Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Iraq's fate hanging on a new axis

An Interesting Perspective

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times

"While the US is actively exploring alternative options to salvage its intervention in Iraq, regional realities are dictating their own dynamic, not necessarily in tune with the United States' objectives. Slowly but surely, a new realignment is shaping up that is making Washington nervous - a Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus axis.

The possibility of such a "strategic alliance" being formed, to quote a headline in Tehran's conservative daily, Kayhan, is high, given this weekend's summit in Tehran that brings together the presidents of Iran, Iraq and Syria. (That's two out of three of the United States' "axis of evil" - Iran and Iraq, with the third being North Korea.) This comes at a volatile and uncertain time marked with the continuing bloodbath in Iraq, growing tension in Lebanon and the stalemated Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Kayhan editorial said, "America's fear of the trilateral meeting is very natural, since this alliance can translate into a new crisis for the United States at a time of the breakdown of the system of decision-making in that country." It further stated that while Iraq's deadly instability was the immediate reason for the Tehran summit, the issue of "strategic alliance" among the three countries went well beyond that.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the summit, the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, a fierce Christian and anti-Syria leader in Lebanon, has been seized on by US President George W Bush, who has pointed the finger of blame toward both Iran and Syria. This adds to the complexity of the Middle East scene wrought with multiple, simultaneous crises. There is now a growing and realistic fear of the "Iraqization" of Lebanon and the "Lebanonization" of Iraq, with both countries descending to the depth of a bloody civil war far worse than anything now.

As far as Tehran is concerned, the Iraq crisis is both a regional and an international crisis representing a multi-dimensional policy challenge. The visible intensification of chaos in Iraq poses a major threat to Iran's national-security interests that requires from Iran a multi-layered response at both regional and international levels.

Reportedly the ISG will recommend direct US dialogue with Iran and Syria over Iraq, and Baker and his colleagues must now be encouraged that both countries are showing serious signs of improving relations with Iraq, reflected most vividly in Syria's initiative to normalize diplomatic relations with Baghdad after 24 years.

Turning the challenge of Iraq's (in)security into an opportunity for Tehran and Damascus, a modus vivendi with the US is now a distinct possibility, although opposition will come as stern objections from Israel and the pro-Israel forces encircling the White House. Yet irrespective of the latter, and the relentless Israeli disinformation campaign aimed at torpedoing any Western policy shift on Iran, eg, by spreading the rumors of an Iranian nuclear test per a report in the Jerusalem Post, Iran continues to push for its revised and invigorated Iraq policy based primarily on its highly intertwined Iraq and US policies."

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