Zbig vs. Shrub

Zbigniew Brzezinski angriest column yet? Looks like the realists might take their gloves off now that W. has made a fool out of their don, James Baker III.
"Its language was less Islamophobic than has been customary with President Bush's rhetoric since Sept. 11"
"the president still could not resist the temptation to engage in a demagogic oversimplification"
"The commitment of 21,500 more troops is a political gimmick of limited tactical significance and of no strategic benefit."
"The speech did not explore even the possibility of developing a framework for an eventual political solution."
"the administration's diplomatic style of relying on sloganeering as a substitute for strategizing."
"America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq."
The patricians strike back...

Update: While on the subject of patricians who suddenly become anti-imperialists, here's what Edward Luttwak has to say:

It was the hugely ambitious project of the Bush administration to transform the entire Middle East by remaking Iraq into an irresistible model of prosperous democracy. Having failed in that worthy purpose, another, more prosaic result has inadvertently been achieved: divide and rule, the classic formula for imperial power on the cheap.
The rest after the jump.


The ancient antipathy between Sunni and Shiite has become a dynamic conflict, not just within Iraq but across the Middle East, and key protagonists on each side seek the support of American power. Once the Bush administration realizes what it has wrought, it will cease to scramble for more troops that can be sent to Iraq, because it has become pointless to patrol and outpost a civil war, while a mere quarter or less of the troops already there are quite enough to control the outcome. And that is just the start of what can now be achieved across the region with very little force, and some competent diplomacy.


President Bush and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim: 'Hardly a natural partner.'
On Dec. 4, 2006, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of Iraq's largest political party, went to the White House to plead his case with President Bush. The son of an ayatollah, and himself a lifelong militant cleric, Mr. Hakim is hardly a natural partner for the U.S. -- while living in Iran for 23 years he must have declaimed "death to America" on many an occasion. But as the chief leader of Iraq's Arab Shiite population, he has no choice. Each day brings deadly Sunni attacks, and just as the Sunnis are strengthened by volunteers and money from outside Iraq, the Shiites, too, need all the help they can get, especially American military training for the Shiite-dominated army and police. For President Bush, the visiting Mr. Hakim brought welcome promises of cooperation against his aggressive Shiite rival Moqtada al-Sadr as well as the Sunni insurgents. It no longer even seems strange that the best ally of the U.S. in Iraq is Mr. Hakim's party, the Sciri: the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose very title evokes the Iranian model of radically anti-Western theocracy.

Just as the Sunni threat to majority rule in Iraq is forcing Sciri to cooperate with the U.S., the prospect of a Shiite-dominated Iraq is forcing Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan, to seek American help against the rising power of the Shiites. Some Sunnis viewed Iran with suspicion even when it was still under the conservative rule of the shah, in part because its very existence as the only Shiite state could inspire unrest among the oppressed Shiite populations of Arabia. More recently, the nearby Sunni Arab states have been increasingly worried by the military alliance between Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah of Lebanon. But now that a Shiite-ruled Iraq could add territorial contiguity to the alliance, forming a "Shiite crescent" extending all the way from Pakistan to the Mediterranean, it is not only the Sunnis of nearby Arabia that feel very seriously threatened. The entire order of Muslim orthodoxy is challenged by the expansion of heterodox Shiite rule.

Although it was the U.S. that was responsible for ending Sunni supremacy in Iraq along with Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, it remains the only possible patron for the Sunni Arab states resisting the Shiite alliance. Americans have no interest in the secular-sectarian quarrel, but there is a very real convergence of interests with the Sunni Arab states because Iran is the main enemy for both.

At this moment, it is in Lebanon that the new Sunni-U.S. alliance has become active. With continuing mass demonstrations and threatening speeches, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is trying to force the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to give way to a new coalition which he can dominate. Syria and Iran are supporting Mr. Nasrallah, while the U.S. is backing Mr. Siniora. He has the support of the Druze and of most Christians as well, but it is also very much as a Sunni leader that Mr. Siniora is firmly resisting so far. That has gained him the financial backing of Saudi Arabia, which is funding Sunni counterdemonstrations and has even tried to co-opt Hezbollah, among other things. It was in their Arab identity that Hezbollah claimed heroic status because they were not routed by the Israelis in the recent fighting, but evidently many Sunni Arabs in and out of Lebanon view them instead as Shiite sectarians, far too obedient to non-Arab Iran. That suits the U.S., for Iran and Hezbollah are its enemies, too.

The Sunni-U.S. alignment in Lebanon, which interestingly coexists with the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq, may yet achieve results of strategic importance if Syria is successfully detached from its alliance with Iran. Originally it was a necessary alliance for both countries because Saddam's Iraq was waging war on Iran, and periodically tried to overthrow the Assad regime of Syria. Now that Iraq is no longer a threat to either country, Iran still needs Syria as a bridge to Hezbollah, but for Syria the alliance is strategically obsolete, as well as inconsistent with the country's Arab identity. True, Syria is ruled primarily by members of the Alawite sect that is usually classified as a Shiite offshoot. But that extremely heterodox faith (it has Christmas and the transmigration of souls) is far different from the Shiism of Iraq, Lebanon or Iran -- where it would be persecuted; and besides, at least 70% of Syrians are Sunnis. That may explain why the Syrian regime has not used its full influence to overthrow Mr. Siniora: His stand against the Shiite Hezbollah resonates with his fellow Sunnis of Syria. But another reason may be the promise of substantial aid and investment from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates for Syria's needy economy, if the regime diminishes its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, or better, ends it altogether. The U.S., for its part, is no longer actively driving Syria into the arms of the Iranians by threatening a march on Damascus, while even the unofficial suggestions of negotiations by the Iraq Study Group made an impression, judging by some conciliatory Syrian statements.

The U.S.-Sunni alliance, which is a plain fact in Lebanon, is still only tentative over Syria; but it would be greatly energized if Iran were successfully deprived of its only Arab ally. At the same time, the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq has been strengthened in the wake of Mr. Hakim's visit. The Sunni insurgency is undiminished, but at least other Shiite groups are jointly weakening the only actively anti-American Shiite faction headed by Mr. Sadr.

When the Bush administration came into office, only Egypt and Jordan were functioning allies of the U.S. Iran and Iraq were already declared enemies, Syria was hostile, and even its supposed friends in the Arabian peninsula were so disinclined to help that none did anything to oppose al Qaeda. Some actively helped it, while others knowingly allowed private funds to reach the terrorists whose declared aim was to kill Americans.

The Iraq war has indeed brought into existence a New Middle East, in which Arab Sunnis can no longer gleefully disregard American interests because they need help against the looming threat of Shiite supremacy, while in Iraq at the core of the Arab world, the Shia are allied with the U.S. What past imperial statesmen strove to achieve with much cunning and cynicism, the Bush administration has brought about accidentally. But the result is exactly the same.

Mr. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" (Belknap, 2002).
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.