It's a strange alliance of ill wishers! The Russians, the French, the Saudi's, the Jordanians, the Syrians, the Iranians, the former Baathists ... all together rooting for American failure!
On the one hand we have the Russians and the French who lost a huge opportunity to exploit Iraqi oil through prior contracts with Saddam Hussein. They have no basis for supporting George Bush! Beyond its economic loss, Russia is witnessing an encroachment of American bases and missiles on its borders. And Russia has already lost a great deal to American and British oil companies in Central Asia. And, France in particular, is relishing the prospect of American hegemony being supplanted by European dominance. America's loss will turn into a European gain.
On the other hand, there are monarchies or dictatorships in the Middle East (from neighboring Saudi Arabia and Jordan to Egypt) threatened by Bush's promise of 'spreading democracy' throughout the Middle East. Oh, I know the Saudi's and King Hussein in Jordan are nominally US allies. But, they know a threat when they see one. They are grand survivors after all! They can do a lot to undermine Bush in Iraq - simply by looking the other way at critical moments. The Saudi's and Jordanians have every reason to be two faced, blame the Iranians for all insurgencies, and overlook any transgressions inside their country and across their borders. In every sense, US failure in Iraq will benefit them. Democracy in Iraq, will empower their own populations to seek liberty in their kingdoms. This inevitably undermines their future. But also, a weakened US, will be less able to support to Israel - and will in the end increase Israel's insecurity and perhaps enhance the prospects for peace with its neighbors!
In fact the very same argument does apply to Syria and Egypt too. Kuwaitis too, know who was behind Saddam's invasion of their country; they too have every reason to undermine America's adventure in Iraq.
Not to be forgotten are the former Baathist who have lost everything! The Baathist all lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods why should they assist George Bush in anyway?
And then, you have an emboldened Iran - that has been humiliated by covert and overt threats from Bush! Labeled a member of the axis of evil after assisting in America's overthrow of the Afghan regime - the Iranians understand too well that neither Bush nor any American administration can be or will be a reliable partner. They too hear Mr. Bush's cries for liberty and democracy - and feel threatened.
And while America has helped the Shiites in Iraq rise - the Shiites know too well that Iran's mullahs have always consistently supported them. And Iran's Mullahs have in fact been reliable patrons too. They supported Iraq's Shiite leadership through thick and thin over decades. America on the other hand has developed a reputation, especially after the fall of the Shah, of twisting and turning every 4 years and shifting its alliances. America is not a reliable and consistent master! So who would you work for - America or Iran?
Then there are Democrats at home that are salivating with news of Bush's demise.
The war in Iraq is George Bush's singular war. No one else has anything to gain by winning (except Britain and Israel).
Can America win against all these enemies? Perhaps yes, but Bush will likely have to shift course decide between a series of bad alternatives to change the outcome, to develop some news allies.
On the one hand, the Iranians can in fact assist in stabilizing Iraq - they have experience dealing with war reparations, they have local contacts, they have major infrastructure nearby to tap into (cement mills, power stations, etc). But such help will come at a cost. Bush will likely have to guarantee the Iranian Mullahs another round in power, and drop sanctions on Iran's nuclear advancements ... in the end abandon the cause for freedom and democracy in Iran. This will in turn undermine Republican Party financial support from Iranian Americans; and undermine his promises to ordinary Iranians of freedom. It would be a 180 degree shift. And the risk of choosing this option is that the Arabs (Saudis, Baathists, ...) will not stand by and watch as Iran takes over power in Iraq. Terrorism in Iraq will not end. And the Mullahs will continue to undermine Israel and support Hezbollah! Terrorism will not end or diminish.
On the other hand, Bush could garner more support from neighboring Arab states if he dissolved democracy in Iraq and put in place another hard line general like Saddam Hussein (or like Musharaf in Pakistan) to clean up and control the country. But the risk of choosing this option is that the Iranians and the Shiites will not stand by and watch Iraq ruled by another enemy! And ordinary Arabs will continue to sign up as Islamic fanatics - since that is the only route these days to opposing the dictators at home! Terrorism, like 9/11 will not end or diminish.
Or he could give the Russians and the French a share of the oil pie in exchange for help ... but while the Russians and the French can certainly undermine America's efforts in Iraq, I do not think they can seriously assist in stabilizing Iraq and therefore enable Bush to save face. Neither the Russians nor the French have militaries worth much these days - or contractors that would be braver than the current set of contractors operating in Iraq. They would bring nothing to the table.
It's a hard situation - with no imminent or simple solution.
But it seems to me that of all the options on the table some sort of Iran play is probably the most compelling path. The greatest net benefits for the United States would be gained by with a 'shift' inside Iran. First of all, the Iranians probably can do the most to help Iraq. Secondly, there is a huge business opportunity for the US if Iran, as a market, could be opened up - probably worth trillions of dollars within decades. Thirdly, by opening Iran, US would also as a result open up an important southern access to the vast landlocked oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. George Bush can also claim that without Mullahs in charge in Iran that Iran's support for 'terrorists' such as Hamas and Hezbollah - and Iran's nuclear ambitions all disappear. A shifting inside Iran would also, undermine some nasty Shiites in Iraq (Muqtada Al Sadr, etc) and thus help shift private allegiances among the Saudis and Baathists in America's favor.
I have to believe that George Bush's administration has a better awareness of the circumstances...and that perhaps they have also weighed these and other options and arrived at the same point.
The big question then is how might they undertake such a 'shift' inside Iran? How quickly might they act?