November 26, 2003

- - Blowback and Backfire - -

When will we ever learn? On 11/21, Pacific News Service published this piece by Behrouz Saba. Excerpts:

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet Republic in Central Asia and the world's ninth-largest country, is oil-rich and pro-American, has an increasingly repressive government awash in corruption and a 47 percent Moslem population. Those are many of the conditions that have allowed radical Islam to take root in the Middle East.

The Bush administration, by appeasing Kazakhstan for its oil and accommodation of U.S. troops, risks contributing to the creation of a new Iraq or Afghanistan on a giant scale.

This is just the beginning of a plausible Central Asian nightmare scenario. Numerous other former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrkyzstan, are similarly ripe for Islamic radicalization in a region that stretches from Europe to China . . .

The Middle East is already beginning to have a corrupting and destabilizing impact on Central Asia, through a brisk drug trade. An exponential increase in opium production since the fall of the Taliban has made Afghanistan the world's largest source of heroin. Drug traffickers are finding safe routes in the vastness of Khazakstan, while there are reports that Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan's ruler, is an active participant in the Afghani drug trade.

By supporting such leaders or turning a blind eye to their misdeeds for the short-term use they can be to the United States, the Bush administration is encouraging another blowback.

Then, yesterday, the same PNS's Jalal Ghazi published "Wolfowitz Doctrine Sinks in the Iraqi Quagmire". Excerpts:

The pre-emption doctrine of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz helped fuel the war in Iraq. Wolfowitz argued that the United States should "shape," not just react, to the world, acting alone when necessary and using its military and economic hegemony to foster American values and protect U.S. interests. But the outcome of the Iraq war has brought about the opposite: the quagmire has stymied aggressive U.S. unilateral action and forced Washington to work with European allies and even an old foe, Iran . . .

Iran has supported Iraq's highest-ranking Shiite religious authority, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Hussaini Sistani, who issued a fatwa (religious decree) stating that Iraq's Shiites should refrain from attacking U.S. and British forces. However, Iran's conservatives have also increased ties with Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sader, the main challenger to Sistani, who said recently, "the small Satan (Saddam Hussein) got away and the big Satan (the United States) came." Iran is keeping the door open to support one leader over the other, depending on U.S. actions.

Bremer's strategy may have temporarily placated the Shiites, but Iraq's Sunni population was outraged. Many responded by taking arms against American soldiers. Because they formed the backbone of the Iraqi intelligence and army, the Sunnis knew where weapons were hidden and how to use them. The United States underestimated their ability to deliver painful, deadly blows to U.S. troops.

Just a few weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, Wolfowitz argued that military force would bring the necessary political and cultural change in the Middle East in order to defeat terrorism. But now, to keep a fierce guerrilla war from expanding further, the U.S. must put incredible energy into diplomacy and negotiation. Forget "pre-emption," "regime change" and "axis of evil." In Iraq, Washington needs all the help it can get.

It's a fine mess you've got us in this time, Ollie.

Be at peace.