Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
By David G. Young
Washington, DC, February 15, 2005 --
As the air of giddiness wears off from a less-violent-than-expected Iraqi election, America's foreign policy is slamming into a series of stubborn realities that could cement the Iraqi invasion as the greatest overseas disaster in America's history. The very election that was such great a moment for Iraqis has now yielded grim results for the United States. The victor, with nearly half the vote, is a slate of Shiite Islamist candidates following the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Should this political movement be successful in seizing control over the country, the result would be an Iranian-style theocracy.
Bush administration spinners and other optimists have rightfully been pointing out that the Islamists failed to win over 50 percent of the vote, and that a strong showing of second place Kurdish candidates will prevent the Islamists from single-handedly writing the constitution. But this rose-colored scenario is shortsighted. An undisputed fact is that the Kurds have little to no interest in remaining in Iraq. They are merely biding their time until they can declare full independence. If and when this happens, the election results show, supporters of Iraq's Islamists will be in the overwhelming majority.
Examine the numbers without the Kurds. If Iraq's 275 seat parliament were reduced by the 70 seats won by the Kurdish slate, only 205 seats would be left.1 Under this scenario, the Islamists' 140 seat share surges to just over two thirds of parliament -- enough to single-handedly write the constitution. While this is a hypothetical situation, it may also be a vision of the future. As violence continues to shake Iraq, residents of peaceful and prosperous Iraqi Kurdistan will undoubtedly tire of being dragged down by their warring fellow Iraqis. In the likely case that Kurdistan becomes independent, Iraq will face a grim Islamist future.
Consider, therefore, that the 100,000 American troops pinned down in Iraq are esentially defending elected Islamist theocrats against a rebellion of predominantly secular Sunni Muslims. Given that the Bush administration is supposedly fighting a terror war against radical Islamists, it appears that America is fighting on the wrong side.
That America's troops are fighting to defend Islamists is a bad enough implementation of U.S. policy. What's worse, however, is that this commitment is preventing the United States from addressing its other foreign policy challenges.
In the past week, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il has formally declared his country to be a nuclear power, and said that he needs atomic weapons to counter the American enemy. Once again, he is thumbing his nose at America, and with the U.S. military overextended, the Bush administration can do nothing.
This sends a signal to the Iranians -- the third leg of Bush's infamous "Axis of Evil." Iran is under diplomatic pressure from Europe to give up their nuclear program. Americans are trying to apply military pressure, most recently by sending American drones to perform reconnaissance in Iranian airspace.2
But North Korea's unchallenged haughtiness completely undercuts this pressure. Iranian leaders are probably sitting back and chuckling as the United States is forced to sit quietly while being diss'ed by North Korea. Likely adding to the pleasure of the Iranian mullahs is the hard work Americans have been doing to set the stage for an Iranian-style regime in southern Iraq. Iran fought a war for over a decade and lost millions of men in such an effort. Now the Americans could very well hand them this prize on a silver platter.
The future may see two anti-American countries as formal nuclear powers and the bulk of Iraq as an Iranian-style Islamist theocracy. This is the worst-case scenario, for sure, but it is also one that is looking increasingly likely. "Staying the course" is nothing but a path to this disaster. If the America's foreign policy is to avoid this fate, drastic changes had better come soon.
1. Washington Post, Jockeying for Iraq Posts Picks Up (Accompanying graphic), February 15, 2005
2. Ibid., U.S. Uses Drones to Probe Iran For Arms, February 13, 2004