Saturday, December 03, 2005

Michael: Juan Cole on the Shiite Victory in Iraq

Juan Cole, the U Mich Professor of Islamic Studies whose blog Informed Comment has become an authoritative contra-Administration source of analysis, published a history of how the Shiites have gotten the upper hand in Iraq as a result of Bush's invasion. His thesis regarding the likely course of politics and power in the Middle East as a result of that war and occupation coincides so well with my own analysis of mid-October, that I wanted to bring them together in a post.

Cole's conclusions are as logical as they are alarming:

An Iraq dominated by religious Shiites who had often lived in exile in Iran for decades is inevitably an Iraq with warm relations with Tehran. The US, bogged down in a military quagmire in the Sunni Arab regions, cannot afford to provoke massive demonstrations and uprisings in the Shiite areas of Iraq by attacking Iran. Bush has inadvertently strengthened Iran, giving it a new, religious Shiite ally in the Gulf region. The traditional Sunni powers in the region, such as the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are alarmed and annoyed that Bush has created a new "Shiite crescent." Far from weakening or overthrowing the ayatollahs, Bush has ensconced and strengthened them. Indeed, by chasing after imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he may have lost any real opportunity to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon should it decide to do so.

I came to the conclusion that the greatest threat to Middle East stability and American interests comes from an emerging pan-national alliance of Shiites in formerly Sunni controled nations of the Persian Gulf. My analysis is far more speculative than Cole's more constrained analysis, but his reference to an emerging "Shiite crescent" perfectly echos my concern.

The only dominos likely to fall in the Middle East are the Shiite majority areas controlled by superannuated Sunni oil sheiks around the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Dubai and Qatar, all have substantial Shiite populations and sclerotic political institutions ripe for destabilization by populist movements. Without us being able to do much more to stop it than we could have done about Iran itself in 1979, a theocratic Shiite pan-national alliance, led by Tehran, could dominate the Gulf region and the great majority of the Middle East’s oil. This is the real pan-Islamic threat that America should be concerned about.

Needless to say, throw nuclear weapons into the mix with the oil weapon such a "Shiite cresent" would already wield, and Bush's policy will have created a formidable and implacable enemy in this strategic region, instead of the cascade of liberal democracy the NeoCons sold to Bush.


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