December 04, 2006

As if life weren't complicated enough...

This post from Professor Cutler makes clear that some people within the US Foreign Policy establishment view what is happening in Iraq not as part of a wider war against Islamo-Fascism but as part of a wider contest with Russia over energy resources all across the Middle East and central Asia. These Hudson Institute hawks are thus worried about Iran- not as a sponsor of Shia terrorism through the middle East- but as a potential ally for Putin on his southern flank- and consequently they want the United States to move closer to Iran. They seem split as Professor Cutler notes in the way to effect that goal- some advocating an alliance with Iran which would involve US withdrawel from Iraq and diminishing support for Israel and others wanting regime change within Iran.

Both policy options to me seem flawed as does the overall conception- Russia's problem with radical Islam is at least as big as the West's- see Chechnya and anyway its influence especially in Central Asia is declining, whereas China is the true competitor for energy reserves out there, partly because it like the West doesn't have sufficient for its own needs. Furthermore in the long term Russia's population and comparative economic position (removing raw materials) trends down- it needs our assistance particularly in economic terms. The Ayatollah-Putin alliance is a possible informal relationship but only in the context of both having a bigger enemy to fear and being terrified of in the first case attack and in the second being undermined in its traditional areas of influence- see the Ukrainian elections for example.

As for the US wooing Iran, that would involve ceding control of massive parts of Iraq to the Iranians in a grand bargain that would involve the establishment of Shia power in the South of the country. Regime change though equally seems impossible- with US and UK forces overstretched at the moment- indeed possibly so overstretched that as Andrew Sullivan argues there aren't enough troops in reserve to make the neccessary increases of forces in Iraq up- let alone invade Iran.

This post doesn't really answer any questions just raise them, it doesn't seem to me that the Hudson Institute hawks are any nearer though to the answer than me or Professor Cutler- maybe the only answer is to be Nixonian and address the instability between the great powers rather than playing a cold war game in the Middle East.

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