Maher Osseiran: Between Democrats, Republicans, and Israel

By Maher Osseiran

Surge as a word has become synonymous with Bush and Baghdad but that does not mean the democrats are against it.

If we follow the logic of the Bush surge, the milestones, the benchmarks, etc…, it all results in a timeline that indicates that Bush would have withdrawn or redeployed the troops from Iraq sometimes in 2008, and in order to protect his legacy, he would have achieved or is hoping to achieve something positive and lasting; could it be the single item left from his Iraq agenda, federalism?

If we now look at the war-funding bill passed by the democrats, Feingold’s latest – maneuver – excluded, we see a similar timeline; a total redeployment by early 2008.

Could both visions be the same with minor differences in execution?

The answer is yes since all administrations that preceded George W. Bush were active contributors to the goal of “regime change in Iraq”; all administration since the end of the First Gulf War.

At the end of that war, Bush Sr. decided not to go after Saddam because of one simple reason; there was no substitute for Saddam that would maintain intact the critical balance in that part of the world. This fact should be clear to most who have followed four years of news from Iraq.

If there were a substitute, Bush Sr. would have been in Baghdad in 2 weeks; he certainly had the manpower in place.

There were two possible but not viable substitutes at the time, the Kurds and the Shiites. The Kurds were fragmented and plagues with infighting. The Shiites in the south got their signals crossed, rushed to stage an uprising, only to be abandoned to die by the tens of thousands by an American administration fearing at the last minute that those Shiites would become an extension of Iran. That was right after the First Gulf War.

Bush Sr. decided to keep Saddam on a short leash through the UN sanctions, later zealously enforced by Clinton and Blair, while cultivating a substitute. Clinton contributed, through the efforts of Secretary of State, Albright, by bringing the Kurds together through power sharing and co-operation agreements. Clinton nurtured the Kurds as the substitute and the new ally.

By the time Bush Jr. got in the White House, all was in place for “regime change in Iraq”; Iraq was actually his first choice in retaliation to 9/11. An invasion of Iraq could not be justified at the time, but the minute Saddam attempted to remove the sanctions, he sealed his fate. Regardless of who was in the White House, an invasion of Iraq would have become inevitable, i.e. a war of aggression.

That explains why we do not see much discernable difference between the positions of the leaderships of the democrats and republicans. The strategic goal is the same and both sides are in agreement to buy time until early 2008.

What is so magical about early 2008? Because in late 2007, the issue of federalism in Iraq will be back on the table and it is important till then that a semblance of a functioning democracy in Iraq be preserved; that is why the surge is focused on the seat of government, Baghdad.

Without a functioning democracy, the United States cannot wrestle the legal cover the Kurds need. Federalism would legitimize an independent or semi-independent status worthy of direct U.S. protection and military involvement.

The Kurdish territory would become the American permanent base in the Middle East and would replace or augment Israel.

Israel has been overused by the U.S. and has lost its luster as the most important destabilizing and anti-democracy factor in that region; democracy was never important to the U.S., instability was key. Not that Israel is an innocent by-stander, over the years, a synergy developed and Israel is just as guilty; we should keep in mind that Israel has a significant presence in the Kurdish region and actively involved in training Kurdish forces while AIPAC, Israel’s arm in Washington, is successfully lobbying for more wars.

The Kurdish territory will have the same narrative as Israel. This narrative would be spoon-fed to a naïve American electorate; it will be called Kurdistan, described as a nation that has been wronged throughout history and most recently subjected to the genocidal policies of Saddam, a nation liberated by a benevolent U.S., and endowed with the aura of a constitutional democracy.

Such a utopian vision by both leaderships in the democratic and republican parties totally ignores that the Iraqis have a vote in this matter.

It is the ability of the Iraqis to read this plan to the most minute of details since the early days of the occupation that helped them undermine it. By today, Bush Jr. was only supposed to have 5,000 troops left in Iraq; instead, the Iraqis forced him to maintain unsustainable troop levels for four years and forced the recent surge.

The leader of this Iraqi vote is Moqtada Al-Sadr who, after a few missteps early on, has not made a single mistake and was always two steps ahead of Jr.

Jr. tried to force Moqtada’s hand and failed. Moqtada was taunted many times within Iraq in attempts to draw him into a confrontation; he did not bite. Israel attacked Hizballah in Lebanon, with the public blessing and support of the U.S., in order to force Moqtada to come to their aid; Hizballah stood their ground and undermined Jr.’s wishes.

Even an attack on Iran, which most experts agree is dangerous and would not contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions; such an attack would take place only to force a confrontation within Iraq.

Moqtada’s recent call to the Iraqi army to stop helping the U.S. and for the Iraqi people to work together in opposing the occupation, even if heard by a small percentage of Iraqi troops, would be enough to negate the surge.

It is amazing that those who oppose U.S. policy in the Middle East can effectively undermine it with words and demonstrations, both tools of democracy, while the U.S. can only push its policy through the muzzle of a gun.

When Jr. first uttered the word democracy as the main theme of his Iraq policy, I said: “the Iraq war would not be hailed as the war that brought democracy to Iraq; it would be hailed as the war that brought democracy back to the US via Iraq”.

As a longtime supporter of Kurdish rights, I am appalled at how their leadership accepted the role of the new pariah in the Middle East; the new Israel, and an uncertain future for their people.

The only way the Kurds and the rest of Iraqis can avoid future bloodshed and change their path toward prosperity is by scrapping all what the U.S. has done to them and to espouse a reconciliation effort modeled after than of South Africa.

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