Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Will something good come of Iraq?

By Douglas Kohn

This will be the question that all American policy makers, especially Neoconservatives will have to ponder for the years to come. Was Iraq worthwhile with the sacrifice of blood and treasure that came with it? Will it be an example of Arab Muslim democracy and if so, will it help American strategic goals?

In my opinion the answers are no, probably and no.

Just because Iraq is a democracy does not mean that it is going help America’s strategic goals in the Middle East. Iraq is a majority Shiite nation with close historical ties to Iran. The fact that it was ruled for sometime by Saddam Hussein, was basically just a fluke of history.

In spite of its internal divisions and the violence of the last few years, the three Iraqi ethnoreligious subdivisions, Arab Shiite Muslims, Arab Sunni Muslims, and Kurdish Sunni Muslims do not seem to want permanent separation. Iraq is not a completely poverty stricken country and falls in the middle between say, industrialized Western countries and poor African countries. The three groups seem to accept that to move forward they have to participate in the system. But Iraq remains largely anti American even if they see some benefits of having America participate in their security operations.

The two largest beneficiaries of the removal of Saddam Hussein were Iran and the Kurds. Northern Iraq, dominated by the Kurdish ethnic group is the only pro American faction in Iraq and they have started to build a real economy and functioning institutions.

Chances are however, even if it does not openly cooperate with Iran on strategic issues, the new Iraq will not stand in its way.

Further reasons that the Iraq venture can be considered a failure is because we have now essentially seen the end of its Christian community, one of the oldest in the world. For a large part of history, Iraq had a largely cosmopolitan outlook on the world. Not only was it home to a large Christian community, but before the creation of Israel it was home to the oldest (and one of the largest, post Holocaust) Jewish community in the world. The Iraqi Jewish community dated from 586 BC with the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Now the Christians, and especially Catholic, communities in Iraq have been devastated.

Further horrid acts are still going on in Iraq. The gay community in Iraq, largely ignored by Saddam, has been subject to inhuman barbarism that it is safe to say no Fundamentalist Christian in the United States, or most other countries, would ever dream of.

So Iraq, even if it is an example of democracy, will remain a very flawed one along the lines seen in South Africa, if I am forced to make a comparison.


Patrick said...

Interesting perspective on Iraq. However, if you would, please clarify your discussion about Iraq-Iran cooperation.

What exactly do you think Iraq and Iran need to cooperate on? And how should they cooperate?

DSKohn said...

Besides normal cross border issues regarding Iraq and Iran, you will probably see a significantly large faction of the Iraq people and government pushing for Iranian style theocracy in their country.

Iran is trying to make itself the leading power of the Islamic world by pushing its radical form of Islamic revolution on its coreligionist nations around the world. It has run into problems partly because it is Shia and most of Muslims are Sunni. The likelihood of Iran being able to pull the strings of all Islamic countries around the world is not very high. But if they have a large faction in Iraq supporting them they will be able to stir unrest among Shia minorities throughout the Middle East and possibly gain themselves a following among the Sunnis (they already have).

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