Monday, March 06, 2006

Bush's Legacy

As Iraq teeters on the verge of interdenominational and interethnic warfare (civil war is actually an inaccurate terms since Iraq does not posses anything like a unified civil society), Shiite extremists backed by Iran have positioned themselves as the arbiters of Iraq’s destiny. Ironically, the Bush administration’s strategy of building democracy has provided given Islamist extremists like Moqtada al Sadr the political leverage to tilt Iraqi politics in his favor, and has given Iran a handy weapon with which to threaten the US. Arnaud de Borchgrave offers a succinct summary of the current situation:

The bombing of the Askariya Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, and the destruction of its golden dome, took Iraq to the brink of civil war. Shi'ites retaliated by attacking scores of Sunni mosques and more than 1,300 were killed in three days of sectarian bloodshed before the government decreed a curfew. Political and religious leaders on both sides quickly blamed the U.S. -- and Iran, yet again, emerged the victor.

When President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the last thing he anticipated was an Islamist radical calling the shots in a democratic Iraq. A glutton for geopolitical punishment -- which our enemies must see as congenital masochism -- the administration and Congress are crab-walking into an "Iran Liberation Act." The first tranche requested by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is for $75 million "to weaken Iran from within."

This time it wasn't an Iranian Chalabi type with dubious credentials, but several little Chalabis in the form of influential Christian lobby groups -- and some of our born-again neocons determined to recover their Iraqi losses. Mercifully, Congress is looking askance at the project. And after testy exchanges with Miss Rice, the administration got what it wanted -- plus $10 million already budgeted.

So far the administration's magic potion for democracy in the Middle East has produced a majority for Hamas and its Islamist leadership, a sworn enemy of Israel and ally of Iran, in the Palestinian territories, and an alarming election sally by Egypt's long banned Muslim Brotherhood, another sworn enemy of Israel and friend of Iran. Hezbollah, an adjunct of Iran in Lebanon, is also comfortably installed in the Beirut parliament.

de Borchgrave points out that military action against the very real threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon would only play directly into the hands of Iranian president Ahmadinejad, whose fanaticism may surpass even that of the ruling ayatollahs. Worse, the Iraq war has provided a credible weapon against Washington.

While in Washington, the two Iranian emissaries also made clear that U.S. and/or Israeli attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities would set the whole region ablaze against the United States. "They have clandestine assets throughout the oil-producing countries of the Gulf," one said, barely audibly. "And they also remember how you were forced to leave Vietnam in 1975."

Iran's Shi'ite friends in Iraq, led by fee-faw-fum scarecrow Mr. al-Sadr, will be asked to harass U.S. troops "as you prepare to end the occupation with honor."

Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency, said recently his country might come to regret its decision to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "I'm not sure we won't come to miss Saddam," he told a group of students in a meeting broadcast on Israeli TV.

Sixty-three former heads of government, national security advisers and intelligence directors met for an off-the-record powwow in Monaco last weekend. There were disagreements, but the consensus was unequivocal: "Iraq is the biggest strategic blunder in 229 years of American history." Last throes anyone?

As Iraq festers and Iran cleverly leverages the administration’s mistakes, the GOP finds itself facing an internal revolt at home over its fiscal irresponsibility and failure to defend American sovereignty. The mounting evidence suggests that George W. Bush’s real legacy will be a mess of politically empowered Islamic extremists throughout the Middle East and a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives at home. Sooner of later, conservatives will realize how badly they’ve been had.


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