Spotlight on Geopolitics

Although the United States and its allies have won two military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, a few years down the track they are facing strategic defeat in both countries. In Iraq, where neo-conservative foreign policies all but buried the movement, a major shift in the regional power arrangement is emerging. In Afghanistan the US military authorities were forced to accept negotiations with the Taliban, and even allowed Iran to get involved in the process.

Iran plays power broker in Iraq

The American hopes of installing Iyad Allawi as Iraq’s new prime minister have been dashed by secret deals between Syria, Iran and Muqtada al-Sadr.The intense lobbying by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has convinced Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Muqtada al-Sadr to support Nouri al-Maliki for a new term in office. A key figure in the negotiations has been general Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Iranian al-Quds revolutionary brigades, responsible for hundreds of allied casualties in Iraq. Al-Sadr’s Shi’ite bloc will get 7 ministries, the position of the secretary general of the Iraqi cabinet, as well as deputy positions in all security agencies. In all, al-Sadr will get for his supporters around 100,000 governmental positions.

Many analysts compare the Iraqi situation with that of Lebanon. For years, the latter has been a Syrian protectorate. In turn, Iraq is about to become an Iranian protectorate of sorts, a fact that does away with American plans to use Iraq as a power base in the Gulf and to contain Iran.

The Afghani negotiations

US envoy Richard Holbrooke has recently admitted that the Iranians were accepted at the negotiating table in Rome, where the Afghan situation is being discussed. He claims that the talks are strictly limited to fixing the problems in Afghanistan and that they might even be useful, as representatives of a neighbouring state, in reaching a post-withdrawal settlement. This development follows the admission by general Petraeus that Taliban leaders are currently negotiating a truce with the Karzai government in Kabul.

According to Reuters, the Iranians would like to participate in finding a regional solution for peace, but one which is acceptable to the international community as well. Known for their past opposition to the excesses of the Talibans, who are Sunni Muslims, they are believed to be of use in the peace negotiations.

The current outcome of the allied military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan amounts to strategic defeat. If Afghanistan has been known as “the empires’ grave”, the situation in Iraq could have been avoided. For all his anti-Israel / anti-US rhetoric, Saddam Hussein did not represent a real threat to American interests, especially after the 1991 allied intervention against him. Strategic planners should have taken into account the fact that once the Sunni monopoly on power is removed in Iraq, the political leadership of the country would pass to Shi’a Muslims who make up the majority of the Iraqi population. This, in turn would push the country into Iran’s political orbit, as it is already happening. Thus, the removal of Saddam Hussein from power has only increased, instead of diminishing, the security risks for Israel and its ally the US, at a huge cost – financial and in human terms – for the alliance. (sources: Reuters, The Guardian, Courrier International)

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