Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Our Leaders are apparently negotiating an end to the crisis. Right leaders, wrong address. They miss the real issue in Lebanon (H/T Ghassan Karam); “are we to establish the ground work for a modern secular democracy or are we to become a close minded theocracy ruled from capitals outside the country”.

For all our Quislings’ pretence (Hiwar 3.0, anyone?), the real discussions are along backchannels, and the real meeting is in the new Baghdad Bazaar

The Hopes of Regional Powers

(and this other Bazaar), where the regional powers are meeting for some face time. The neighbours, particularly Syria and Iran, may be hoping that the conference will confirming their role as “Deus ex-machina” in Iraqi politics, but if this is the case, then this will be a mistake.

Iran may well be overreaching in Iraq; the interests against any Persian influence beyond its borders are far too great, and will backfire in a greater conflict, not only in Mesopotamia, but to the larger region.

Iranian Overreach?

Iraqis are not as fanatical about sacrificing their lives for their neighbours as the Lebanese are; Shiite Arabs did fight alongside Sunni Arabs during the Iran-Iraq war. Iraqis tend to be more mindful than other Arabs that “history of the region tells us to not trust the words of dictators and clerics, for words are inexpensive and clerics and dictators have plenty of words they are willing to use to buy time”.

Pottery Barn or Archie Andrews?

The current US president has no interest to “cut and run”; he and his team are out of office anyway. The next president will not have the means to “cut and run” either; like it or not, pottery barn rules do apply to this Iraq. To some who think that “Archie Andrews Rule” may be a more fitting analogy, recall the (often misunderstood) words of previous Saudi Ambassador Turki el-Feisal, who reminded Americans that “since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave uninvited”.

Turki was not softie, and the current team in charge is a little bit more “hard-line”. I do not know much about American politics, but I think I do know a thing or two about World history and America’s interests. As long as the Americans keep on driving those SUV’s, the reality may well be that; Since America came into Iraq uninvited, it will not be allowed to leave uninvited.

Unfortunately, Lebanese history may be a better guide; Syria was as much stuck in Lebanon as it was occupying it. Like it or not, the United States are now hooked on Iraq (and its oil), and so is the West.

I’ll go on a limb here; give it a couple of years at most; at the earliest, with a new resident in the Elysée, and at the latest, with a new inhabitant of the White House. Even the French, and the Europeans after them, will soon bring in some support.

Surge 2.0, coming soon…


Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your postings however your latest post has bothered me. I believe you have either fallen or willingly jumped into the trap of believing the US involvment in Iraq is based on its desire for oil. When you look at the numbers the argument does not hold water.


ghassan karam said...

In a sense one can argue that all political boundaries were at one time or another artificial. In the Middle East this artificiality is combined with the phenomenon of being relatively recent. As a result residents of such countries have not had a chance to develop a strong national identity. The Syrians have the least problem with their identity because they are still believers in the myth of Arab unity and greater syria. But the residents of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and even the Emirates are under pressure to make a choice. They have to be nationalists first and Arab second. It might be helpful if we stop talking about an Arab World and start using the more accurate description of "Arabic speaking countries".The people of Iraq are going through the process that Lebanon went through in the 1970's. The instability is agravated by Iran, was set in motion by the US invasion but will ultimately be resolved through an understanding of both religious sects. The Sunnis must learn to become democrats and the Shia have to become less vengful and more iraqis. Iraq's insurgency is a civil war by a different name and history tells us that it was to be expected. The broad outlines of the outcome are clear but as is often the case, the devil is in the details. There is no compelling logic to stay united through a federation except for the issue of oil wealth that needs to fund the development of the three major factions.

Oil is fungible and it makes no difference who is producing what and is selling to whom as long as it is sold openly on the markets and as long as the oil potential is being made use of. The world community has a right to be concerned about those who wish to use oil reserves as a weapon since one can argue that the revenue derived from oil belongs to the country that is producing it but oil availability is not to be constrained because oil resources are essential for modernity. Oil flow may be viewed in a sense as a global legacy, any interference with it will be considered to be an illegal action against the world community. In that sense one can rationalize international involvment in Iraq, Saudi and all other major oil producing countries if they decide to "blackmail" the international community. The same logic applies to the formation of a "grain cartel" by the US, Canada, Australia and Argentina. That will be grounds for war because it will be considered as a egregious and immoral act. Another such example will be the Amazon Basin. The rain forest should be viewed as a global legacy and no country should have the right to destroy it. I believe that Saudi Arabia has learned that lesson after 1973. It is willing to act responsibly by exploring its reserves , investing in oil infrastructure so as to maintain the flow of oil in the world community. The US might not have invaded Iraq had Iraq been a producer of Parsley or Lettuce but it is reasonable to interfer as long as the US or any other power does not "steal" the oil and its revenue. The world community has a right and an obligation to make sure that no country is misusing resources that are crucially important for the regular commercial activities of the world. Such countries own the resource but are under an obligation to make it available to others.
Is the world under any obligation to relieve poverty and fight famine or are the countries that have the food expected to hoard it? The same logic that dictates that we relieve the famine in subsaharan africa also dictates that oil is not to be used as a weapon,nuclear proliferation is to be stopped and environmentally degrading activities outlawed.

slacker said...

jeha said;
"Iraqis are not as fanatical about sacrificing their lives for their neighbours as the Lebanese are; Shiite Arabs did fight alongside Sunni Arabs during the Iran-Iraq war."

I don't mean to be a nag, but i have to ask; how is the first part of the statement related to the second part? Is the second part supposed to be an affrmation of the first?

Jeha said...

You raise a good point; my choice of words was rife with "double-entendre"... My point is this; in spite of much internal sectarian divisions in Iraq and Iran, each side managed to remain faithful to their country in the face of sectarian prodding. When Iraq invaded Khorramshar, Saddam failed to elicit much support from the local Arabs. When Iran counterattacked and tried to push towards Basra, Khomeiny failed to find much support among Iraq's Shiite population.

We Lebanese should have looked at the example of those people who largely managed to maintain a sense of citizenship in the face of tremendous challenge. Instead of this, we managed to be an example to them; the feeling of citizenship being largely undone by the continuation of Mullah rule in Iran, Saddam's reign of terror in Iraq, the Assad clan's rule in Syria... True, it is compounded by American lack of clear policy and its many screw ups in the region, but we're the fault is not too far from home.

Today, it appears that Iraqis are following our example in looking beyond their borders rather than solving whatever trouble they have with their own neighbour. And it appears, from anecdotal evidence, that Syria appears to be copying us... And Iran could potentially be vulnerable to this.