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July 30, 2007

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I agree with you and Greg on the point of comparing Iran to the old Soviet Union (and calling this a cold war more generally).

The only redeeming aspect of this article is that this whole "curtain" talk made me wonder whether there is something more than civil war and less than a cold war brewing. in other words, i wonder if we are hardening walls, drawing curtains, etc. that will lead to a "Great War" among the Shia and Sunni. It's easy to see how a spark could set the forest ablaze, Archduke Ferdinand style.

So again, yes, bad use of "Cold War." But I do wonder if there is a curtain of sorts being drawn along ethnic lines that, at the least, significantly increases the possibility of a major regional war. (Turkey and Kurdistan don't fit neatly into this picture though).

to clarify, it seems we're doing everything we can to harden and reinforce ethnic rivalry. arming the sunnis for instance seems like an excellent way to keep Sistani's UIA from crumbling (which could -- in theory -- give rise to cross-sectarian coalitions).

publius: in other words, i wonder if we are hardening walls, drawing curtains, etc. that will lead to a "Great War" among the Shia and Sunni. It's easy to see how a spark could set the forest ablaze, Archduke Ferdinand style.

That could be.

In Baghdad, US forces and the Maliki government are building what amounts to a walled ghetto for Sunnis. It's a perfect setup for a massacre. Riverbend and her family left Iraq because it looked very much if they stayed any longer, they wouldn't be allowed to leave.

Furthermore, it's possible that the Bush administration and its oil corporation allies might feel that a Sunni-Shi'ite war would be to their advantage: it would leave the Middle East devastated and weak, and allow the US (they may think) to move into the power vacuum.

What's that thing they say; I hate how they make me feel like a nutty global conspiracy theorist, but any attempt to make sense out of what they've been doing comes up with stuff like this.

to clarify, it seems we're doing everything we can to harden and reinforce ethnic rivalry.

Given their record domestically, these clowns all have tin ears when it comes to the nuances and subtleties of inter-ethnic relationships.

This might be politically incorrect, but anyway:

Was there ever a time in recent US history where the government saw no need to build up or play up a foreign bogeyman?

Castro, Noriega, Gadahfi, Saddam, ...

Wasn't there always an enemy d'jour?

hmm, that would be a rather moth bitten curtain with lots of crazy patches on it

Now we are stuck with an absolutely incoherent policy

This is a result of having leaders whose fear of people outweighs their capacity for ratiocination.

All they hear is their internal hysteria, not the evidence of their senses & wits.

Hilzoy ought to go on Bill Moyers and talk about this. (Unsolicted Advice, sorry)

"middle-ranking power like Iran"

There are only a couple really major powers out there, and we definitely don't want to rattle their cages.

At least Iran is in the middle rank. Iraq, in terms of actual capability, probably ranked near the bottom.

But remember, bullies tend to shy away from anyone who could actually take them on.

As I recall, the Turks at the gates of Vienna did a lot to get Europe to unite, if only for a time. It strikes me that the US may be playing the role of the Turks at the moment, even if the Sunni and Shia in Iraq lost their place in the script.

Obscure, I don't think Bush and company are suffering from "internal hysteria". They certainly like to produce hysteria in others, but I think their motivations are not emotional -- or at least not hysterical (Bush's motivations may have some emotional components).

Is it not the sine qua non of most politics to induce fear to encourage change? Whether it is fear of an external enemy like Iraq or terrorism, fear of internal enemies like immigrants, or just plain fear of the unknown like global warming, advocates of certain policies tend to use fear as one of their major motivating points to generate action. This is by no means universal, and in some cases the fear is justified, but the bottom line is clear: fear is a pretty consistent political tool.

If we wanted a pro-Sunni, anti-Iranian regime in Baghdad, what was the point of this war?

If we wanted a pro-Sunni, anti-Iranian regime in Baghdad, what was the point of this war?

To prove that W was more of a man than his dad.

G'Kar: just plain fear of the unknown like global warming

One of these things is not remotely like the others.

There's very little that's significantly unknown about global warming. An effort to get governments and individuals to face up to the known changes needed to slow the process is not fear-mongering; it's sanity.

After having every single justification advanced for the Iraq war turn to ashes in their mouths, is it any surprise that the Bush administration is desperate for a reframing of the conflict? And if that means they have to pass out 75 billion dollars' worth of olive-drab party favors, why should they care? It's not their own money, after all.

"There's very little that's significantly unknown about global warming. An effort to get governments and individuals to face up to the known changes needed to slow the process is not fear-mongering; it's sanity."

This statement is of course entirely correct if we ignore questions of magnitude. Unfortunately, magnitude of change, cost of remdiation, and cost of avoiding change (if possible) are all very live questions.

