Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The King's foreign policy

We novice military strategists have been calling for diplomacy for some time. Here is how it is playing out this late autumn, the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 — Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said.

The Saudi warning reflects fears among America’s Sunni Arab allies about Iran’s rising influence in Iraq, coupled with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. King Abdullah II of Jordan has also expressed concern about rising Shiite influence, and about the prospect that the Shiite-dominated government would use Iraqi troops against the Sunni population.

A senior Bush administration official said Tuesday that part of the administration’s review of Iraq policy involved the question of how to harness a coalition of moderate Iraqi Sunnis with centrist Shiites to back the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

The Saudis have argued strenuously against an American pullout from Iraq, citing fears that Iraq’s minority Sunni Arab population would be massacred. Those fears, United States officials said, have become more pronounced as a growing chorus in Washington has advocated a draw-down of American troops in Iraq, coupled with diplomatic outreach to Iran, which is largely Shiite.

“It’s a hypothetical situation, and we’d work hard to avoid such a structure,” one Arab diplomat in Washington said. But, he added, “If things become so bad in Iraq, like an ethnic cleansing, we will feel we are pulled into the war.”

The Bush administration is also working on a way to form a coalition of Sunni Arab nations and a moderate Shiite government in Iraq, along with the United States and Europe, to stand against “Iran, Syria and the terrorists,” another senior administration official said Tuesday.

Until now Saudi officials have promised their counterparts in the United States that they would refrain from aiding Iraq’s Sunni insurgency. But that pledge holds only as long as the United States remains in Iraq.


Mr. Obaid also suggested that Saudi Arabia could cut world oil prices in half by raising its production, a move that he said “would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even without today’s high oil prices.” The Saudi government disavowed Mr. Obaid’s column, and Prince Turki canceled his contract.

But Arab diplomats said Tuesday that Mr. Obaid’s column reflected the view of the Saudi government, which has made clear its opposition to an American pullout from Iraq.
Machinations against Shiite-Arabic Moqtada al Sadr and now numerous stories from Saudi officials and proxies that they will actively side with the Sunni insugency if America quits the field. Last week, the Associated Press reported that private Saudi citizens were already funding the Sunni insurgency groups in Iraq. The Washington Times reported yesterday that Israel even encourages a Sunni nuclear program to help counter the potential Shiite-Persian bomb.

President Nixon positioned Iran and Saudi Arabia as two pillars against Russian interests in the Middle East. With the theocratic revolution in Iran, brewed with an anti-American flavor, a pillar was lost. The Islamic revolution based in Tehran, not unlike the French revolution, views itself as an exportable brand.

To counter this ambition, America supported a Sunni-Arab dictator in a poorly executed war against the Persians.

Thus we had this moment:

Iran's current, bombastic president is a veteran of that war.

In the Persian Puzzle, Kenneth Pollack states that it was the Israelis who were the most vocal critics of the Persians in the 1990s. However, the Sunni Arabs in the region were also very wary of their ethnic and religious others.

Why wouldn't they be? Many of those monarchies are vestiges of a different era. Iran has trained and equipped Hezbollah and HAMAS.

To say that diplomacy and intrigue is moving apace would be to downplay the frantic positioning of regional powers. This conflict has been building not since the winter of 2002 but actually since the late 1970s, if not earlier.

The current pressure points in the region are not encouraging.

Jordan has endured an influx of Iraqi refugees, some 600,000 according to McClatchy Newspapers in late November. A CIA estimate from the summer of this year places the total population of Jordan at under 6,000,000. Jordan is also home to a number of Palestinian refugees. King Abdullah II, of Jordan, has begun an animated campaign to prevent a series of wars throughout the region. His stated fear is civil wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. These happen to be the traditional hot spots of Iranian intrigue.

Syria has acted to upset peaceful politics in Lebanon. Al Jazeera reports this morning:
An inquiry into the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister, is turning up significant links between his death and 14 later attacks in Lebanon, the chief investigator says.

Serge Brammertz, who leads the UN inquiry into the killing of al-Hariri, also said he continues to demand interviews and evidence from Syria.
There is one proposal in the Baker-Hamilton report that will never see the light of day: talk with Iran, at least with this president. The adversarial dynamic between the Persians and the Arabs has been going on for centuries. The adversarial dynamic between Iran and the United States has lasted generations. James Baker points to a rapprochment concerning Afghanistan as an example of Iranian-American cooperation. This is true, but it seems more the exception than the rule.

America and Iran are now the two strongest tribes in Iraq. One power has lost some of its might, the other has gained. One power is distant with an increasingly troubled population, the other is quite close to the area of contest. Both powers have much over which they disagree.

It is my hope that a rapprochment develops. It is my fear that as Iraq continues to slide Sunni organizations and Shiite organizations, whether supported by governments or not, will continue to fuel conflict. It could proceed as something like the prisoner's dilemma. All sides should work to avoid conflict. But with so many competing interests at play, each side may seek to build combat power for their interests -- proxies not unlike Lebanon's Hezbollah. Their motivation would be primarily a fear that the other sides will do this and gain an advantage. It is clear that the trends are already going in this direction.


Blogger Publia said...

This is all so incredibly complicated to understand, but I'm not so sure that talks will help too much. Well, it's a good chance for our officials to have a little travel.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

I follow. I am not worthy.

Well done.

5:39 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Thank you.

There is so much more to this mess than just what is above. But, around 1:15 a.m. EST I had to go into the hurry-up offense so I could get to bed.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

Excellent post!

Just want to focus on one aspect. Jordon is almost certainly going to be destabilized by these events. No nation that size can deal with an influx yet again 1/9 of it's entire population.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

Still a great post. I know what you mean, sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew.

2:22 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I read in a few sources today that Syria has taken about 1,000,000 refugees. 100,000 or so in Egypt. It's very, very alarming.

2:23 PM  

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