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 Stephen J. Sniegoski Archive
The Unfolding of Yinon’s “Zionist Plan for the Middle East”
The crisis in Iraq and the centrality of Israel’s national interest
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Writing in the ultra-establishment Washington Post, mainstream liberal David Ignatius observes:

Let’s look at the reality on the ground in the Middle East: Iraq and Syria are effectively partitioned along sectarian lines; Lebanon and Yemen are close to fracturing; Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia survive intact but as increasingly authoritarian states.In the current, chaotic moment, we see two post-imperial systems collapsing at once: The state boundaries drawn by the Versailles Treaty in 1919 to replace the Ottoman Empire can’t hold the fractious peoples together. And a U.S.-led system that kept the region in a rough balance has been shattered by America’s failed intervention in Iraq.”[1]David Ignatius, “Piecing together the shattering Middle East,” Washington Post, June 17, 2014.

The Post publishes views that respectable people are allowed, or even expected, to hold, so it is quite significant that Ignatius’s assessment has now emerged on center stage. Of course, it was not given any attention during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when it could have served to prevent the chaos that has ensued, though various Middle East experts did mention it, as is discussed in my book, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel.

As I brought out in that book, but as the more respectable antiwar crowd as well as the mainstream ignore, a fundamental purpose of the war on Iraq was to ignite the destabilization and fragmentation of Israel’s enemies throughout the Middle East, which has consequently taken place in tandem with a region-wide Sunni-Shiite war. Moreover, I pointed out that this idea was best articulated, though it did not originate, in a lengthy article in Hebrew by Likudnik Oded Yinon in 1982, which Israel Shahak, the perspicacious Israeli dissident,[2]Bint Jbeil, in its Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, provided the following description of Israel Shahak’s writing:

Shahak gained a wide international audience through his regular “Translations from the Hebrew Press,” which gave the non-Hebrew-speaking world a unique glimpse into the extreme and racist rhetoric about Arabs, Palestinians, and Jewish supremacy that characterizes much of “mainstream” discourse in Israel. The translations also clarified Israeli strategic thinking and policy goals in a manner that directly contradicted official “hasbara” (propaganda), which presented Israel as a besieged state struggling only for peace and survival. Shahak’s writings continuously exposed and denounced Israel as an expansionist, chauvinist, and racist state bent on the domination of the surrounding Arab peoples, especially the Palestinians.
translated in a booklet titled The Zionist Plan for the Middle East.[3]The Zionist Plan for the Middle East (PDF), translated and edited by Israel Shahak, Belmont, Mass.: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Inc., 1982. As Shahak’s title clearly indicates, the fragmentation of Israel’s enemies was a goal of the Israeli Right (to some extent the goal transcended the political Right), and was not just some quirk of Yinon’s. Intertwined with that strategy was an effort to keep Israel’s larger enemies fighting among themselves. As Victor Ostrovsky put it in his insider book on the Mossad, Israel actively worked to keep the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s “hot,” writing that “if they were busy fighting each other, they couldn’t fight us.”[4]Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Agent, New York: St. Martin’s Press, p. 124.

The neocons have not openly stated that this Likudnik aim is their goal, though some have alluded to something like it, but they have been open in their support for Israeli policy, maintaining as they do that Israel has the same interests as the United States. For example, on April 3, 2002, the Project for the New American Century sent a letter to President George W. Bush signed by such neocon stalwarts as William Kristol, Ken Adelman, Richard Perle, Midge Decter, Robert Kagan, Joshua Muravchik, Daniel Pipes, Norman Podhoretz, and R. James Woolsey; it urged the president to attack Iraq and included the following references to Israel:

Furthermore, Mr. President, we urge you to accelerate plans for removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq…. It is now common knowledge that Saddam, along with Iran, is a funder and supporter of terrorism against Israel…. If we do not move against Saddam Hussein and his regime, the damage our Israeli friends and we have suffered until now may someday appear but a prelude to much greater horrors.[5]William Kristol, et al., Project for a New American Century, Letter to President George W. Bush, April 3, 2002, appearing in the Washington Times, April 4, 2002.

