Monday, August 28, 2006

US foments civil strife in Iraq?

Juan Cole has posted an excerpt from the new book Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice that illuminates Washington's role in heightening ethnic tensions in Iraq to advance its own agenda.
[W]hen all is said and done, Washington's only trump card in Iraq is going to be the sectarian and ethnic divisions among Iraqis, which the Bush administration is exploiting in the most cynical way according to the most classical of all imperial recipes: "Divide and rule." This is what Washington's proconsuls in Baghdad, from L. Paul Bremer to Khalilzad, have tried their best to put in place and take advantage of.

Seen in this light, the present flare-up in sectarian tensions is a godsend for Washington, to the point that many Iraqis suspect that U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies stand behind the worst sectarian attacks....

However, Washington is playing with fire: The sectarian feud suits its designs, but only provided that it is kept within limits. It is not in the United States' interests for Iraq to be carved up into three separate parts, as has been advocated cynically in the U.S. media by self-proclaimed "experts" and as neocons and friends believe is the second-best outcome, short of safe U.S. control over a unified Iraq. Not only would that actually be a recipe for a protracted civil war, but it would make U.S. control over the bulk of Iraqi oil that is located in the Shiite-majority South even more uncertain. Washington's best interest is therefore to foster the sectarian feud at a controllable level that suits its "divide and rule" policy, without letting it get out of control and turn into a most perilous civil war.

A federal Iraq, with a loose central government, could fit neatly with this design, provided it were accepted by all major Iraqi actors (which is quite difficult), but an Iraq torn apart could be a disaster -- all the more so that it could trigger a dangerous regional dynamic. (Think of the Shiite-populated eastern province of the Saudi kingdom where the bulk of oil reserves is concentrated.) |Informed Comment|

It would be hilarious in a darkly comic sort of way if the Iraq war (sold to the American people as the war that would pay for itself) actually led to the breakdown of the entire global petrochemical distribution system and the end of our suburban way of life.

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