Monday, November 27, 2006

It doesn't matter anyhow

Here's an interesting report from the World Tribune. "The future of the Middle East, certainly the future of Lebanon may well be decided in the next several days," U.S. envoy to the United Nations John Bolton told BBC radio. "A successful re-emergence of democracy there is being directly challenged by the terrorist Hizbullah and those who support them, Syria, Iran and others." The report continues:

The U.S. dilemma is whether or not to provide up to $200 million in military aid to Lebanon over the next year. Officials said the State Department intends to determine the stability of the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora before the aid is sent to Beirut, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the assassination of Trade Minister Pierre Gemayel and the resulting unrest could lead to a delay in U.S. weapons to Lebanon. "The nightmare is that we help build a military that is taken over by Hizbullah or Syria," an official said.

Senator Chuck Hagel doesn't think power shifts within Middle Eastern countries will have any impact on the US national security at all. Recently he wrote in the Washington Post that:

There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans. Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

There is one word that never appears in Hagel's opinion piece at all: Iran. There is another word which appears only in a positive context: Syria.

There will be a new center of gravity in the Middle East that will include Iraq. That process began over the past few days with the Syrians and Iraqis restoring diplomatic relations after 20 years of having no formal communication. What does this tell us? It tells us that regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest -- without the United States. This is the most encouraging set of actions for the Middle East in years. The Middle East is more combustible today than ever before, and until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.

Does Hagel's phrase "regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest -- without the United States" mean what I think it does? A euphemism for the policy of abandoning Iraq and then Lebanon to the hegemony of Syria and Iran without fear of any consequences? Bolton may be wrong about the future of Lebanon being decided in the next several days. Maybe that decision has been taken already.

15 Comments:

Blogger tommy said...

So, that's it then. Pity Lebanon. Pity Iraq. Pity the US in ten years. It's much more important to get re-elected; and better to reign in hell...

11/27/2006 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Wu Wei said...

> The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans.

Very true. That is what we always said, that we were going to give the Iraqis a democracy, and then leave. Unless we occupy and controlled Iraq forever, it is inevitable that they will choose their own future.

Neither Iran or Syria is controlling Iraq either. It is clear that the Iraqi groups are in control and are just using Iran & Syria as tools.

As for Lebanon, it too will decide its own future. The only way Lebanon can be free of Hezbollah is for a significant part of the country to resist them with force. Israel bombed Hezbollah and sent troops into Lebanese territory, but no one in Lebanon joined their side to try to push Hezbollah out.

11/27/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Abdullah will bend the Bush ear, you can bet.

11/27/2006 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger istarious said...

Buddy,

If that was true, then Abdullah has already done that. In which case, the incompetence in Iraq was deliberate from the start.

11/27/2006 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

How are we supposed to "scorn and shun" the same folks we are supposed to appease at the same time?

How are we supposed to "scorn and shun" people who have been screaming DEATH against us at the top of their lungs for over a generation?

How are we supposed to "scorn and shun" folks we haven't had diplomatic relations with for twenty-seven years?

Our policy makers may not see Iraq in terms of victory and defeat, but our enemies do. Winning military victories is important, but it is even more important not to betray those who actually believe in American promises. Betraying a friend to an enemy is a defeat, no matter how much perfume one puts on it.

11/27/2006 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

alexis,

re: scorn and shun

Not to worry, if worse comes to worst, we will use the option of nuclear scorning and shunning. That is to say, we will create on the enemy homeland a nuclear winter of stern communiques. Our motto, "Hem and Haw!"

11/27/2006 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wu wei wrote: Neither Iran or Syria is controlling Iraq either. It is clear that the Iraqi groups are in control and are just using Iran & Syria as tools.

Agreed. al-Sadr's concerns are more parochial than we may suppose.

reocon quoted: WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr.

Collaboration doesn't mean that they share the same ideological objectives, though. No matter how persuasive and palatable Iran's mullahs may be in their sales pitch regarding a Shia Crescent to the Iraqi Shiites, al-Sadr will not sacrifice his sovereign status in the country - not when he has Maliki twirled around his thumb, and the US forced to acquiesce in the horrifying legitimacy of it all.

Reminds me back in 1866 when Bismarck pursued the conception of a kleindeutschland of the North German Confederate instead of a grossdeutschland incorporating the Austrians: Bismarck feared that by bringing in the Austrians - even though both espoused German nationalism and had German-speaking majorities - the Prussians would cede not only their Junker class privileges to the Austrian Hapsburgs in the monarchy, but political and ethnic sovereignty as well. The Hapsburgs, not the Hohernzollern, would be seen as the champion of German nationalism.

al-Sadr wants to establish his Sadrist state within Iraq, and perhaps intends to claim all of the credit for ejecting the US out of the Middle East. No way is he going to let Iran steal the limelight by exploiting Iraq as another dispensable proxy state championing pan-Arabism.

11/27/2006 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger summignumi said...

Allen, get real, the only way a US prez would light a nuke any where in the world is if one went off on us and then only if they had concrete proof of the return address! The possibility of a Nuke going off here is higher now then back before the Nov Elections but it is still low, a nuke on US force abroad is likely to happen before something on the home turf, look for a pop off in the Persian Gulf, probably a carrier and support ships being vaporized, even then it may not rise to a sun shine visit in Iran even though they would be the immediate suspect if Iran made the trail point to NOKOR which of course would result in absolutely nothing happening if the Dem’s come out stronger willed in Congress, now if Ms. Hillary is elected you could possible see a Nuke delivery because actual fighting force will be a shell game as her Health care swallows up all the monies that would have kept the Military going. Eisenhower didn’t have the nerve to use Nukes what makes you thing any weak willed elitist narcissi would now? Get over the “superpower” illusion.

