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December 03, 2006

The Middle East Blame Game

This is a multiple choice test:  Who’s to blame for the horrible sectarian killing spree in parts of Iraq?

A.     The United States

B.     Israel

C.     Iran

D.     Syria

E.      al Quaida

F.      Hezbollah

G.     al Jazeera

H.     None of the above.

The correct answer, of course, is H – none of the above.  This test is important to the extent that it helps determines the US future course in Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq and the unseating of Saddam Hussein certainly did unleash the hatreds and rivalries which were clearly already present.  But either Iraq would have stayed forever in the controlling grip of a brutal (and certainly not bloodless tyranny) or this fight would have happened sooner or later.  Muqtada al-Sadr may say that he is fighting American imperialism; his militias are killing their Sunni neighbors.  The only reason he and his thugs didn’t do this previously is that they couldn’t.

The former Yugoslavia also dissolved into a sectarian bloodbath.  Since we didn’t topple the dictator, we didn’t blame ourselves for it.  NATO (not the UN!) has been somewhat effective in imposing peace – but only after partition.  That may be another lesson for Iraq.

Choice B – Israel is to blame – should be too absurd to put on the test.  But people keep saying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all the problems in the Middle East.  Right! It is rage at Israel that causes a Sunni militant to toss a bomb into a Shia mosque.  The Janjaweed are driven to burn villages by their concern over homeless Palestinians.  Syrians (or others) murder Lebanese politicians to achieve better living conditions in Gaza.  Perhaps it is the Israelis who installed a feudal monarchy in Saudi Arabia.  This thinking is ridiculous.  There are plenty of good reasons to want peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians; it’s dangerously naïve to think that this peace, if it comes, will douse all the flames of hatred in the region.

Choices C through F are wrong, too.  It’s no stretch to believe that Hezbollah and Iran are training Shia militias nor to believe that all sorts of bad things come across the Syrian border.  Al Quaida operates openly in Iraq and has helped fan the flames.  But all of these outsiders are opportunistic infections; the true problem is the long feud between Shia and Sunni.  The feud between Kurds and others in Iraq is not the same kind of problem because Kurdistan (Turkey would prefer that we not refer to it that way) has already been partitioned from the rest of Iraq.

Can’t blame al Jazeera for delivering the bad news, either.  Sometimes what is bad news to us is good news for them; but they didn’t make the problems they report.

If we didn’t break Iraq, we don’t have to stay to fix it; and it’s likely that we can’t fix it if we stay.  There’s no point looking under rocks in Jerusalem or Gaza City for the homegrown killers of Baghdad.  Enlisting Syria and Iran as peacemakers would be futile; even if they were so inclined, the most they could do would be to slightly slow the flow of arms.

I think the best of bad alternatives is to help divide Iraq into the three countries it appears to be.  An important role for the US in this is brokering a deal between two of our allies, the Kurds and Turkey, so that Turkey can be assured that a Kurdish homeland in Northern Iraq won’t be a staging ground for attacks into Kurdish populated areas of Turkey.  Perhaps some Turkish Kurds would rather resettle in an independent Kurdistan and that could be part of an answer.

A hopeful sign for partition strategy is that Croatia, just a little while after former horrors in that region, is fast becoming the premier vacation destination in Europe.

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» A test on Iraq from Right Truth
President George W. Bush is going to change his approach to Iraq by listening to all the reports coming his way from the different study groups. This will come as a shock to the left who have said all along [Read More]

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