The letter continued with the assertion: “Israel’s fight against terrorism is our fight. Israel’s victory is an important part of our victory. For reasons both moral and strategic, we need to stand with Israel in its fight against terrorism.”[6]William Kristol, et al., Project for a New American Century, Letter to President George W. Bush, April 3, 2002, appearing in the Washington Times, April 4, 2002.

It is hard to believe that the neocons, who were closely tied to the thinking of the Israeli Right, have not been aware of the Likudnik goal of strategic destabilization. Moreover, a man who has been characterized as their leading academic guru, Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis, has written on the fragility of the dictatorial regimes of the Middle East. Lewis echoed Yinon’s analysis of those countries’ fragility in an article in the September 1992 issue of Foreign Affairs titled “Rethinking the Middle East.” He wrote of a development he referred to as “Lebanonization”:

[A] possibility, which could even be precipitated by [Islamic] fundamentalism, is what has of late been fashionable to call “Lebanonization.” Most of the states of the Middle East — Egypt is an obvious exception — are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity or overriding allegiance to the nation state. The state then disintegrates — as happened in Lebanon — into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties.[7]Bernard Lewis, “Rethinking the Middle East,” Foreign Affairs, Fall 1992.

Since Lewis, who is credited with coining the phrase “clash of civilizations,” has been a major advocate of a belligerent stance for the West against the Islamic states, it appears that he realized that such fragmentation would be the result of his belligerent policy. Lewis was a major proponent of the U.S. attack on Iraq and was an advisor to Dick Cheney, who for years has maintained close connections with the neocon nexus.[8]Michael Hirsh, “Bernard Lewis Revisited,” Washington Monthly, November 2004.

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Neocon David Wurmser, who was one of the authors of the notorious study “A Clean Break” (1996), written for an Israeli think tank, produced a much longer follow-up document for the same outfit, titled “Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant,” where he emphasized the fragile nature of the Middle Eastern Baathist dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, which, if the dictatorships faltered, could easily fragment into separate ethno-sectarian segments, a development that would enhance the security of Israel and the West.[9]David Wurmser, “Coping with Crumbling States: a Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant,” Washington, D.C.: Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), 1996.

Daniel Pipes, founder and director of the Middle East Forum, a neocon organization focusing on the Middle East and the danger posed to the United States by Islamic radicalism, also openly presents this line of thinking. In regard to the Syrian civil war in 2013 he wrote:

Evil forces pose less danger to us when they make war on each other. This (1) keeps them focused locally and (2) prevents either one from emerging victorious (and thereby posing a yet-greater danger). Western powers should guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong the conflict.[10]Daniel Pipes, “The Case for Supporting Assad,” National Review, April 12, 2013. Reflecting the same line of thinking is Daniel Pipes, “Civil War in Iraq?,” New York Sun, February 28, 2006.

As I discuss in my book, American Middle East experts were aware of the chance that the Saddam regime’s removal might lead to the ethno-sectarian splintering of Iraq. It was hardly unknown in the United States. President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, did not invade and occupy the heartland of Iraq in the Gulf War of 1991 because of that very fear. The neocons, it should be emphasized, were demanding such an operation at the time and would later chastise the Bush administration for its failure to carry it out. Similarly, in my book I refer to a number of U.S. government studies coming out just before the 2003 invasion that forecast the likelihood that ethnic-sectarian fragmentation and violence would result.[11]Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, Norfolk, Va.: Enigma, 2008, pp. 73-75, 337-38.

In regard to the ISIS invasion of Iraq today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, still viewing Iran as Israel’s greatest external threat, has maintained that the United States should act to weaken both ISIS and Iran, saying, “When your enemies are fighting each other, don’t strengthen either one of them. Weaken both.”[12]Marcy Kreiter, “Netanyahu Warns U.S. against Working with Iran to Halt ISIS Advance in Iraq,” International Business Times, June 22, 2014; and Michael Wilner, “Netanyahu suggests pinning ISIS against Iran,” Jerusalem Post, June 24, 2014. Although ISIS, in its rhetoric, is threatening not simply the Middle East but also the United States with terrorist attacks, Netanyahu insists that the focus of U.S. policy should be on Iran. Holding that Iran’s achieving nuclear-weapons capability is the greater danger to the region, he warned against Washington’s cooperating with Iran to defeat ISIS, which he fears might lead to a broader rapprochement between the two countries that would include a softening of the U.S. anti-nuclear policy toward Iran.

ISIS has actually improved Israel’s security by winning control of both sides of the Iraq-Syria border and thus inhibiting Iran’s ability to supply its Hezbollah ally in Lebanon as well as Hamas in Palestine. Hezbollah has provided Iran a significant means of harming Israel militarily; thus, the new situation has severely weakened Iran’s ability to retaliate against, or even deter, any possible Israeli attack. Consequently, Iran would find it necessary to be more wary about taking any steps that Israel would deem hostile, including expanding its nuclear program. That being the case, it is certainly in Israel’s interest that this Sunni region remain out of the hands of any Iraqi government, local or national, that is not hostile to Iran.

Neocons are advocating strategies for Washington in line with Netanyahu’s position that a fundamental objective is to keep Iran out of the picture and instead have the United States serve as the major adversary of ISIS. For instance, Frederick Kagan and William Kristol wrote in the blog for the neocon Weekly Standard on June 16 that it is essential to

act boldly and decisively to help stop the advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — without empowering Iran. This would mean pursuing a strategy in Iraq (and in Syria) that works to empower moderate Sunni and Shi’a without taking sectarian sides. This would mean aiming at the expulsion of foreign fighters, both al Qaeda terrorists and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah regular and special forces, from Iraq.This would require a willingness to send American forces back to Iraq. It would mean not merely conducting U.S. air strikes, but also accompanying those strikes with special operators, and perhaps regular U.S. military units, on the ground. This is the only chance we have to persuade Iraq’s Sunni Arabs that they have an alternative to joining up with al Qaeda or being at the mercy of government-backed and Iranian-backed death squads, and that we have not thrown in with the Iranians. It is also the only way to regain influence with the Iraqi government and to stabilize the Iraqi Security Forces on terms that would allow us to demand the demobilization of Shi’a militias and to move to limit Iranian influence and to create bargaining chips with Iran to insist on the withdrawal of their forces if and when the situation stabilizes.[13]Frederick W. Kagan and William Kristol, “What to Do in Iraq,” The Weekly Standard blog, June 16, 2014.

In a Commentary article, “Getting Fooled by Iran in Iraq,” Max Boot maintains that “[a]bsent a much more active American role to oppose Iranian designs, the mullahs will be able to live out their dreams of regional hegemony at relatively small cost.” And even if the Sunnis could prevent Iranian regional domination, that would not benefit the United States, either. “While some may take satisfaction from Sunni and Shiite extremists clashing,” Boot opines, “the problem is that they could both win — i.e., both sides could gain control of significant territory which will then become terrorist states.”[14]Max Boot, “Getting Fooled by Iran in Iraq,” Commentary, June 15, 2014.

“Put bluntly,” Boot continues, “the U.S. interest is in creating democratic, stable, and pro-Western regimes; the Iranian interest is in creating fundamentalist, terrorist-supporting, Shiite-extremist regimes. There is no overlap of interest except when we make the mistake of backing Iranian-aligned leaders such as [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki.”

Elliot Abrams expresses a similar view:

The Obama administration has sought a grand rapprochement with Iran, once upon a time called “engagement,” since January 2009. Apparently it still does. But the current path leads only to enhancing Iran’s regional power, and to alienating and endangering our own allies in the region. Iran is an enemy of the United States and of our allies in the Middle East, as its own leaders repeat regularly in speeches. To work with Iran to enlarge its influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq will further undermine American influence — and not only in the Middle East. Around the world nations dependent on our willingness to recognize and resist Russian and Chinese efforts at hegemony will also be chilled to see such a policy develop.[15]Elliot Abrams, “Our New Ally Iran?,” “Pressure Points,” Council of Foreign Relations, June 16, 2014.

In a Commentary piece this summer, 84-year-old Norman Podhoretz, a neocon godfather, returned to the fray to offer his pessimistic version of the current dominant neocon view of the situation in Iraq. “Obama,” he writes, “evidently now thinks that a de facto alliance with Iran — Iran! — is the way to close those doors, but such an alliance would only guarantee that they would open even wider than they are now. It would also solidify Iran’s influence over Iraq while giving a green light to an Iranian nuclear bomb.

