Iraq Into Iran
October 25, 2002
question that has received some limited discussion lately
is, if the United States invades Iraq and overthrows Saddam
Hussein, who will replace him? This is usually treated as
an imponderable question for which no one has yet come up
with an answer. But we can stop worrying, because George W.
Bush has an answer already. He's got opposition groups picked
out and has already given the order
to start supplying and training them for fighting to take
Iraq. Can you guess what opposition group that might be?
Most of us have heard of only one significant organized anti-Saddam
group in Iraq: the Kurds, an ethnic minority mostly living
near the border with Turkey. But even those advocating this
war know that we can't just prop up a puppet regime that doesn't
at least have the appearance of being home-grown, and that
the Iraqi people will never accept a regime in which a minority
ethnic group is put in power over the majority, especially
when one major use they have already
said they would make of any increased power would be to
grab a big share of oil revenue for themselves. And that means
that any new, popular, and accepted regime in Iraq will probably
have to come from one particular group:
Saddam Hussein is many things, but one thing he is not is
an Islamist. He has no ideological common ground with those
who base their politics on fundamentalist Moslem religion
-- the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Ayatollahs of Iran, the
Saudi Arabian factions that provided most of the manpower
for the September 11 attack, and most of the Middle East's
major terrorist groups. In Iraq, the Islamist faction is,
as far as we can tell, the one major organized force opposing
Saddam Hussein for reasons other than ethnic division.
The Bush administration has allowed itself to indulge in
a Bay of Pigs fantasy in which the Iraqi people, somehow prompted
by an outside invasion and yet more bombing, spontaneously
rise up to throw off the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. This fantasy
has, of course, gotten us in trouble many times before. At
present, the signs point
much more toward bitter resistance by the Iraqi people to
any American incursion. But if there is any chance of such
an uprising being successful, then a revolt under the banner
of Islamism probably maximizes its chances. Not despite, but
because of, the fact that typical Islamists tend to be more
anti-Western than the current Iraqi regime is.
Saddam Hussein is not anti-American for any profound and
unchanging philosophical reasons. He is strongly anti-American
solely because we have attacked his country and caused so
much destruction there. He was happy enough to accept our
help in his war against Iran before we went to war against
him. The average Iraqi may have suspected back then, and with
good reason, that the U.S. might have been helping both sides,
and working to lengthen that war instead of shortening it...
but there was no pre-existing grounds for Iraqis to be particularly
anti-American, other than the usual issue of Israel., which
has not stopped cordial relations between the U.S. and many
Arab governments. That attribute was primarily seen on the
Iranian side, where the uprising against the Shah, a U.S.
puppet probably worse than Saddam and certainly far more unpopular,
created the first highly visible and successful modern Islamist
regime. Iran has since become more free and democratic than
it was at first, but it is still friendly soil for those who
hold to the kind of absolutist and intolerant religious politics
that produced the regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Iraq's largest opposition group is the Supreme Council of
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim.
It is based in Iran. It is probably not the only such group.
We have every reason to suppose that the people in these groups
are sympathetic to Iran's style of Islamism. They would probably
get Iranian backing for a war against Saddam, since there
is no doubt still some bad blood remaining from the Iran-Iraq
war in some quarters. We can therefore expect that if they
come to power after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, they
will institute a regime that is friendly to Iran and more,
not less, hostile to Western culture and Western values --
such as rights for women -- than Saddam Hussein is. We have
every reason to expect that the new regime will be more, not
less, friendly to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
Despite some faltering administration efforts to draw a connection,
there is not much common ground between Saddam Hussein's Baathists
and the Islamists, like Osama bin Laden, who make up the major
terrorist groups in the Middle East. Osama bin Laden is not
much at home in present-day Iraq, despite their common enemy.
An Islamist regime in Iraq would quite likely increase the
support available to Osama bin Laden and others like him,
not reduce it.
If you imagine that we couldn't possibly commit such a blunder,
look at how the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. We've
already made the same mistake once.
Paul Kienitz's Enron watch page is at http://gning.org/enron/