Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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Now that we are on the way to a new Iraq. A bit of prognostication.
Look at a map of the Middle East. Iraq's strategic importance is hard to overstate. A free Iraq will affect the many nations it borders and its influence will be very heavy. Lets look at what it may mean for some of those states.
First, Turkey. For starters let's recognize the amazing political savvy of the Kurds. The Turkish government must be extremely frustrated at the Kurds refusal to play along with Turkish plans. This also bodes well for decent political future in Iraq. But what benefits does Turkey gain from a free Iraq? For one, there will now be another Muslim government based on representative republican ideals. This will go a long way to taking some pressure off of the Turks. They have been the showcase Muslim Democracy for more than half a century and have at times had to resort to some extreme measures in order to keep it this way. Now there will be another and the spotlight will be shared. We should make sure to remind Turkey of their importance while also trying to push them to further liberalize. We should also see to it that there is a bilateral trading agreement between the two that will help ease some of the economic strain that the Turks will feel from the loss of free/cheap Iraqi oil. Unlike France and Germany Turkish intransigence came after a great deal of political battling within the country. We should acknowledge that they came to their decision through the proper means (parliamentary debate) we should also make clear to them that now is the time to put that in the past and to work to settle disputes between the Turks and Kurds while making Turkey and Iraq an Axis of Democracy in the region.
Syria may well be the most affected by this. They are now isolated. Boy Assad has proven himself dangerously inept at gauging the winds of change and acting accordingly. With reports of military aid and the harboring of Saddam's ruling elite Assad is in a precarious position. Not only will he anger America with this stance, he will place himself in a dangerous position with the Iraqi people who want their former tyrants to face retribution for their crimes. He needs to realize that he is now isolated in the region. Turkey on the north, Jordan on the south, Israel to the southwest, occupied Lebanon to the west and a newly freed and possibly hostile Iraq to the east. Previously arms, oil and terrorist fighters flowed through Iraq from Iran and further east. That is about to dry up and he will find himself on an island and surrounded by nations who want nothing to do with his thugocracy. It is time for Jordan or Turkey to take him aside and explain the situation to him.
Jordan is enigmatic in this. While they share detente with Israel we now find that Iraq is overflowing with Turkish weaponry. We can hope that this is the work of a very small group in the military that can be found and rooted out. If the aid to Saddam runs higher than that it could be very bad, pushing Jordan into the arms of Syria and by extension Iran. But, assuming this is not the case, what will a free Iraq mean for Jordan? If we play this right diplomatically we could see a more representative and prosperous Jordan start to grow as Iraq does. Especially if we can draw them into an Axis with the Iraqis and Turks. Abdullah has slowly been moving toward a representative government. As Iraq rebuilds and becomes more prosperous and influential Abdullah will be forced to explain why we give him $2 billion a year.
Iran may face the most upheaval. Pundits worry about the Ayatollahs' undue influence on the Shia Iraqis but I tend to think the worry should run the other way. An already restive Iranian youth will look to the newly freed Iraqis and hear the stories of freedom and see the Iraqi exiles returning to a reborn homeland. This should be very worrying indeed for the likes of Khameini and Rafsanjani. The apparent ease with which Saddam's forces built for internal oppression fell must cause a great deal of unease in the ruling Ayatollahs. Yesterday there were signs that Iran wanted to begin thawing relations to America. We should make very clear to them that this will only happen if we see some changes in the oppression of Iranians. As Michael Ledeen says we should aid the Iranian people in the same ways we did the Poles, Philippinos and others who rose up and did the job themselves. A new government in Tehran would also go a long way to fostering lasting stability in Afghanistan.
Israel. There is the possibility that the Iraqi people will be cool toward the Palestinians just as a response to Saddam's support for them. Arafat's unequivocal support for Saddam and the images of the pro-Saddam protests in the West Bank and Gaza will also do little to foster any warm feelings between the two. This, of course, doesn't necessarily mean that Iraq will become a warm friend of Israel. But, the INC and the Kurds have said that they support opening relations with Israel. A real relationship between them with Turkey adding encouragement could help Jordan and, maybe Egypt, to move a little further than the present detente. Perhaps Iraq can be drawn into the American fostered ménage a trios of Turkey, Israel and India. This would be a good political influence on a rebuilding Iraq. It would also draw India into aiding in the rebuilding.
Egypt, like Jordan will be forced to justify their $2 billion a year in subsidies as Iraq becomes more influential. Mubarek should be told that there must be some basic structural and cultural changes fostered in his country.
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