The Three Acts of the Drama In The Middle East
Not exactly the kind of "democratization" we expected from ousting Saddam!
How the hell did we get into this kind of holy mess? Where are the rosy scenarios Wolfovitz and his ilk painted for us when we were lied into attacking Iraq? To be fair, the Saudis were always a bit wary about the Iraq war. On one hand they were secretly happy that George Bush, in the process of avenging his fathers honor, was going to rid them of the Saddam menace, but on the other hand Saudis knew that the first Iraq war had practically neutered Saddam as a threat, and the real threat to their kingdom is from the extreme (and anti-Saudi) views being spouted out of Tehran. Their main worry, that Sunnis loss of power in Iraq might strengthen the Iranian hand seems to have borne out exactly. As bad as Saddam was, he was the one thing that was holding the mullahs of Iran back. With Saddam gone, the dominos appear to be ready to topple in the middle east.
So is the Saudi threat a real one?
Lets see... its no secret that a large part of the Shia-Sunni violence in Iraq today is being financed by wealthy Saudi Arabian patrons. But so far this financial support of Iraqi Shias has not been officially sanctioned. Dick Cheny went to Saudi Arabia to convince the King that he had to act to stop this flow of money, but instead of support, he seems to have gotten an ear full.
The King is not worried about the cost of the war to US, he is worried that if Iran gains an upper hand, the war may cost him his kingdom. Its obvious that not everybody agrees with the King, not in the least, the Saudi ambassador to the US. The sudden resignation of the Saudi Ambassador early yesterday indicates that there is a tectonic shift going on in the Hashemite Kindgom. VariFrank has an interesting analysis on the resignation of Prince Turki, but its clearly seems to be related to todays announcement by the Saudis. Either Turki didn't see eye-to-eye with the King's decision, or the King didn't go far enough. My own assessment is that Turki was toeing the American line too much and the Kind decided that enough was enough.
So where to from hither? My guess is, this is only the first act in the sordid middle-eastern drama. Lots of posturing going on right now...Israel making noises about Iran, Iran making noises about israel and US, Saudis making noises about Sunnis in Iraq, and Syria supporting Haezbollah in Lebanon.
The second act will probably see a widening of the war. Iran will continue to cause havoc in Iraq, and try to bait Israel into attacking Iran. Hezbollah, with Syrian support will likely re-open the war with Israel. The Saudis will support the Sunnis against Shias making the situation in Iraq worse. Meanwhile, US can't do much about the wider war since we are tied up in Iraq. Only Israel can prevent this widening of the conflict by staying quite. And US can help. Prince err President Bush has his role carved out for him.
At least Bush has woken up from the neocon dream of a democratic middle-east. Having overcome the denial stage, he needs to recognize quickly that we may be at the beginning of a quagmire. King Saud's threats not withstanding, the savviest thing we can do is, cut our lossess - divide Iraq into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish autonomous regions, and get the hell out of there. If US leaves the mid-east, it will be one less reason to unite the Shias and Sunnis against Israel and US. The Saudis should be happy with an autonomous reqion for Sunnis, and that'll calm them down.
This is where we will enter the third act of the drama - consolidation of the traditional powers - the mullahs in Iran, the Sauds in Arabia, the Bathist in Syria and Lebanon, the Hamas in Palestine and of course, Israel. Once their territories are marked and established, the smouldering region can go back to being the way it has always been - a tribal society.
The dream of democracy in the middle east is dead. Long live democracy!