George Friedman on the Middle East

Iraq: The Policy Dilemma

It’s about as insightful as they come…

The problem with this is that it assumes Iran has been active in attempting to influence Iraqi politics. While I’m sure that to some extent this is the case, the last I heard indicated that Iran was mostly playing a hands-off roll in politics.

Friedman’s analysis is logically consistent and his credentials are impressive, but at its core the piece is fundamentally speculative.

Stratfor got it all wrong about Iraq, and now wants to get it all wrong about Iran as well. Before the Iraq invasion, Stratfor was blowing hard about how the war was the right thing to do: correct strategically and correct morally. It bought into all the lies and propaganda - in fact it was part of the propaganda.

I was wondering when he was going to arrive at the conclusion I expected of Stratfor’s editor. He presented an argument for what would be a bad idea for America in Iraq, then presented four options that would obviously be bad based on that argument, and then suggested an alternative: a massive overwhelming invasion force for Iran. Great.

Stratfor isn’t the worst peddlar of this shit, but they do basically dress up hawkish blog rants as serious discussion. This article is no better than some of the people who post on here: reasonably intelligent, bent strongly to one political ideology, and basing their arguments on possibilities dressed up as fact.

Stratfor blotted their copy book over Iraq, and it’s going to take more than this amateurish call to arms to suggest that I give them a second look.

These guys really don’t understand that the their wars simply aren’t popular enough to support a draft, do they? No other way they could get enough manpower.

I didn’t think that this article was a call to invade Iran as it was pointing out that Iran has already won the Middle East: Invading Iran is politically impossible at this point.

Iran remembers the days when Persia was a great empire, and they are well on their way to returning to those days. By playing the Shia card, Iran can get Shiite Arabs to do their bidding. But do you think the Persians will reward the Arabs for helping them regain control over the Middle East? The Shiites in Iraq are the Rimbo villagers to Iran’s XPav vampire.

The only hope, and it is as slim as they come, is for the religious leaders within Iraq to recognize they’re being played, and learn the principles of compromise and separation of church and state. While there are indications that this may be occurring, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Next to last paragraph. I find it amazing he thinks after all the shit we’ve seen that even if you did raise the army and burn Iran to the ground, it’d help at all.

There is one counter to this: a massive American buildup, including a major buildup of ground forces that requires a large expansion of the Army, geared for the invasion of Iran and destruction of its military force. The idea that this could readily be done through air power has evaporated, we would think, with the Israeli air force’s failure in Lebanon. An invasion of Iran would be enormously expensive, take a very long time and create a problem of occupation that would dwarf the problem faced in Iraq. But it is the other option. It would stabilize the geopolitics of the Arabian Peninsula and drain American military power for a generation.

Sometimes there are no good choices. For the United States, the options are to negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to Iran and live with the consequences, raise a massive army and invade Iran, or live in the current twilight world between Iranian hegemony and war with Iran. Bush appears to be choosing an indecisive twilight. Given the options, it is understandable why.

If he’s promoting war, he’s being really wishy-washy about it.

I envision outsourced minimum-wage mercenary armies staffed by poor residents of nearby countries… saves transportation and retirement costs, too!

US bartering arms for soldiers for Iraq

From 2003.

The Washington Post reported that some of the countries were providing troops only at a cost to US taxpayers.

The Bush administration has agreed to pay $240 million in support costs to the Polish contingent of about 9,000 troops. The costs will cover airlift transportation, meals, medical care and other expenses.

The proposed Indian contingent of 17,000 troops would have been the largest single foreign force, exceeding the 12,000 troops from Britain, Washington’s main coalition partner in the war against Iraq. But the move to provide Indian troops generated strong political and public opposition in New Delhi, threatening a government that faces elections next year.

India’s neighbor and foe Pakistan has been offered $3 billion in US aid over the next five years, of which $1.5 billion will be in military aid.

And according to the Ankara-based Hurriyet newspaper, the United States has been lobbying the Turkish government for about 10,000 troops for Iraq.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that the administration was discussing troop deployments both by Pakistan and Turkey.

“The Bush administration is doing the right thing in looking for additional help in Iraq,” said Natalie J Goldring, executive director of the Program on Global Security and Disarmament at the University of Maryland. “But the US government should be seeking that help through the United Nations. Instead, US political and military leaders are once again trying to buy countries’ cooperation with weapons transfers and military aid,” she said.

I didn’t think that this article was a call to invade Iran as it was pointing out that Iran has already won the Middle East: Invading Iran is politically impossible at this point.

Yeah, he is. He is just doing it in a pseudo-intellectual way, by presenting alternatives, but painting the alternatives as unworkable and finishing with a solution that his argument shows will work: invade Iran. Unfortunately his argument is fundamentally flawed by assuming so many possibilities as fact.

