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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 13, 2003

AFTER IRAQ

A probing article that appears in this week's The New Yorker magazine. It cites the various reasons given for attacking Saddam's Iraq and then suggests that such an attack might well have a larger, regional view, in mind, the beginning of which is the assault upon Iraq. What, we are asked, will take place in the region after Saddam's removal? How will change have a major impact on Israel, Iran, Syria (and its client Lebanon), and the various terror organizations?
[...] One can easily derive from Wurmser's book [Wurmer, his book, and his perspective can be found within the text of the link given] a crisp series of post-Saddam moves across the chessboard of the Middle East. The regime in Iran would either fall or be eased out of power by an alliance of the radical students and the more moderate mullahs, with the United States doing what it could to encourage the process. After regime change, the United States would persuade Iran to end its nuclear-weapons program and its support for terrorists elsewhere in the Middle East, especially Hezbollah. Syria, now surrounded by the pro-American powers of Turkey, the reconfigured Iraq, Jordan, and Israel, and no longer dependent on Saddam for oil, could be pressured to coƶperate with efforts to clean out Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. As Syria moved to a more pro-American stand, so would its client state, Lebanon. That would leave Hezbollah, which has its headquarters in Lebanon, without state support. The Palestinian Authority, with most of its regional allies stripped away, would have no choice but to renounce terrorism categorically. Saudi Arabia would have much less sway over the United States because it would no longer be America's only major source of oil and base of military operations in the region, and so it might finally be persuaded to stop funding Hamas and Al Qaeda through Islamic charities.

A few things should be said about this vision of the near-term future in the Middle East. It is breathtakingly ambitious and optimistic. It might plausibly be described as a spreading of democracy but, perhaps more important, it would also involve, as the "Clean Break" paper said, forcefully altering the regional balance of power. And it differs greatly from the vision of the future of the Middle East that will prevail among liberals, both here and abroad, after the war in Iraq. It treats Pan-Arab nationalism as illegitimate. It does not accept the widespread assumption that no regional good can follow the fall of Saddam unless peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority begin immediately. And it sees the fall of Saddam Hussein less as the end of a great diplomatic and military effort than as a step in an ongoing process. [more]