Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia: Once More

Andrew Samwick at Vox Baby has finished reading America's Secret War and revisits one of the claims made in that book that
We went into Iraq to isolate and frighten the Saudi government into cracking down on the flow of money to Al Qaeda.
Andrew does not find proof of that claim in the book.

In a previous post, I staked out the position that "the invasion of Iraq, coupled with the invasion of Afghanistan and the turning of Pakistan completes what is essentially an encirclement of Iran. Further, as a look at a topographic map will tell you, Iraq provides far easier access to Iran's interior than other alternatives."

It's interesting that Andrew's post nearly coincides with two superb posts (hereand here by Wretchard at Belmont Club that point out some of the advantages gained by the U.S. vis-a-vis Iran by encouraging a free and democratic Iraq.
In this view, victory against terror need not take the form of the 101st Airborne marching into Teheran. It would be enough to merely hold the ring in Iraq to win over the Mullahs.
and cites a pretty good argument as to why:
Probably the most eye-opening suggestion that the United States has moved to the permanent offense, not only inside Iraq but within the region was made by Marc Ruel Gerecht, who argues that the Iranian mullahs are now facing a mortal geostrategic threat from a post-Saddam Iraq which they now cannot hope to prevent but at best to misdirect.

Today in Washington there are many within the foreign-policy establishment expressing their fear--and hope--that America's entanglement in Iraq may well compromise the Bush administration's ability to confront the Islamic Republic's quest for nuclear weapons. ... But does this reasoning make sense? Are Iraq and Iran so intertwined that America is essentially handcuffed in its dealings with Tehran's mullahs? In all probability, not at all. Indeed, the current interplay between the peoples of Iraq and its eastern neighbor actually ought to encourage the Bush administration to be more hawkish toward the clerical regime's growing interference in Iraq and pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The strongest trump playing in favor of America and against Iran is Iraqi nationalism. ... Iraq's Shiites are the progenitors of modern Iraqi nationalism. They, much more than their Sunni Arab compatriots, who were the driving force behind pan-Arabism in Mesopotamia, have shaped an Iraqi Arab identity which is distinct from the Sunni Arabs to the west and Shiite Iranians to the east. ... Which brings us to the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. Clerical Iran's primary objective is to ensure that Iraq remains destabilized, incapable of coalescing around a democratically elected government. Such a government supported by Iraq's Shiite establishment is a dagger aimed at Tehran's clerical dictatorship.

If Gerecht's analysis is correct, OIF stands within an ace of not only achieving its operational goals, but is on the verge of winning its initial strategic goals.

I'll concede that stopping the blackmail payments to Al Queda from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern counties is an important goal. But taking a larger view, Iraq is the key to Iran, the power that most needs to be checked in the Middle East. While the invasion of Iraq has indeed cost American and Iraqi lives, it is my view that, in the long run, it will save many thousands and, perhaps, millions of lives throughout the world.

Update: Here's an interesting post from American Future on "How Iran Would Fight Back" from an Asia Times article.
Another key element of Iran's strategy is to "increase the arch of crisis" in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where it has considerable influence, to undermine the United States' foothold in the region, hoping to create a counter-domino effect wherein instead of gaining inside Iran, the US would actually lose territory partly as a result of thinning its forces and military "overstretch".
Hmmm. Wonder why the Iranians would be putting on this "exercise" just now? Hmmm.

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