Invading Iran is not going to happen and Friedman knows it. It would require the re-institution of the draft to form a massive army to wage preemptive war and conduct a multidecade occupation and would raise the price of oil way above $100 a barrel. Which politician would even suggest that, let alone vote for it. An Iranian controlled Middle East isn’t that scary.

Yes, and Friedman says as much. His own points make the idea of invasion even more distasteful than any of the other options. He even concludes that another option is better explicitly.

I still don’t see where this “Friedman says we should invade Iran!” comes from. It certainly isn’t coming from this article here.

It’s knee jerking. Stratfor was pretty dead on in its Israel-Lebanon analysis, btw.

But if you blow off Friedman, how about Niall Ferguson, who in last week’s Time writes a dispatch from the year 2031, where a nuclear Iran is a superpower on the level of China and Russia thanks to domination of the Middle East?

I for one think the best solution is to let Iraq fission into three states (which is the most likely outcome at this point to stop the civil war) and base our forces in Kurdistan, encourage Syria to dominate the new Sunni Iraq as a client, and leave Shia Iraq to Iran. It’s realpolitik at its most rancid, but again, is probably the best thing we have to keep the status quo of the region alive and keep down the body count. And the alternative is just giving all of Iraq to Iran, which will probably result in hostile regimes throughout the Middle East shortly thereafter.

Another possibility that would work is if the Magic Middle Eastern Policy Fairy comes down from the heavens, does a loony-goony dance on the sands outside Tehran, and turns Iran into Oz with golden-paved roads, happy well-fed children, and no more evil imperialistic desires.

It would “work” just as invading Iran would “work,” and won’t happen for the same reason: There is no Magical Middle Eastern Policy Fairy any more than there is a massive new army with public support for a long-term invasion of Iran.

The fact that Friedman points this out for us would, IMHO, preclude anyone from thinking that invading Iran is a good idea – or that Friedman sees it as an option that “works.”

That’s what we did with Iraq!
We gave them weapons and tech to keep Iran in check.
Saddam was no Ghandi, but he hated OBL the Taliban and Al Queda as much as we do and the plan was working just fine.

Iran has evil imperialistic desires? It might have, but I see no proof and little evidence of it. It hasn’t even started a single war of aggression against anyone.

It would “work” just as invading Iran would “work,” and won’t happen for the same reason: There is no Magical Middle Eastern Policy Fairy any more than there is a massive new army with public support for a long-term invasion of Iran.

The fact that Friedman points this out for us would, IMHO, preclude anyone from thinking that invading Iran is a good idea – or that Friedman sees it as an option that “works.”

He argues that it is the only viable solution: pointing out that it will require sacrifices is just being realistic. This is aimed a little higher than your typical hawkish blog rant, but it still has the same bent.

In general I agree with you, but the problem to this approach is that, without an iron-clad unbreakable way of making sure the southern Iraqi state(s) share the oil wealth with the northern (Kurdish) state, we would really be fucking the Kurds over on the deal, and given that they seem to be our only genuine potential long-term allies in the area, that would seem to be a bad move…not to mention the fact that they would also share a long border with Turkey, who adamantly opposes the establishment of a Kurdish state, meaning we might end up having to choose between our Turkish “allies” and our Kurdish “allies” pretty quickly.

Kurdistan has some oil if you throw Mosul into the mix (which you’d have to do, though it’d piss off half of the inhabitants). I think Kurdistan with Mosul as the capitol would suit them just fine; in fact it’s what they have now.

Turkey would be severely pissed. They’d need to be persuaded to get over it. I’m sure we’d choose the Kurds who have always stood with the US vs the Turks who are more and more anti-American and anti-Western (not the same, mind you) as time passes, but we could possibly mollify them by guarantees of Turkey’s territorial integrity (ie no Turkish Kurdistan joining the Iraqi Kurd state a la Kosovo and Albania) and leaning heavily on the EU into letting them in (which probably wouldn’t work, but it’s not like we have much leverage over France anyway)

Bear in mind that Turkey at the last minute denied transit rights to US troops during the Iraqi invasion, forcing a division to be redirected at the last minute to Kuwait and preventing the US from supporting the Kurd Peshmerga rebels directly. That kind of thing doesn’t get forgotten, even if it’s not brought up overtly.

Is Bush actually stupid enough to hold that against Turkey? The public there really, really opposed the Iraq war - they might have touched off a revolution by letting us through.

Sure, and I’m not faulting them for doing so in the slightest, but in so doing it’s difficult to argue that they get a veto over Iraq’s future.

Bush might not hold it against them, but given that the decision cost American lives due to attacking along a single front? You bet the Pentagon holds a grudge.