Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The last thing the Middle East's main players want is US troops to leave Iraq

Across the region, ordinary people want the Americans out. But from Israel to al-Qaida, political groups and states have other ideas

Hussein Agha
Wednesday April 25, 2007
The Guardian

"Overt political debate in the Middle East is hostile to the American occupation of Iraq and dominated by calls for it to end sooner rather than later. No less a figure than King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, arguably the United States' closest Arab ally, has declared the occupation of Iraq "illegal" and "illegitimate". Real intentions, however, are different. States and local political groups might not admit it - because of public opinion - but they do not want to see the back of the Americans. Not yet......

In common with neighbouring states, Iraqi Shias, Sunnis and Kurds are united in being able to use the Americans' presence to pursue separate and often conflicting political agendas. The grand disconnect in the region is between the political sentiments of ordinary people, which are overwhelmingly for an end to occupation, and the political calculations of leaders, which emphasise the benefits of using the Americans and consequently of extending their stay - at least for the time being.

In this grim picture, the Americans appear the least sure and most confused. With unattainable objectives, wobbly plans, changing tactics, shifting alliances and ever-increasing casualties, it is not clear any longer what they want or how they are going to achieve it. By setting themselves up to be manipulated, they give credence to an old Arab saying: the magic has taken over the magician."

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