Mar 21, 2007

More fuel on the fire

With the U.S. Attorney scandal leaving tire marks all over the Bush Administration's credibility (you can ask conservatives about this one... they'll agree), the competence of the people at the top is being questioned much more now than in the past six years. That's why I think the administration's decision to pressure Middle Eastern states into buying U.S.-made weapons is going to be another mini-scandal for Bush to deal with.

First of all, this fits perfectly with the recent report by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker that Bush and his advisors are taking steps to align themselves with the Sunnis, at the expense of the Shia. This is despite the fact that Sunnis, not Shia, form nearly all of the violent opposition to U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. On a region-wide basis, we're aligning ourselves with the people who are fighting against us in Iraq.

Now the Bush administration wants to counteract the greater influence of Iran by selling missile defense, radar and naval systems to the Gulf Sunni states. While those are all ostensibly defensive systems (you need a lot more than radar to invade your neighbor), the U.S. is obviously trying to shore up our allies for some imagined future war against Iran.

The problem is that no one, other than possibly some neo-conservatives in Washington, want that war to happen. A regional war betwen Sunnis and Shia would be really, really, really bad. The Sunni and Shia populations aren't on monolithic opposing sides of some border, they're mixed together in many parts of Iraq, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East. Shia are minorities in many of the predominantly Sunni states there. This would be Iraq x 100.

This brings up a large point: For all the rhetoric about the threat from Iran, the Islamic Republic itself hasn't really done much of anything to signal any kind of military action in region. It certainly can't be blamed for the Iraq debacle: Most experts feel Tehran has kept its intelligence and military from fueling the sectarian violence on the other side of the border. So other than its desire to explore uranium enrichment (a path followed by both the U.S. and Israel, btw), Iran doesn't appear to be sharpening its dagger quite yet.

You would think that after so much U.S. misery in the Middle East, some clear-headed thinkers at the top would stop for a second and think about the ramifications of militarizing that region. Building it into a series of client states and proxy armies is an insane way of trying to bring stability and peace. Instead of trying to convince the Gulf states that Iran is a military foe bent on their destruction, maybe the U.S. should focus on stabilizing Iraq and establishing an economically viable Palestinian state. Now that would cool far more heads than missile defense systems.

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