Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The end state

There is no shortage of states playing the despicable game in the Middle East. This despite the fact that we can predict what the region will be like in ten years time with a higher degree of confidence than the next 12 or 24 months.

We can predict with a high degree of confidence that US forces will be gone entirely. Political support for the occupation is already spent. It is entirely possible that both Presidential nominees in 2008 will be running on an anti-war ticket.

The neo-con dream of establishing a permanent US military base to control the region was always ridiculous. Now the attempt to maintain the permanent bases has become one of the chief casus-belli for the insurgents. Regardless of who succeeds Bush the bases will be gone.

Israel will still exist, the Palestinian issue will remain unresolved. More to the point however the West may have recognized that any hope for the two party state solution died with Rabin and Arafat. Neither Hamas nor Likud want the two party solution. Partition is in any case an unstable situation, particularly when one side continues to control the borders. Hamas uses violence to disrupt attempts to close a deal on the two state solution, once that is off the table their interests would be to adopt a non-violent approach.

Less certain is the position of the US Israel lobby which faces challenges on every front. The GOP will require a scapegoat for their Iraq fiasco. Muslims fed up with the bigotry they have encountered since 9/11 have begun to organize politically and are likely to have become a political force. Meanwhile the habit of referring to every opponent as an anti-Semite is already consolidating the left wing blogosphere against them.

Iran will get its nuclear bomb and more besides. Whether the mullahs will continue to control the strings is another matter. Iran is already the regional superpower, its influence dominates Iraq and southern Afghanistan.

Iran's bomb will of course mean the end of the illusion that the US is able to engage in adventures in the region such as the Iraq fiasco. Iran's bomb will effectively marginalize any remaining neo-cons to John Birch society status; regarded as crazed idiots with dangerous ideas who must on no account be allowed anywhere near the leavers of power.

By 2017 Iraq's civil war should have run its course. During the course of the war any and all interim settlements will have been liquidated. These include the US drafted interim constitution and US drafted agreements for foreign exploitation of the oil. The constitutional settlement most likely to end the war is one similar to that imposed after the Iranian revolution: some form of democratic veneer on an essentially dictatorial regime. In order to maintain power the center will need to have frequent recourse to violent means. The result is unlikely to meet anyone's definition of a liberal democracy.

The power behind the throne in such an arrangement is almost certain to be Iran since it is the only country in the region with the men and materiel to impose a peace. At this point the most likely top thug appears to be Moqtadr al Sadr but there is no shortage of brutal thugs to take his place.

The analysis is not eaxctly favorable to US or Western interests but it is hard to see any more favorable outcome surviving that long. The insurgents will certainly not permit the US to maintain permanent bases. The US does not have the means to occupy Iran. So baring a deus ex machina solution (the Iranians greet US troops with flowers) the forecast for 2017 looks far far worse for Western interests today than it did in 2002.

Another issue that the hawks have not managed to internalize is the fact that as a direct result of the invasion of Iraq the US has ceased to be a unilateral power. By 2017 China, Rusia and possibly India will also be ranked amongst the great powers. The major concern of US policy will be as in 1950 establishing multinational alliances to stablize the international system and not enabling the exercise of raw power unfettered by UN constraints.

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