Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On Iraq, Syria, Iran and U.S. engagement

For all my Fox News viewers, here is a quick primer on what really matters in Iraq (and Syria) now:

Where is the accountability on Iraq?, by Katrina Vanden Heuvel.

Piecing together the shattering Middle East, by David Ignatius.
Obama got it right on Iraq, by Eugene Robinson.

What's the upshot to all this?

First, actions have consequences. Some of those actions date back 100 years. The Middle East never had a system of nation-states with clear borders like Europe, that is until the Western powers drew them up. The invasion and regime change by the U.S. in Iraq has only served to question/break up those borders within Iraq. Iraq is now informally three or four states in one.

And actions to remove the dictator in Iraq had international consequences: it created a power vacuum that favored Iran. This did not start yesterday, or even since Obama became president.

Second, there is no military solution to this, in isolation of regional power politics. The Uncle T's of the world will say this is because Middle Easterners are not "reasonable rational people."  In fact, they are a diverse group of ethnicities, tribes and confessions that were lumped together under borders of somebody else's choosing. Now those borders are under question in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.  

This means that the U.S. must engage with Iran, the Shi'ite heavyweight in the region, that has had significant influence in Iraq since Dubya's invasion in 2003.  This is not to mention Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  (Israel is a non-factor).  

Conservatives will talk about the "success" of the surge, blah-blah-blah, but clearly the surge was not sustainable, and it did not take into account events in Syria.  

The hallmark of the surge was more U.S. boots on the ground.  Are Republicans seriously advocating for that?  No.  They should clearly state what they are for, instead of simply criticizing our commander-in-chief.

No comments: