Sunday, October 22, 2006

Break-Up of Iraq Threatens Mideast Stability

By Juan Cole

"Liz Sly reports on how the prospect of an ethnic and religious partition of Iraq terrifies local Middle Eastern elites, who fear the consequences for other Middle Eastern countries. Ethnically diverse Syria could go in the same direction. Or south Lebanon could become a Shiite mini-state. Sly quotes Syrian President Bashar al-Asad:

' "Imagine a necklace that breaks and all the pearls fall to the ground," he told the German magazine. "Almost all countries have breaking points, and when the ethnic-religious break occurs in one country it will not fail to occur elsewhere too. It would be as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, only much worse. Large wars, small wars: No one will be able to get a grip on the consequences." '

She also quotes International Crisis Group project director Joost Hiltermann,

"there is also a risk that neighboring states will seek to pursue their own agendas and turn the country into a regional battleground, said Joost Hiltermann . . . "We'll have a replay of the Iran-Iraq War between the Iranians and the Arab states over what's left of Iraq," he said. And for a part of the world whose borders were drawn less than a century ago by British and French administrators, the consequences could indeed be dire, Hiltermann warned. "Everything here is new, a century old. The system has endured, but once it comes unstuck, anything can be challenged," he said. "It's madness, but if Iraq falls apart madness will rule the day." '

If Americans think that these sorts of big changes in the Middle East will leave them unaffected, they have another think coming."

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