Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The US is proper f$&$&d in Iraq.

Every surrounding country has an interest and they don't match up. Internally every ethnic group has its own interest and again they don't match up.

The Kurds want independence. They would be willing to settle for autonomy, but I have doubts as to whether they will allow Arab troops to patrol Kurdistan. So if anything it will be just one step short of independence. With their 75,000 peshmerga fighters they will probably have the ability to resist such encroachments. They can't stand up in front of the Turkish army though and so declaring independence seems foolhardy.

The Sunnis want to go back 5 years. A Shiite fundamentalist dominated government does not appeal to them. Their options however are only limited to destabilizing the current order since they don't have the numbers or support to impose their own order. When Iyad Allawi's block lost the last elections it became very unlikely that a Shiite-Sunni coalition could unify Iraq.

The Shiites want unified Shiite Fundamentalist - led Iraq. They have the numbers to do it and are likely backed by the Iranians and Syrians. Not to mention the Americans. The problem is that the Sunnis and Kurds will be hard to bring into such a system. Not to mention the fact that the Israelis, Saudis, Jordanians and Kuwaitis will likely oppose such an expansion of the Iranian influence in the region.

The Turks want a strong unified non-Iranian leaning Iraq. If thats not possible then any arrangement that keeps the Kurds under control is fine with the Turks. Otherwise their own Kurds might become very bothersome and would have safehaven in northern Iraq from which to strike into Turkey. If an arrangement comes out in which the Turkish Kurds will find safehaven in Iraq the Turkish army will easily roll over Iraqi Kurdistan and could probably just as easily take over all of Iraq.

The Syrians want a strong unified Iraq because they have their own Kurds. The Syrians, along with the Iranians would like the Americans to walk away with a bloody nose and a black eye, leaving behind an Iranian-backed central government in Iraq. Not only the Kurds, but also the Sunni Arabs in Iraq could pose a problem for the Syrians. If there was anarchy in central Iraq on the border with Syria then some Sunni fundamentalist violence might spill over into Syria, destabilizing the minority Alawite government in the face of its domination of a majority Sunni country.

The Saudis, Kuwaitis and Jordanians want a strong counterbalance to Iran. The Kuwaitis would probably even prefer that the Americans stay permanently.

The Israelis would probably prefer a counterbalance to Iran regardless of color. A democratic Iraq would be nice, but I am assuming the Israelis gave up all hope of that. They would probably not mind if the Americans stayed permanently. Were the Americans to leave they would probably place their bets on the Kurds in order to prevent a strong Iraqi state and to use them to partially destablize Iran and Syria.

The Iranians are probably the only ones interested in a unified democratic Iraq. This is primarily because their allied Fundamentalists will win elections. Were they to do so, Iraq will come under the Iranian umbrella. The Iranians will also want to prevent the Kurds from exercising independence and would work to undermine their autonomy, otherwise their own Kurds might start getting notions.


Now you have a large number of players and between the Israelis, the Turks, the Iranians, the Saudis and the Americans plenty of resources to play with. Its also hard to see an outcome that can be agreed upon between the players since some players don't actually talk to each other. The Iranians have the strongest cards for a long-term game - influence over the Iraqi Shiites, over the Syrians, and a long open border. This will probably not change over time. The only way that some sort of equilibrium can be found is if the Iranians were weakened and their hold over the Iraqi Shiites was broken. This could only be done through regime change in Iran. Short of this what you have is either an effective dissolution of Iraq followed by a Turkish or Iranian intervention or an Iranian allied Iraqi Shiite state. In either case there is likely to be a civil war as there are too many players to avoid massive violence. The American presence does nothing to change this outcome and the American training of the new Iraqi army only makes the latter outcome more likely.


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