“Alas, none of the other proposals for getting us out of this fix seems fully persuasive. Which means that it may be too late to prevent Iraq from joining Syria as part of a new Iranian empire.”

We should recall that before the 2003 invasion, the neocons did not ignore the likely need for the United States to maintain long-term political control of Iraq. The neocons generally argued that it was necessary for the United States to “educate” the Iraqis in the principles of democracy during a long period of American occupation. For instance, in September 2002, Podhoretz acknowledged that the people of the Middle East might, if given a free democratic choice, pick anti-American, anti-Israeli leaders and policies. But he proclaimed that “there is a policy that can head it off,” provided “that we then have the stomach to impose a new political culture on the defeated parties. This is what we did directly and unapologetically in Germany and Japan after winning World War II.”[16]Norman Podhoretz, “In Praise of the Bush Doctrine,” Commentary, September 2002, p. 28.

Boot, writing in the Weekly Standard in October 2001, argued “The Case for Empire.” “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today,” he intoned, “cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.”[17]Max Boot, “The Case for American Empire,” The Weekly Standard, October 15, 2001.

Nevertheless, any goal of controlling and “educating” the Iraqi people took a back seat during the run-up to the invasion as the neocons put their emphasis on mobilizing governmental and overall public support for a war that would destroy Saddam’s regime — their primary goal. To mobilize public and congressional support for that endeavor, it was necessary to sugarcoat its likely violent ramifications by claiming that few American troops would be needed and that they would be welcomed with open arms by the Iraqi populace.

After the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, neocons and Bush administration officials held that the continued Iraq resistance to the American occupation represented only the activities of a few extremists — diehard Baathists and al Qaeda terrorists from outside Iraq — adamantly denying that the insurgency was drawing significant support from the Iraqi people. In June 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the Iraqi resistance as a few “pockets of dead-enders.”[18]“Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Jay Garner,” Department of Defense, News Transcript, June 18, 2003, accessed November 20, 2007. Also in June 2003, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz denied that those fighting American troops in Iraq were “insurgents.” “An insurgency implies something that rose up afterwards,” Wolfowitz staunchly asserted. “This is the same enemy that butchered Iraqis for 35 years, that fought us up until the fall of Baghdad and continues to fight afterwards.”[19]“Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz on MSNBC Hardball,” June 23, 2004; accessed November 20, 2007, quoted in Sniegoski, Transparent Cabal, p. 232.

Norman Podhoretz would reflect this state of denial in an article of September 1, 2004, writing:

Most supporters of the invasion — myself included — had predicted that we would be greeted there with flowers and cheers; yet our troops encountered car bombs and hatred. Nevertheless, and contrary to the impression created by the media, survey after survey demonstrated the vast majority of Iraqis did welcome us, and were happy to be liberated from the murderous tyranny under which they had lived for long under Saddam Hussein. The hatred and the car bombs came from the same breed of jihadists who had attacked us on 9/11, and who, unlike the skeptics in our own country, were afraid that we were actually succeeding in democratizing Iraq.[20]Norman Podhoretz, “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win,” Commentary, September 1, 2004; quoted in Sniegoski, Transparent Cabal, p. 232.

However, as it became apparent that the U.S. invasion had spawned large-scale internecine violence in Iraq, the neocons began to assert that the U.S. military forces were not being sufficiently tough in suppressing the rebellion. “Crush the Insurgents in Iraq,” bellowed an article in the May 23, 2004, issue of the Washington Post, co-authored by prominent New York politician-banker Lewis Lehrman and William Kristol. “The immediate task,” they proclaimed, “is … the destruction of the armies and militias of the insurgency — not taking and holding territory, not winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis, not conciliating opponents and critics, not gaining the approval of other nations.”[21]William Kristol and Lewis E. Lehrman, “Crush the Insurgents in Iraq,” Washington Post, May 23, 2004, p. B-7.

