Friday, December 15, 2006

The shape of things to come



















I've been receiving a lot of emails and phone calls from very depressed people who want to know what I think is going to happen now that W seems to have rejected Baker-Hamilton and whether we'll ever get out of all this mess in Iraq, the Middle East, etc. As I've written in the past, the modus operandi of the Bush Administantion's foreign policy is Muddling Through. The Bush administration has no idea what it's doing.Starting with 9/11, it has been an opportunistic policy that lacks an coherent strategic overview. It's basically based on the assumption that if we can do it, we'll do it! If there are counterpressures at home (election 2006) and abroad (Iraq), we'll try to cut our costs, buy some time and wait for an opportunity to push "forward." The only way that Baker-Hamilton plus the results of the mid-term could have had any effect of the Bushies is if the Democrats in Congress and/or a coalition of Democrats and Reublicans -- a majority in Congress -- would have adopted their recommendations. That didn't happen because of several reasons (divisions among Democrats; Israel doesn't like it; too little, too late). So we're back in square run as the Bushies hope that something will happen -- a civil war in Lebanon; Iran goes nuclear; clashes between Iraqi and Iranian forces; an Israeli attack on Iran; Israel-Syria war; the collapse of Hamas -- that they'll be able to exploit diplomatically and militarily, in the same way that they had hoped to take advantage of the Israeli attack on Lebanon as a way of weakening Iran and Syria. Instead, the U.S. ended up as a loser. As I suggest in an article that is going to be published in the new issue of The American Cosnervative, "Osirak Redux?" an Israeli strike on Iran could pin the U.S. down in Iraq and resuscitate the neocons. But again, like in case of the Lebanon-Hizbollah war, it could end up as a defeat to both the U.S. and Israel. And as the Bushies wait for opportunities to exploit, they could be facing new diplomatic and military dissasters: First, the Iraq mess coupled with the talk about a war with Iran, has ignited speculations about the possibility of Saudi intervention in in evolving civil war in Iraq as well about a fierce debate among the Saudis on whether to join the U.S. (and Israel?) in attacking Iran. It's not clear how all of these and related developments are going to affect the U.S. position. Then there are the Turks and the Kurds. According to The Economist:
IT IS looking ever more awkward for the Americans to keep two of their closest allies in the Middle East simultaneously sweet: Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, who enjoy extreme autonomy in what is now the only stable part of Iraq. Kurds there are particularly rattled by several of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by a former secretary of state, James Baker (see article). The Turks, for their part, are increasingly angered by a renewal of attacks in Turkey by guerrillas of the home-grown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Moreover, they have never liked the idea of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, seeing it as a magnet for Kurdish nationalism in the region—especially in Turkey itself.
Indeed, there is a growing chance that the Turkish army will, perhaps as the snows melt next spring, invade northern Iraq in an effort to clobber the PKK in its safe haven just inside Iraq. The Iraqi Kurds might then feel obliged to help their ethnic kinsmen fight back against the Turks. At that point, it is unclear what the Americans would do, for they deem it vital to stay friends with both the Turks, who are members of NATO, and the Iraqi Kurds, who have hitherto been by far the most pro-American group in Iraq.
Iraq's Kurds disliked the Study Group's suggestion that Iraq's central government should tighten its control over Iraq's provinces. They hated a recommendation that a promised referendum on Iraq's disputed oil-rich province, Kirkuk, be postponed. And they were horrified by the report's call for America to improve relations with Syria and Iran, which have both long suppressed Kurdish nationalism.
The Iraqi Kurds' biggest worry now is that an American wobble might hasten the feared Turkish invasion of their enclave. The Turks would argue that they merely wish to knock out some 5,000-odd PKK rebels in the mountains close to the border, then withdraw. But Iraq's 4m-5m Kurds fear that the Turks' true aim would be to ruin their successful experiment in self-rule, which has been inspiring Turkey's own restive Kurds, some 14m-strong.
“It's no longer a matter of if they [the Turks] invade but how America responds when they do,” says a seasoned NATO military observer. America would be loth to let the Iraqi Kurds help their PKK kinsmen fight back, since Turkey is a cherished NATO ally and a pivotal Muslim state in the region. Turkey's airbase at Incirlik, in southern Turkey, is a hub for non-combat materiel flown in for American and allied troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The increasingly confident Iraqi Kurds sometimes helped Turkey fight against the PKK in the 1990s, but now they say they will no longer kill fellow Kurds. Instead, they have been strengthening links with their Turkish cousins, offering jobs and scholarships in northern Iraq. The Americans have been telling the Turks to stay out of Iraq, despite the PKK's provocations.
So far Turkey has obeyed, hoping that America would deal with the PKK itself. Its failure to do so is perhaps the biggest cause of rampant anti-American feeling in Turkey. In July Turkey's mildly Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is said to have warned President George Bush, in several telephone calls, that he might be unable to restrain his hawkish generals after 15 Turkish soldiers were killed in PKK attacks in a single week. Some 250,000 Turkish troops then briefly massed on the Iraqi border, jolting the Americans into naming a former NATO commander, Joseph Ralston, as a “special envoy for countering the PKK” (his own description). But the PKK's attacks went on, despite its proclaimed ceasefire in September.

So.. there you have it:

1. Civil war in Iraq, drawing in Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabis -- with the U.S. in the middle (and consider the complexities involved: Syria is an ally of Iran but is supporting the Sunnis who are fighting with the Shiites who are allied with the Iranians... Or the Turks who are opposed to the Kurds who are backed by Israel that is an ally of Turkey...).

2. Potential for civil war in Lebanon and possible intervention by Syria, Israel, U.S., E.U. which could lead to:

3. Israel-Syria war, and/or:

4. Israel-Hizbollah War II.

5. Israel-Palestine. No need to elaborate here, but add:

6. Palestinian civil war between Hammas (backed by Iran and Syria) and Fatah (backed by U.S., E.U. and Israel), which could affect Egypt.

7. Israel and/or U.S. strike on Iran which could affect all the above.

Have a nice day!