11/28/2006 01:01:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

...regional powers will fill regional vacuums, and they will move to work in their own self-interest -- without the United States.

Hegel is right, but not in the way he supposes, because Iraq is not a "regional power" in this equation. Iran is. And it is Iran, in concert with its proxy Hizbollah, and its putative ally Syria, which will fill the vacuum left by the United States.

Unfortunately for us and the Iraqi people, Iraq is a pawn in the proceedings. Prove it to yourselves by asking what are the chances of Iraq influencing Iran's political future. (Remember, this was once the hope of the now discredited neo-cons.) Now ask yourself what are the chances Iran will not influence, or rather come to dominate, Iraq's politics absent the United States' presence.

Harrison cites an American intelligence official who said "that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr." He then makes the claim (which I don't know how one could prove) that "No matter how persuasive and palatable Iran's mullahs may be in their sales pitch regarding a Shia Crescent to the Iraqi Shiites, al-Sadr will not sacrifice his sovereign status in the country..." Unless, of course, they make him an offer he cannot refuse.

Is anyone else beginning to feel like the proverbial frog sitting in a bucket of gradually warming water? Despite Chuck Hegel's confident asssertion to the contrary, what is happening in the Middle East is going to affect us. The only question is when we will notice. It seems we've already given up on Iraq and, maybe, Lebanon. Who will be next? Will we care or even notice? Maybe not, if only mere governments and people are involved, but what if oil goes to $200 a barrel? Surely that would have at least some impact on the US national security position.

Some smart intelligence analyst somewhere must surely be looking at a map of the Persian Gulf and be thinking the trend here doesn't look good. But then what business, really, is it of ours? The Persian Gulf wasn't named as it was for no reason. And if there is a gulf--or, as Hegel says, a vacuum--to be filled there, who better to do it than the Persians themselves?

11/28/2006 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

summignumi,

re: Allen, get real

Do you read what I wrote to Alexis? I think not; otherwise, you would have seen that the nuclear winter I referenced was caused by a blizzard of "paperwork." That is, the US and its allies will bury Iran under a mountain of jibberish.

Do you feel better, now?

11/28/2006 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sirius_sir wrote: Unless, of course, they make him an offer he cannot refuse.

I'm not arguing that the threat of Iran infringing and blatantly violating Iraqi sovereignty is not present. It is very real, potent and ominously foreboding.

What I'm saying is that al-Sadr may have other concerns that could prove to be more parochial at this point in time. He is more concerned with consolidating his power within Iraq, battling it out with Sunni death squads while manoeuvring his way through the carnage and jostle with Maliki - while trying to make his involvement in the government appear as legitimate as possible.

For all that, if he somehow manages to take over from Maliki and establish a Sadrist regime, would he simply allow Iran to treat it as a proxy state like Lebanon or the Palestinian territories? Is he a servile puppet like Assad?

Assad's regime, Syria's military funding and Hezbollah's by extension has been slowly and surreptitiously weaned away from any need for self-sufficiency onto purely Iranian funding. al-Sadr doesn't intend to submit to such servility and devolution as Assad has so clearly displayed.

As aforementioned, the prospect is by no means impossible, but I would think it a little less unlikely.

11/28/2006 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

summignumi,

re: illusions

If you read what I have written here, at the EB, and elsewhere, you will discover I harbor no illusions as to the quality of Western elite leadership. Once I thought that the WWI period (1880-1926) was possibly the most ill served by its leadership; however, it is possible we will discover the present epoch far worse.

Elephant Bar

11/28/2006 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger sirius_sir said...

Harrison, I take your points. In the short run, I'm sure your assessment of al-Sadr's position, plans, and aspirations is most likely something close to the truth. I'm concerned more with the long-term implications of what Iranian influence will do.

I'm sure al-Sadr is being cunning, careful, and ruthless in advancing his agenda. I'm just as convinced that the mullahs in Iran are good at their game, too. Is al-Sadr playing them? And if so, do we take them for fools? Personally, I don't think so. If I had to guess, I'd say al-Sadr is the useful idiot in this equation--and, true to form, like most useful idiots he has little appreciation for the fact that he is a mere cog in somebody else's machine.

11/28/2006 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Freudian Slip said...

I'm so sick of all the false promises made during an election year. You'd think the voters would wise up. Just feeling hopeless today...
Matt

11/28/2006 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sirius_sir wrote: Is al-Sadr playing them? And if so, do we take them for fools? Personally, I don't think so. If I had to guess, I'd say al-Sadr is the useful idiot in this equation.

I agree with your proposition of the long-term implications of Iranian influence oozing out of every pore of the Middle East being possible.

Either we're giving the mullahs and al-Sadr too little (or too much?) credit. Perhaps al-Sadr will find himself scrambling to save his own skin when he realises in horror that his fate entails becoming a spineless puppet like Assad.

Is al-Sadr a fool to ignore the prospect of a truly homogenous Persian Gulf as you suggest? Probably not - but the question that begs to be answered is: will he do anything about it?

11/28/2006 05:53:00 PM  

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