Source ListMeister
Date 04/01/08/01:32

By Jack A. Smith

Washington well understands that its scheme for exercising total hegemony in
the Middle East may succeed or fail based on whether it can demolish the
Iraqi resistance in the next few months.  The biggest asset the U.S. can
deploy in this effort is history's most deadly military force. But if the
"David" of some 7,000 Iraqi irregulars can force the "Goliath" of American
militarism to terminate the occupation ahead of schedule, the White House
will lose its most persuasive weapon in the Middle East: the fear that Uncle
Sam, with his terrible swift sword, is omnipotent.

A reorganized Iraq under American economic, political and military dominion
is generally intended to become the model imposed upon the Middle East, as
well as a local base for future "regime-change" invasions in the region. The
Bush administration expresses its strategic intentions in a different light:
"We are resolved Š to turn the president's goal of a free and democratic
Middle East into a reality," wrote ever-devious Secretary of State Colin
Powell in a New Year's Day statement.

Washington's original occupation plan was based on the a supposition that
the majority of Iraqis, who are 97% Muslim, would welcome the modern
crusaders from Christendom-on-Potomac, converting their beleaguered but
proud ancient society into a favored protectorate of yet another foreign
empire (Britain was the last of seven empires which preceded the U.S. in
dominating this remnant of Mesopotamia). In addition, many Iraqi Muslims are
distraught over the pernicious influence of degrading and violent aspects of
American popular culture.

The new government that was supposed to emerge from the puppet interim Iraqi
Governing Council was to be hand-picked through a mechanism contrived to
convey the impression that democracy was somehow involved in the process.
The Pentagon planned to install its stooge, the roguish Ahmed Chalabi of the
Iraqi National Congress exile group, as supreme leader. The CIA has a
different candidate, Ayad Alawi, who heads the Iraqi National Accord exile
faction < but this is a problem for the Americans to solve, not the Iraqis.
Once the "democratic" puppet administration took charge, the rest of the
political and economic transformation of Iraq was to proceed without serious

The plan degenerated soon after Washington's foreign legion triumphed over a
nearly defenseless enemy. Most Iraqis, including opponents of the Hussein
regime, did not welcome foreign invaders. The U.S. Army's mistreatment of
civilians turned sullenness into hatred.  Then the CPA bungled its postwar
responsibilities. (Electrical blackouts averaging 16 hours remain a daily
occurrence; gasoline is still severely rationed, disrupting transportation;
the internal communications system remains a shambles; and bomb-destroyed
housing will take ages to replace at the current rate of progress.) Finally
came the patriotic armed resistance movement, an inevitability entirely
unforeseen by the Bush administration.

The crux of the political disagreement between the Bush administration and
the Shi'ites is that the former wants elections in the relatively distant
future while the latter < announced in a major declaration by Ayatollah Ali
al-Sistani < seek direct popular elections in the next several months. The
Shia religious leader correctly anticipates Bush's real goal is the
long-term domination of Iraq. The Bush administration in fact needs more
time to manipulate and bribe key political factions and to construct a
"democratic"  electoral framework that will still guarantee a continuing
role for the United States, though probably not on the grandiose scale first
fantasized in neoconservative think-tanks.

At this junction, the U.S. is preparing to transfer certain political
responsibilities in July from the CPA to a provisional government that will
not be elected by popular vote. A general election, under complicated rules
devised by CPA proconsul Paul Bremer to further Bush's objectives, is
supposed to take place in March 2005.  The U.S. insists the  delay is
required to take a census to ensure fair elections. Iraqi officials told the
U.S. in November that a census could be finished by September 2004, but they
were ignored.

The Bush administration's intention to heavily influence future Iraqi
politics was underscored Jan. 2 with the news that the State Department is
assigning 3,000 "diplomats" < a virtual colonial administration < to its new
embassy in Baghdad.  According to Secretary of State Powell, their main task
"will be helping the Iraqi people get ready for their full elections and
full constitution the following year," as though the Iraqi people needed all
those "diplomats" to teach them how to conduct their own affairs.

The Shi'ites expect to win an honest direct election on the basis of
constituting 60-65% of the population, but they fear being outmaneuvered by
the White House. They also expect the U.S. to withdraw after a
democratically-elected government is finally selected, though a more
flexible timetable is possible.  Washington demands considerably more than a
temporary extension of its lease < and it also fears, despite assurances to
the contrary from  al-Sistani, that a Shi'ite government will establish an
Islamic theocracy and, worse yet, strengthen the influence of neighboring
Iran within Iraq and in the Gulf region. The most complicating factor is
that the Shia may join the insurgency and doom Bush's entire expedition if
thwarted in crooked elections or in its timetable for withdrawal.

This is a serious contradiction that may require the U.S. to contemplate an
elaborate compromise involving "Axis-of-Evil" Iran, the only Shi'ite
dominated country in the Muslim world. As we speculated some months ago, the
outlines of a compromise might include Washington's support for a Shi'ite
government in Baghdad  in return for pledges to refrain from creating a
religious regime and to circumscribe Iran's influence in Iraq. As part of a
deal, the U.S. could offer not to take aggressive action against Iran, as it
has threatened in the past, even if this would upset the influential
right-wing faction in Israel that prefers Washington to topple the Tehran
government. In exchange, Iran may be expected to compromise on nuclear
issues and perhaps also limit support for anti-Israel factions in the
Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

The foregoing approximates the dimensions of President Bush's election-year
dilemma in Iraq, but there is no way to predict the outcome.  A number of
results are possible, including the fulfillment of Bush's key objectives. It
is also possible that as a result of the invasion Iraq will be pushed into a
civil war or even disintegration by dividing into three separate states,
factors that would discombobulate the entire region. The most favorable
outcome for those who oppose unjust wars and imperialism is for the Iraqi
resistance and the U.S. antiwar movement to become potent enough to create
sufficient reason for the American people to turn against the war before
Election Day.

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