposite direction. Senior Shiite Cleric Plans to Endorse Iraqi Constitution
Sept. 22 - Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, will issue a religious order for Shiites to vote in favor of the newly drafted constitution in a referendum planned for Oct. 15, one of his aides said today. ... Mr. Sistani's commands are followed by millions of Iraq's Shiites, and his order, if given, would increase the chances that the constitution will be approved.
The collision, according to the Saudis, may lead to an Iraqi civil war. Al Jazeera reports:
The (Saudi Foreign) minister said he did not believe the country was engulfed in full-scale civil war but the trend was moving in that direction. ... Asked what Saudi Arabia feared most about the trend, Saud said, "It will draw the countries of the region into conflict and that is the main worry of all the neighbours of Iraq". He referred specifically to Iran, which is backing and supplying Shia in Iraq, and to Turkey, which would not permit a separate Iraqi Kurdish state on its border.
After Operation Enduring Freedom drove the Taliban from Afghanistan some analysts asked why America chose Iraq, and not Saudi Arabia or Syria, for a regime takedown. For example, Jeffrey Sachs wrote in August, 2003:
Within hours of the attack, the White House apparently understood that senior Saudi intelligence officials were probably involved and that 15 out of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. They were no doubt stunned to realise that parts of the vast Saudi royal family were not only corrupt, but also deeply intertwined with anti-American terror and extremist fundamentalism. ... a substitute had to be found for the US military bases in Saudi Arabia. Like Saudi oil, the bases too were now under threat, especially because the US presence in the Saudi kingdom was known to be the principal irritant for al-Qaeda. ... the Bush White House needed to issue a powerful threat to the Saudi leadership: one more false step and you're finished. Attacking the next-door neighbour was no doubt judged to be quite persuasive.
But perhaps the strategic rationale for choosing Iraq versus Saudi Arabia consisted in that Iraq lay along a major fault line in the Muslim world, not simply with respect to religion, but in the case of the Kurds, ethnicity as well. It was the one place where America was guaranteed to find local allies whichever way it turned; it was the last place where the population could easily put aside their differences to oppose the United States. And if the objective were to set the region on its ears, here was the pillar in temple of Dagon around which everything could be sent crashing down. Or maybe President Bush just stuck a pin on the map and said, 'I think we'll find weapons of mass destruction here'.
However it began, OIF has unlocked forces that are rocking the foundations of the entire region. Saudi Arabia, for example, cannot but remember how the forces of an Iraqi state stopped just a few hours' drive away from its gleaming cities in 1990, with nothing but the 82nd Airborne Division between the Republican Guard and the Royal Palaces. Now they are torn, truly torn, between their sympathies for the Sunni insurgency and the cold knowledge of its probable consequences. The one thing Arab capitals may fear more than a continuing American presence in Iraq is the possibility of an American withdrawal. Ironically it is the Sunnis, their Syrian sponsors and their sympathizers in Saudi Arabia who have the most to gain from the establishment of a stable, constitutional and unitary Iraq, could they but nerve themselves to stand against the jihadi currents within their societies. Will they? Barbara Tuchman observed that history is often the field of folly, which she defines as the "pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest". And so it is.