May 29, 2007

Exit From Iraq Should Be Through Iran

Linking forces with Iran could minimize the costs of withdrawal from Iraq

by William E. Odom

Increasingly bogged down in the sands of Iraq, the US thrashes about looking for an honorable exit. Restoring cooperation between Washington and Tehran is the single most important step that could be taken to rescue the US from its predicament in Iraq. Understanding why requires some historical reflection.

Since the mid-1950s, US policy in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region was implicitly based on three pillars Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. As the British withdrew, Washington established nervous but lasting ties with Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the US built strong relations with the shah of Iran. After 1948, when it recognized the new state of Israel, the US slowly became a guarantor of that new state's survival. London's role in the entire region became marginal, especially after the Suez crisis in 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower abruptly stopped the joint British-Israeli military operation to seize the Suez Canal.

Thus by preventing any of the three camps from overrunning the other, the US provided regional stability.

Whether American leaders employed this strategy by design or by trial and error is arguable. At the time, they were more concerned with the Soviet challenge, trying to organize the so-called "northern tier," i.e., with Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, as a barrier to Soviet influence. They probably did not foresee they had undertaken an equally demanding task of sublimating two major intra-regional quarrels, virtually irresolvable ones.

Although the Arab-Israel quarrel is well known, the Persian-Arab quarrel is poorly understood. Iran has long made claims on territories on the Arab side of the Gulf and especially with Iraq over the Shatt-al-Arab waterway at the mouth of the Tigris River. The Sunni-Shiite religious fissure reinforces Persian-Arab animosities, but no less important is the old sense of cultural superiority among the Iranians toward the Arabs.

By keeping strong diplomatic ties in all three camps, the US maintained regional stability with limited military power.

Unfortunately, this strategy collapsed with the fall of the shah in Iran in 1979. . . .

Iran can't help but observe the examples that the US has set with India's and Pakistan's nuclear-weapons programs. After opposing both for years, Washington essentially embraced both countries once they acquired nuclear weapons. The lesson for both Iran and North Korea is simple: acquire nuclear weapons and the US will not only stop threatening "regime change," but will also seek good relations.

Effectively the US has demolished the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. . . .


[Lieutenant General William E. Odom (Retired), US Army, is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University. He was director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988, and his most recent book, "America's Inadvertent Empire," co-authored with Robert Dujarric, was published in 2004 by Yale University Press.]

John Pilger, "Iran: The War Begins," New Statesman, February 5, 2007

[ABC says that Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams is behind the covert action against Iran, which reportedly stems from a "nonlethal presidential finding" signed by Bush to launch a plan that "includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions." . . .

It's no surprise that Abrams would be behind this. But of all people he should know better. Abrams was a key player in the Iran-contra fiasco, which was rooted in lousy intelligence.--Robert Baer , "More Bad Intelligence on Iran and Iraq," Time, May 24, 2007]

Peter Walker, "Iran and US hold historic talks," Guardian Unlimited, May 28, 2007

[In sum, this Iranian proposal called for a non-rushed withdrawal and relocation of U.S. troops to bases inside Iraq, a rejection of all attempts to partition Iraq, a commitment by the Sunni bloc to root out the jihadists and acknowledgement by Washington that the Iranian nuclear file cannot be uncoupled from the Iraq negotiations. In return, Iran would rein in the armed Shiite militias, revise the de-Baathification law and Iraqi Constitution to double Sunni political representation, create a policy to allow for the fair distribution of oil revenues (particularly to the Sunnis) and use its regional influence to quell crises in areas such as Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

The terms put forth by the Iranians are so close to the U.S. position on Iraq that, with little exception, they could have been printed on State Department stationary and no one would have noticed the difference. If these are the terms Washington and Tehran are in fact discussing, then we are witnessing an extraordinary turn in the Iraq war in which the U.S. and Iranian blueprints for Iraq are finally aligning. It does not surprise us, then, that Crocker said after his meeting in Baghdad that the Iranian position "was very close to our own" at the level of policy and principle.--Reva Bhalla, "Iran, the United States and Potential Iraq Deal-Spoilers," Stratfor, May 29, 2007]

[It is hard to think of any modern precedent for a sitting National Security adviser taking a back seat on what are surely the most urgent foreign policy challenges facing the country.--David Usborne, "Bush U-turn as 'surge' sceptic to oversee war," Independent, June 9, 2007]

Jim Lobe, "A Neo-Conservative International Targets Iran,", June 9, 2007

[. . . the neoconservatives believe that the use of nuclear weapons against Iran will convince Muslims that they must accept U.S. hegemony.--Paul Craig Roberts, "The Neocon Threat to World Peace and American Freedom,", June 12, 2007]

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