Sunday, November 26, 2006

Middle Eastern nor Middle Western

Fareed Zakaria calls for a Kissinger-like extrication from Iraq. The article here. Also watch this episode of ForeignExchange--dedicated entirely to Iraq. For a dissenting view to Zakaria's watch the first interview.

His first guest, a journalist from Al Hayat thinks the Syrian/Iranian negotations floated by the Baker-Hamilton Comm. are a no go. He is right that currently Syria and Iran have no aggenda in Iraq other than to further inflame the situation (as long as American remains) and gain influence. If the US pulls out and leaves the bag to Iran and Syria, et. al then the country will be shaped in a way the US does not want. All of which is true insofar as Syria and Iran are still on the hit list of the Bush administration. Remember Iraq was only the first step: the original three invasions planned were Iraq, Iran, Syria, which would then force Egypt and Saudi Arabia (our allies) to reform from within.

What Iraq has signalled is that Iran and Syria are in much much stronger positions than they were prior to Saddam Hussein (and the Taliban). Until the US is willing to take regime change off the table, Iran and Syria have no other recourse but to act as they do. There is no guarantee that overnight either country--given the politics of each--will become good guys. Nor that there won't be Iraqi resistances to each--particularly Iran--but to me it has to happen.

Syria wants the Tribunal into the assassination of Rafik Hariri off the table. Iran the bomb. Those are big points. Probably best with the Iranians to start elsewhere. Turn over the AQ members under house arrest in Iran, works to stabilize not undermine Iraq. Iran gets into the WTO, mutual recognition, restoration of embassies, sanctions lifted, etc. The bomb later.

Don't know what I think about the Syrian-Lebanese issue. Much thornier, but Syria has put out lines about separating a tad from Iranian sphere if recognized. They are the key to Iranian supply of Hezbollah.

The regional diplomacy issue aside, it is clear that Bush wants for Iraq what the Iraqis and their leaders (democratic and otherwise) do not want. Both sides Sunni and Shia want a fight and are waiting for the US to leave. Zakaria a few weeks back outlined the plan for a national reconciliation, power devolution, oil revenue sharing, general amnesty to all parties, etc. He went to Iraq and his new pesimissm is born from his personal talks with Shia leaders.

Civil wars typically end when one side loses--and brutally so. Zakaria, with many Democrats and a rising Republican voice (Sen. Chuck Hagel) is calling for Bush to threaten Maliki that he will walk out. And to really be willing to pull that move when necessary.

It is interesting to me that a basic developmental scale, like Spiral Dynamics, predicted much of this outcome.

Iraq under Hussein was a tribal Sunni warlord, propped up by oil (red meme--no separate institutions, black market economy, tribal patronage). A Hussein deposition AND de-Baathification/disbanding of the army could only leave the Sunnis with the option (red) of insurgency and violent attempts to overthrow the occupation/government.

The Kurds were protected for a decade under the no-fly zone and had built a one-party structure that overall had the support of the people, was responsive, and let economics (right-hand) move towards modernism. They now have a proto-orange, functioning system: they can protect themselves, oil profits, and a future.

The Shia were the oppressed minority who stood the most to gani from an invasion. They had the change to make an emergent leap--in their case to blue. And it happened. And now the Shia are moving towards an Islamic state (blue). The Shia are veering towards a deeply pathological blue regime.

Iraq could only have moved towards a healthy blue had the Americans pulled off the post-Saddam transfer properly. That didn't happen--partly due to outside agitation, partly due to American negligence and stupidity, and also due to the Shia/Sunni divide in the country.

The only real question now is how in God's name to move the Sunni heartland to something even remotely approaching a stabilized blue. Haven't heard anything on that front, other than the Sunni control of water.

Which then leaves the question of US future involvement in the ME. Niall Ferguson argues that the 20th century was not principally about the victory of liberal democracy over totalitarianism but the rise of the East over the demise of the West.

The US alone stands astride those two movements and it has to start looking East. The Iraq War is the end of the dream of Western-style, specifically Anglo-American, liberal democracy. There will be a continued rise towards modernity in the East but not on the A.A. model I think. The sooner the Americans realize that the better. The sooner they realize the politics and economics--in terms of corruption, labor abuse, etc--is roughly equivalent to in the Gilded Age (late 19th century) when the US Army was ethnically cleansing Native Americans, barons bought and sold political office, the South was occupied only to be given back to the Segregationists, etc.

And if we don't get involved with these forces we will lose out to China in sub-Saharan Africa, where the real action of the 21st century will be.

An Iranian and Syrian talk, will not produce only beneficial fruit the first time around. What must happen though is something akin, as Thomas Barnett calls for, to a regional security umbrella for the ME akin to the European one of the 1970s where essentially the Soviets and their satellites and the Western NATO powers agreed that there wouldn't be another war on European soil. And then went about deciding how that would be done.

The road to such a regional security blanket for the ME of course runs through Jerusalem (coming from Damascus).


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