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Paper No. 975                                12.04.2004

Guest Column-by Gaurang Bhatt

Foolish adventure and control of abundant cheap oil led to the invasion of Iraq. A restricted repertoire due to intolerance of casualties and a distaste for nation building led to the one track strategy of massive and indiscriminate firepower with the establishment of a pliant puppet regime under the Iraqi governing council.

The dethroned formerly privileged Sunnis opted for guerilla war, which may even have been part of Saddam’s plan as the rapid melting away of the Iraqi army and Republican Guard and the widely scattered arms caches in Iraq suggest. The Shiites bided their time until the Iranian Mullahs had consolidated their power by denying election candidacy to moderates and pro-westerners. The firebrand Sadr owes allegiance to a radical Iranian Ayatollah, whose idea of a theocratic state mirrors the new Iran, and the moderate Sistani is Iranian born. They are playing the bad cop, good cop routine with America and may be willing collaborators to coalesce the region into a greater Shia state with the combined oil and religious zeal of Southern Iraq and Iran, the latter pursuing nuclear status clandestinely.

Sooner or later, the Shiite majority of Bahrain, the east coast of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States maybe emboldened to join the coalition. Islam Khan of Herat pines for a similar structure and presently Dostum in Afghanistan has begun the dismemberment of Afghanistan. There is enough discontent amongst the Shia of Pakistani Baluchistan to tempt them to secede and join their fellow Baluchis across the border in Iran. The Northwest Frontier province of Pakistan and Federally Administered Tribal Region fought the Pakistani army to a standstill and have clear Al Qaeda and Taliban sympathies. Pakistan’s Sind province is rife with unrest due to factional quarrels between Mohajirs and Sindhis. Thus Pakistan may fragment or Radical Islamists and overthrow Musharraf to assume its nuclear assets. Iran is capable of fomenting unrest amongst its Kurds and Azerbaijanis to spread chaos in Southeast Turkey and Azerbaijan, which has an illegitimate and unpopular dynasty.

There is an even worse scenario that the unthinking folly of the invasion of Iraq due to American arrogance, may succeed in partially healing the centuries old schism between Shia and Sunni within Islam, and unite them to counter what the Muslim world believes to be a new Crusade. The Syrians and Palestinians are likely to go along due to their personal peeves of sanctions and Sharon’s hard line policies. Eventually North Africa, Central and Southeast Asia would become the new dominoes. The US is ill prepared financially and militarily to quell multiple flashpoints. The timing of the Iraqi Shia resistance is not accidental and shows strategic planning.

Current pronouncements are reminiscent of Vietnam. We can’t leave now. We have to establish democracy. A few more troops will ensure victory. Eventually the morale of the troops will be affected. Already there are reports of increasing drug usage by troops in Afghanistan and lack of clear objectives and exit strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. Allies are reluctant to commit money or manpower and many others are whispering, "We told you so" American credibility is getting undermined and no one respects or trusts it. Fear and dislike have replaced positive sentiments. Appeals for UN and NATO help are patently ridiculous or futile. The UN is an accessory after the fact in the attack and occupation of Iraq. It remained silent and failed to condemn the war even though it violated its charter and articles and then put its imprimatur of legitimacy to the occupation. When you add that it was responsible for the deaths of over a million Iraqi children by sanctions imposed due to the despicable tyrant Saddam’s intransigence, it is outright fantasy to expect the Iraqis to trust or welcome the UN. Incidentally this was the same Saddam that the Reagan- Bush team armed with biological and chemical weapons and financed during the Iraq-Iran war.

. The major NATO allies like Germany, France and Belgium are unlikely to sacrifice their troops and Euros after the shabby treatment from Bush and Rumsfield. The new NATO entrants who were bribed and bullied to join the coalition are having second thoughts, as is the government of Japan. This leaves the Neo-cons, just three options.

* The first option is to claim victory and withdraw totally, sparing itself loss of personnel and money. Pride and vanity will make it unacceptable. Nations like living organ tissues have stereotyped responses and the haunting memories of Vietnam will preclude that, until the old cry reverberates to echo the question in the entire nation, How do you tell the last soldier to die for the mistakes of leaders?

* Another option is Rumsfield’s long hard and endless slog that bleeds the nation in more ways than one and pitted against those who put no value on life and are unconstrained by law or rules. There may be a victory and democratic transformation of Iraq, but I doubt it. Nations as I said before react in predictable ways and America attempts in Iraq are a repetition of British history in Iraq after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. At that time it proved a tragedy and mainly for the Indian Sepoys. This time it is a farce played by Bush but nevertheless a tragedy for the American nation and its young troops.

* The last option is to let a true democracy develop even if the voting outcome leads to a theocracy or a hostile government. America’s role becomes at best that of a referee between competing factions but without trying to manipulate the outcome. This would mean hunkering down without being policemen or occupying army and let the UN, Arab League and OIS monitor the transition to democracy. The problem as always in many so-called democracies and particularly in America is that the interests of the nation are sacrificed at the altar of being elected or re-elected to office and no party or politician has that much integrity.

(The author is a retired neuro physician and an occasional writer. The views expressed are his own. Email- )