Across the Bay

Thursday, July 08, 2004

There goes the Neighborhood

Michael Young analyzed the apparently paradoxical maneuverings of Iraq's neighbors (see also "Burning Cole" below):

"... Iraq has been caught up in a cycle where, thanks to the activities of surrounding states, the ambient fear of instability may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy of outright warfare. In supposedly defending their interests, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey may precipitate the very conflict they wish to avert."

Young warns that these neighbors, especially the weaker ones, are playing with fire:

"In that context, is it really so desirable for the US to pick up and leave Iraq, or even indicate a desire to do so? Assad and Khatami would like that to happen, but only the Iranians have the backbone to resist Iraq's descent into chaos. A mere sorcerer's apprentice, Syria would be swallowed up by a war next door, with little assurance that even the Jordanians would make it through without heavy bruises."

Young's overall assessment of the neighbors' actions as "paradoxical" and of the regional consensus as "volatile" answers some of the points raised by Joshua Landis in a recent post where he wrote:

"I doubt the Syrian government wants chaos in Iraq, as Wolfowitz has recently suggested. Having Islamic militants ruling Iraq would be worse than the Allawi government from a Syrian perspective. All the same, the strong US presence in the neighborhood rankles, especially at a time when the US refuses to acknowledge legitimate Syrian interests in the region."

Finally, Young has the same reservations that I have when it comes to the involvement of neighboring countries:

"The idea of a regional solution to the insecurity in Iraq is as bogus as that of a UN solution. Whether one supports American intervention in Iraq or not, the equation is a simple one: Without US soldiers on Iraqi soil for the foreseeable future, the probability of a breakdown there will remain high. Those who ridicule Iraqi sovereignty on that basis, namely that foreign forces remain in the country, should set aside dogma and embrace common sense.

Just ask the Iraqis themselves, who last week turned aside a Jordanian offer to send troops to their country. The reason? Iraq just doesn't trust its neighbors, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said, albeit more gently. He's right.

But don't let Juan Cole hear you say that!