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The Iraq Civil War: A Neocon Surprise

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On Wednesday President Bush was to meet with the Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq and the King Abdullah II of Jordan for some "summit" talks about the Iraq situation.  While Bush was flying from his last encounter in Latvia, an aid leaked to the New York Times a memorandum criticizing al-Maliki, which concluded that the unfortunate Iraqi was not only inept, but despite good intentions unlikely to be part of any solution to the "civil war" now erupting throughout Iraq.  Al-Maliki decided to skip the Wednesday talks and dinner, and he stayed at home, a snub of "the most powerful man in the world," an act fraught with opportunities for mischief ... and misinterpretation.

The preponderant interpretation is that Bush and his crew do not know what they are doing and have stumbled badly by letting a tin-pot politician from Iraq insult him and our country.  This is an appealing interpretation because it is simple and gives us even more reason to be skeptical about the Iraqis and their war-torn country.  The interpretation does not go too far, though, since it is pretty obvious that the leaked memorandum was leaked on purpose.  It gives one the idea that Bush intended to be insulting and to humiliate al-Maliki, with consequences considerably more urgent than a supposed diplomatic affront. Simultaneously, or nearly so, the press is reporting massive U.S. troop movements within Iraq, the early deployment of U.S. troops scheduled for later deployment, the extension of other units, and a declaration that Anwar Province (basically the western 25% of Iraq) to be totally in the hands of forces not fighting with the U.S., i.e., insurgents or sectarian civil warriors.  The picture that begins to emerge is that a new level of chaos is about to be attained in Iraq, probably focusing on the city of Baghdad itself, an event some of the press are referring to as the long-awaited Battle of Baghdad.  In other words, we may be soon witnessing a denouement in Iraq that will preempt the so-called Baker Commission's work of finding a new path in Iraq for the U.S. to follow ... hopefully leading to the door!  Preempting Baker may not be accidental.

I have written here and elsewhere that I do not believe that Iraq currently is or ever was the real object of Bush/Cheney and Rumsfeld's imagination in the middle east.  Yes, of course, the Iraqi petroleum reserves figure into the equation heavily, and yes, of course, the removal of Saddam Hussein, with whom the U.S. had perfidiously danced in days of yore, was "necessary" to shut him up, and possibly to keep him from forming alliances with al Qaida.  But, the totality of the mess we are in does not make conventional sense, frankly, because the total amount of ineptitude necessary to produce the current result inadvertently involves way too many people.  The current situation must be, therefore, one of the outcomes envisioned by Bush and his Neocon buddies, that is, it is meant to force the creation a new version of the middle east into being—a long-standing Neocon objective.

A little review is necessary.  Iraq contains no fewer than three, but perhaps as many as 15 or more rival groups, the most notable being the Sunni Muslims, the Shiite Muslims, and the Kurdish Muslims in the north.  The Kurds are the object of Turkish interests and, avoiding that, present a situation that fosters the idea of a United Provinces of Iraq in the imagination of people like Joe Biden of Delaware, whose soon-to-be-launched investigations in the U.S. Senate will doubtless arrive at the concept of a divided Iraq united on paper in the manner of our own migration from Articles of Confederation to a Constitution.  The Sunnis have co-sectarians in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia (the Wahabbist brand, however), Lebanon, and most of Islam.  They predominated in the Baath Party and have experience governing Iraq, albeit through corruption and coercion.  The Shiites are the larger group, are settled all over the map of Iraq, and have two things going for them right now: el Sadr, the most powerful of the militia leaders, and nearby Iran, which is also Shiite and which by all accounts has the strongest moral position in Iraq at present despite the eight-year-long war in the relatively recent past.  It is not surprising, therefore, to read Wednesday that Hezbollah, which is funded primarily by Iran, has been training Shiite insurgents and militiamen.

The situation on the ground today is that al-Maliki is weak and ineffectual and beholden to el Sadr for local support, but beholden to the U.S. for broad scale support and possible reconstruction of the country.  El Sadr will protect al-Maliki as long as the situation is too fluid for him to emerge and take complete control.  Complete control may be an illusion, anyway, since the Iranians really have that in mind for themselves, that is, political and religious hegmony over all of Mesopotamia.  The real question is therefore: if Iraq falls into inmistakable sectarian civil war, will that bring in the Iranians in defense of Iraqi Shiites and el Sadr?  The next question is: what would the U.S. do in such a sequence of events?

I have proposed, and continue here to do so, that the ultimate aim of Bush/Cheney and the Neocons is to eliminate Iran, using Iraq as either the base of operations or the pretext or both.  If Iran intervenes, Bush will have the casus belli that the Hezbollah War in Lebanon failed to produce.  He will defend U.S. "interests" in Iraq with impunity, and having set up the situation so that it would evolve into this manipulation of the Iranians, he will do it with the Congress behind him, cheering him on!  Remember, it was Jimmy Carter and the Democrats that the ayatollahs and radical students in Iran humiliated and effectively removed from office.  There is not an American breathing today that is not very apprehensive about Iranian nuclear ambitions.

The Neocon plan was to establish a base and Iraq is that base.  The Neocon strategy was to achieve regime change in Iran, and we are closer now to the pretext for that than ever before.   The Neocon mission was to redraw the map of the middle east and bring it (and its oil) once and for all under the hegemony of the west.  The means to effect such a "brilliant" idea (in otherwords, what we have been watching for these last three plus years) was to stoke the inherent instability of the middle eastern peoples, to provoke them into killing each other off while keeping American casualties at a minimum, to force them into geopolitical mistakes that would lay the grounds and pretexts for further American involvement, to enrich the war corporations back home, to stoke domestic paranoia and thereby consolidate Executive power, to preserve access to the petroassets of the region.  The Plan was comprehensive yet simple enough to be based in reality, if not exactly sanity, ... and it has worked.  The only thing they forgot was to tell the American people!

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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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