The Political Situation in the Middle East

Dale Light offers a concise (and good) summary of the developing pan-Middle East political situation:

Already I am seeing analyses that say that the new middle-east lineup of Sunni states against Iran is vastly preferable to what existed before the Iraq invasion {for instance, here – MAC}. Suddenly the Sunni regimes are scared and need us to protect them from Iran. Our influence with them has never been greater. The New Republic thinks Bush just blundered into this favorable outcome, but others think that our diplomacy in the region has been aimed all along at dividing the region along sectarian and ethnic lines. Such a division undercuts pan-Islamist movements like al-Qaeda and the Iranian mullahs’ offensive, takes pressure off Israel, creates a broad Arab alliance supporting Lebanese independence, insures that OPEC won’t be agreeing on much of anything in the near future, counters Iran’s attempts to build an anti-American network of oil-producers, and gives the US [as opposed to the EU or China, neither of which can project a credible military force into the region] unprecedented leverage to influence regional development for decades to come. And don’t forget, Iraq will not be much of a threat to anyone anytime soon.
If we think of Iran, not al Qaeda, as the biggest regional threat in the future, and remember that ever since 1978 the “Islamic Republic” has been trying to forge an Islamist, anti-western, regional bloc that can use oil as an economic weapon, then the Iraq adventure makes one hell of a lot of sense. It is time to stop thinking about Iraq as a “war” to be “won” or “lost” and instead recognize that it is an essential part of a broader effort to remake the political, military, and economic map of the Middle East. It is this broader initiative, not the immediate military situation in Iraq, that really matters.

As Light further explains, this was the “neocon” vision all along and even some in the press and (sigh) the State Department are finally waking up to the realization that the Iraq War, ya know, really is just part of a bigger conflict. Read on for more.

This is by no means a new idea, or one that is original with me. It was very much a part of the rationale for going into Iraq during the runup to the invasion. Leading neo-con thinkers like Paul Wolfowitz talked about it extensively, and so did President Bush. Vice President Cheney talked frequently about the need “drain the swamp.” Iran was always part of the “Axis of Evil” that we were confronting.
Major elements of the military and intelligence communities, however, were never able to grasp this larger contextual argument. To them Iraq was just another traditional war. This blinkered thinking persists today. Journalists, too, have been slow to catch on. Some people at the State Department have understood what is going on, but many of these have felt that military activity was an impediment to, rather than a necessary element in the transformation. All of these have raised strong and persistent objections to administration policies and have been avidly listened to by a journalistic establishment that sees itself as an adversarial arm of government and by political partisans who have to tear down Bush in order to succeed.
Some journalists are finally beginning to recognize what has been right in front of their faces for years.

He cites this example in particular.
Incidentally, I think people have forgotten some important characteristics of the chain of events that led to the Iraq invasion. Here’s one good, recent reminder that was inspired by a bit of anti-war triumphalism.

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17 years ago

Marc: It has always been the contention of some of us (me, for example) that the purpose of the war in Iraq was to “remake the political, military, and economic map of the Middle East.”
Bush always said it was going to be a long slog. Americans have NEVER liked wars that go on and on. They didn’t want to enter the second world war, for example.
Well meaning people have always wanted out of wars. God bless them, but the reality is we have to fight wars every once in awhile because our enemies insist on it. They also like to take advantage of our hatred of long conflicts.
We can’t let them win because we have difficulty toughing it out.
No one wants to see young men die, except our enemies. And if we didn’t engage them there, they would make our lives a living hell here.

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