Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Setting the Middle East Ablaze - Arabs Blame Bush
When George Bush needlessly conquered Iraq he unleashed the dark genie of Iran unto the Middle East. According to the Washington Post, America's Arab allies are quick to blame America:
"'The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East,' said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic. 'There is one thing important about the ascendance of Iran here. It does not reflect a real change in Iranian capabilities, economic or political. It's more a reflection of the failures on the part of the U.S. and its Arab allies in the region.'
"Iranian officials -- emboldened but uneasy over nuclear-armed neighbors in Israel and Pakistan and a U.S. military presence in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan -- have warned that they would respond to an American attack on Iran's facilities.
"'Iran's supporters are widespread -- they're in Iraq, they're in Afghanistan, they're everywhere. And you know, the American soldiers in the Middle East are hostages of Iran, in the situation where a war is imposed on it. They're literally in the hands of the Iranians,' said Najaf Ali Mirzai, a former Iranian diplomat in Beirut who heads the Civilization Center for Iranian-Arab Studies. 'The Iranians can target them wherever, and Patriot missiles aren't going to defend them and neither is anything else.'
"'Iran would suffer,' he added, 'but America would suffer more.'
"As that struggle deepens, many in the Arab world find themselves on the sidelines. They are increasingly anxious over worsening tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims across the Middle East, even as some accuse the United States of stoking that tension as a way to counter predominantly Shiite Iran. Fear of Iranian dominance is coupled, sometimes in the same conversation, with suspicion of U.S. intentions in confronting Iran.
"Iran has found itself strengthened almost by default, first with the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to Iran's east, which ousted the Taliban rulers against whom it almost went to war in the 1990s, and then to its west, with the American ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, against whom it fought an eight-year war in the 1980s.
"Across the region, Iran has begun to exert influence on fronts as diverse as its allies: the formerly exiled Shiite parties in Iraq and their militias; Hezbollah, a Lebanese group formed with Iranian patronage after Israel's 1982 invasion; and the cash-strapped Sunni Muslim movement of Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
"In Iraq, U.S. officials say Iran is providing Shiite militias with sophisticated projectiles capable of penetrating U.S. armored vehicles and backing those forces in a gathering civil war against Sunni Arabs. One commander of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia that U.S. military officials now identify as the greatest security threat in Iraq, said that however much he might dislike Iran, he was eagerly anticipating the delivery of 50 rocket-propelled grenades to Basra.
"But no less influential are the ties that Iran has deepened with the three main Shiite groups in Iraq, some of whose leaders spent years in exile in Iran and are now nominally allied with the United States, and the burgeoning economic relationship between the two countries.
"'It's very bleak and it's very dangerous,' said Dakhil, the Saudi writer. 'We have a sectarian civil war in Iraq now and this is drawing sectarian lines through the region. This is the most important, the most dangerous ramification of the American war in Iraq.'