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Signs of the Times for Mon, 23 Oct 2006

Juan Cole
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 thing coming.


Editor's Note: And we begin to see how the long-expected "war of Armageddon" will be provoked...

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