after the withdrawal

Sometimes counting beads can be a comfort. Sometimes, returning to facts can also be a comfort. One of the facts about the current government in Iraq seems to me to be consistently underplayed. That fact is that one of the parties with which we are now allied, Daawa, or the Call, once had a much more tolerant view of suicide bombers. In fact, on December 12, 1983, Daawa’s tolerance went so far that members of the group exploded truck bombs in front of the American embassy in Kuwait. At that point, Daawa was linked to the groups that had previously done a pretty thorough demolition job on the American embassy in Beirut, earlier in the year.

The U.S. turnaround on terrorism, here, is both amazing and a sign that there is a way out of the present impasse in the Middle East. It is one of the multiple inversions covered by the “war on terrorism” – a war that is constituted by scrupulously avoiding warring on terrorists per se, in order to war on the big picture. Thus, one allows OBL to devise little explosions here and there, while American soldiers in Afghanistan guard highways to make sure that opium can get on the world market. Hence the invasion in Iraq, and hence the current paradox that American soldiers are dying so that a man implicated in the suicide bombings of Americans can safely sleep at night.

The impasse, here, has been created by a situation over the last two years that has made the U.S. both much too heavily present in Iraq and irrelevant to the real history that is being made in the region. This is dangerous for all parties. LI would like to see an immediate U.S. withdrawal of troops, but we realize that, given U.S. power and interests, there is no way to keep the Americans out of the Middle East forever.

To us, this means that the U.S. has to reconcile itself with the real configuration of power in the Middle East – meaning the rise of the swathe of Shi’a states. The first step towards doing this, after the withdrawal of the troops, is simple: détente with Iran. In the murky discussions about the steps leading up to the invasion of Iraq, there has been a surprisingly blind acceptance of the constraint that made that invasion at least plausible to the D.C. cliques, for without cooperation with Iran, it proved impossible to support the successful removal of Saddam Hussein by the Iraqis. The policy of dual containment was the embodiment of foreign policy neuroses. It was senseless, it was ideologically driven, and it fed on every problem that came near its horizon.

Détente with Iran doesn’t mean approval of the horrible Iranian human rights record – and nor does it mean, on Iran’s side, approval of the horrible American human rights record. It does mean that improvement in human rights is going to occur under the real forms of governance that are in place today, rather than their violent replacement via American invasion. Nor should the democracy deficit that put in place a president who did not win the election in 2000 in the U.S. instill a false confidence in the Iranian government that the U.S. will somehow assimilate that coup and return to normal.

As a practical matter, the Americans have already tacitly conceded Iraq to the Iranian sphere of influence. In fact, the American eagerness to disarm Iraq and to keep it disarmed – for notwithstanding the pledge to “Iraqify” the war in Iraq, the Americans have so far shown a consistent reluctance to really create a modern, well equipped Iraqi army, relying instead on second hand weapons, corrupt Defense department officials, and paramilitaries – has, as its objective correlate, this subordination of Iraq to its more powerful neighbor. We don’t believe this was the intention. The intention was a one two step, with the first one being weakening Iraq, and the second one being a weak Iraq accepting a permanent system of U.S. bases. That, of course, didn’t work. Eventually, Iraq will not accept subordination to Iran, either.

All of which should drive the nations involved to some kind of cooperative framework of coexistence.