Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Roads Left in Iraq

Tolerable or Awful: The Roads Left in Iraq - New York Times: "After 9/11, and the Arab Human Development Report detailing the increasingly dysfunctional Arab-Muslim world — which produces way too many terrorists — we had a real interest in collaborating with Iraqis to try to build one decent, progressive, democratizing society in the heart of the Arab East.

But to succeed we needed to establish a secure order in Iraq and prevent the murderous Sunni/Baathist attacks on Shiites. The “tolerable” outcome that might be self-sustaining and stable would require reshaping Iraq as a loose federation of predominantly Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni zones. To make even that work, though, would probably require cutting a new deal with Iran and its Iraqi Shiite clients, and Syria and its Sunni Baathist allies, and the Kurds. Iraq would retain a central government in Baghdad, but power and oil income would be more radically decentralized among the different sects. Democracy would be subordinated to stability.

Still, we’d need to give visas to Iraqis who wanted to flee the madness; we’d need to give a security umbrella to the Kurds, so that Syria, Turkey or Iran did not invade them if we left; and we’d need to protect Jordan from the spillover.

But there would be some strategic benefits. Syria would have to support the Sunnis in Iraq, and Iran would have to back the Shiites, so these two “allies” would be on opposite sides of the civil war. Iran would also have to manage the chaos in southern Iraq, particularly the Shiite militias, and this would be a permanent migraine for Tehran. U.S. troops would no longer be in range of Iranian retaliation, and therefore would be much freer to confront Iran’s nuclear challenge. The U.S. would also be able to extract itself from the Abu Ghraib/occupation syndrome and could start combating Islamist radicalism by being the best America rather than the worst.

Finally, Iraqi instability would push oil to $80 a barrel. That would mean more people buying hybrid cars and investing in alternative energy, so that we end our dependence on this region sooner."

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