Questions of scale and speed there may be, but there is no question of avoiding changes to deal with global warming.
I don't want to hijack the thread, just to register my objection to putting it in the same category of political fear-mongering as whipping up threats from Iran and immigration.

It seems pretty clear to me that there's a problem with our current regime's, um, audacity...

Thought U.S. policy in the region couldn't get any more dangerous and incoherent?

On July 20, just two days before his successful reelection, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a military incursion into Iraq against the Kurds. Last Wednesday, Murat Karayilan, head of the PKK political council, predicted that "the Turkish Army will attack southern Kurdistan."

Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped army of 250,000 near the border, facing some 4,000 PKK fighters hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. But significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK's side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq. What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq?

The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Cheney who is now undersecretary of defense for policy. Edelman, a Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces to help the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.

Edelman's listeners were stunned. Wasn't this risky? He responded that he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied. Even if all this is true, some of the briefed lawmakers left wondering whether this was a wise policy for handling the beleaguered Kurds, who had been betrayed so often by the U.S. government in years past.

This is Novak, whose source would appear to be a (probably Republican) member of Congress. Will Edelman deny the story (of the briefing, much less the policy)? Will Gates? Were any Democrats briefed?

Deny?
Without even attending the hearing, the prediction that the US would betray the Kurds was guaranteed.

Peggy, there was no hearing. The column is based on leaks of an Edelman 'briefing' to selected members of Congress.

Nell, do you agree that the betraying Kurds fits in well with a pattern of betraying Sunni, Shia, and our own translators? We will be able to leave Iraq with a perfect record.

Oh, it fits a pattern, sure. But sending Special Forces to kill PKK leadership in Turkey and Kurdistan -- that's quite a step. I'll be interested to see what sort of response this story generates. Yawns here, apparently.

It seems like a silly story. We didn't send special forces to kill Saddam or Bin Laden or any enemies in Iran.

Nell: There's very little that's significantly unknown about global warming. An effort to get governments and individuals to face up to the known changes needed to slow the process is not fear-mongering; it's sanity.

I’m not going to threadjack either Nell – I’ll invite you over here if you want to discuss it more.

Iraq's Humpty-Dumpty, and nothing's going to put it back together again in this decade or the next. That's why Bush shouldn't be sending Rice and Gates to pitch the Sunni Arab regimes to support a Shiite-led-Iranian-influenced Iraqi government -- he should send Biden and Gelb to pitch soft-partitioning, the only coherent strategy that has a chance to work to our benefit, and theirs.

Good post, Hilzoy.

[Bush] should send Biden and Gelb to pitch soft-partitioning, the only coherent strategy that has a chance to work to our benefit, and theirs.

Maybe the Bush adminstration knows this--that would be why the adminstration insists on trying an incoherent strategy . . .

von! Hi! and thanks.

I feel like the US and Iran got off on the wrong foot. I mean, they're natural allies. Both are closing in on a vision of theocratic socialism.

The US and Iran: a bulwark against the godless nations!

It seems like a silly story. We didn't send special forces to kill Saddam or Bin Laden or any enemies in Iran.

Saddam and the enemies in Iran were/are the government, with large armies; Bin Laden was receiving official protection from the government, with as much army as it had; special forces operations would seem quite dicey in the first two cases, somewhat less so in the second. Does the PKK fall into the same category? A question from my own ignorance, that; hilzoy's other bits make it sound to me like the Kurdish leaders in Iraq have political reasons to not oppose the PKK, but would be reasonably pleased if it simply faded away.

RE: Assassination of PKK people.

Murder is wrong except in self-defense. The destruction of Iraq was/is evil.

All States are inhuman.

If elected people are delegates how can I delegate to them stuff I can't morally/legally do (e.g murder, torture).

That people feel its OK to kill foreigners and to disregard/not-report their pleas for Mercy because doing so would "help Our Enemies"... while providing free health care to your own population is called "morally wrong"...

Impeach Bush now. The 600 or so people who comprise Congress/Senate/Executive/U.S.S.C. have murdered hundreds of thousands with their policy of "Its OK to kill and murder and torture non-US people for US people".

No anti-war protests? Censorship of news from Iraq? Death squads and targeted assassinations of journalists/intelligentsia? Just like El Salvador?

WTF is wrong with US leadership class?

Why allow Bush/Cheney their WWIII? Personally, I think history will show that the US invasions of Iraq/Afghanistan started WW 3. US has destroyed a second-tier nation... and the US media complex doesn't think its worth reporting (lesson learned from Vietnam... don't accurately report the war) since this war wont have consequences (or so they were told- whats the price of oil? Why should those who profited the most from greenhouse gas emissions over the past century now reap windfalls due to an unnecessary war and the death and suffering of millions?)

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