Archive for August, 2010

August 11, 2010

Will Iraq Help Combat Iran? Probably Not

by Gedalyah Reback

New York Times reporter Tim Arango puts it this way:

The decision (to withdraw from Iraq completely) will bear directly on the payoff America could yet reap for all its spent blood — more than 4,000 American lives — and treasure, in the form of a democratic ally in a combustible region that would be a check on Iranian power and offer American access to Iraq’s vast oil reserves.

It will be a democratic Iran helping the United States check an unstable Iraq, rather than a bustling Iraqi democracy doing the inverse to its eastern neighbor. As most any analyst will acknowledge, Iraq’s government is remarkably unstable. This is not even to address the concept of democracy, which comes second in priority to security, something many communities in the Middle East have historically entrusted in the hands of brutal strongmen.

The influence of Iraq has been felt as much as it will be in Iran. There is nothing Iraq can do any more, given its feeble establishment, to aid American policy against Tehran. The mere creation of a democratic country, with many reputable Shiite scholars backing its constitution, rejuvenated Iranian scholars’ willingness to challenge the status quo at home. Beyond that, Iraq will not have the security resources for years to pressure an Iranian government, be it authoritarian or not.

Iran, in contrast to Iraq, has flirted with democracy for well over a century. Despite the despotic nature of its current government, the constitutional revolution of 1906, the social democratic elections in 1953 and, yes, the composition of the Islamic Republic created as a result of the 1979 revolution all both reflect and reinforce democratic tendencies among Iranians.

Despite the fantasies of some ideologues and nationalists, Iran would likely not break up in the event of a democratic revolution. Nationalist Kurds, Azeris, Lurs, Arabs and Balochs will not be clamoring for independence. The size of the country may result in a very decentralized-federal system similar to the American system, but not more than that. Iranians of all backgrounds understand what freedom would stand to be gained in a new Iran, something perhaps not so available under separatist governments.

With democracy entrenched in the minds of Iranians, with years of experience from consistent parliamentary and presidential elections (however flawed), that country will be probably be more stable than a democratic Iraq for at least a generation. Given this, it should be on the minds of Americans of considering Iran a long term ally to help keep Iraq together, than seeing Iraq as a tool to help Iran fall apart.

Infiltration by seditious groups into he security forces and remarkably consistent terrorist attacks against civilians leave the country exposed. Shiite-Sunni tensions willcontinue to be the major theme of instability for Southern and central Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan will likely also have to content with Arab, particularly Sunni, security concerns. And most importantly, a Turkish incursion cannot be repulsed by Iraq’s divided security forces, and potentially leave the Kurdish north to fend for itself in the event of a large-scale invasion.


Lt Gen Babaker Zebari warns that the Iraqi military might not be ready to take control for another decade

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