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Journalist Jim Lobe pointed out in May 2004 that the failure of the American military to be sufficiently ruthless “infuriates the neocons who, despite their constant rhetoric about democracy and the importance of the ‘war of ideas,’ have always considered military force to be the only language their enemies can ever really understand.” Lobe observed: “Precisely how Fallujah or other towns and cities are to be ‘conquered’ without piling up horrendous civilian casualties that alienate people far beyond Iraq’s borders is unclear.”[22]Jim Lobe, “Neocons Go Macho on Iraq,” Antiwar.com, May 25, 2004. Of course, inflaming all the Muslim peoples of the Middle East would serve to put the United States in the same enemy category as Israel and advance the neoconservatives’ goal of a U.S. war against all of Israel’s enemies.

Conjoined with the neocons’ advocacy of a tougher policy toward the Iraqi insurgents was their allegation that the insurgency was being instigated and supported by outside forces, especially Iran, which was Israel’s major enemy. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion, Israeli officials were pushing for a U.S. attack on Iran. Israeli officials clearly saw the U.S. attack on Iraq as the first step in a broader effort that would change the Middle East in the interests of Israel. In April 2003, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, called for a “regime change” in both Syria and Iran, at a conference of the Anti-Defamation League. He argued that, while the American invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam helped create great opportunities for Israel, it was “not enough.” “It has to follow through,” Ayalon told his audience. “We still have great threats of that magnitude coming from Syria, coming from Iran…. The important thing is to show [international] political unity, and this is the key element to pressure the Iranians into a regime change, and the same case is with the Syrians.”[23]Jonathan Wright, “Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Calls for ‘Regime Change’ in Iran, Syria,” Reuters, April 28, 2003, posted at CommonDreams.org.

The question seemed to be whether to go after Iran directly or hit at it through its ally Syria, which was closer to Israel and served as a conduit for Iranian weapons going to Israel’s enemies, Hezbollah and Hamas. In December 2004, a lead editorial in the Weekly Standard by William Kristol emphasized that the United States had an urgent and dire “Syria problem.”

“Of course we also have — the world also has — an Iran problem, and a Saudi problem, and lots of other problems,” Kristol explained. “The Iran and Saudi problems may ultimately be more serious than the Syria problem. But the Syria problem is urgent: It is Bashar Assad’s regime that seems to be doing more than any other, right now, to help Baathists and terrorists kill Americans in the central front of the war on terror.” It was thus essential for the United States “to get serious about dealing with Syria as part of winning in Iraq, and in the broader Middle East.”[24]William Kristol, “Getting Serious About Syria,” Weekly Standard, December 20, 2004.

But while Syria was a danger because of its connection to Iran and proximity to Israel, Iran was seen as the major danger. In May 2005, Richard Perle was the major attraction of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington, with his call for an attack on Iran. The danger of Iran also was featured in an AIPAC multimedia show, “Iran’s Path to the Bomb.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank vividly described the Disneyesque multimedia show:

The exhibit, worthy of a theme park, begins with a narrator condemning the International Atomic Energy Agency for being “unwilling to conclude that Iran is developing nuclear weapons” (it had similar reservations about Iraq) and the Security Council because it “has yet to take up the issue.” In a succession of rooms, visitors see flashing lights and hear rumbling sounds as Dr. Seuss-like contraptions make yellowcake uranium, reprocess plutonium, and pop out nuclear warheads like so many gallons of hummus for an AIPAC conference.[25]Dana Milbank, “AIPAC’s Big, Bigger, Biggest Moment,” Washington Post, May 24, 2005, p. A-13.

New neoconservative writings in 2005 also pushed for stronger measures against Iran. In Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran, Kenneth Timmerman, a member of the advisory board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, claimed that Iran had collaborated with al Qaeda in plotting the September 11 terror attacks, and was currently harboring Osama bin Laden.[26]“Books add to rightwing campaign to demonise Iran,” Financial Times, July 8, 2005. Timmerman also was one of the authors of the study “Launch Regional Initiatives,” published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) at the end of November 2005. In the section on Iran, the publication portrayed the Islamic regime as America’s irreconcilable enemy, with which détente was impossible. It suggested a number of militant measures for Washington to take in order to bring about regime change: “The United States must wage total political war against the Islamofascists in Tehran, both inside Iran and from the outside. This war should be designed to keep the Iranian regime off balance (including, where necessary, through the use of covert means), with the ultimate goal of undermining its control.”[27]Michael Rubin, et al., Launch Regional Initiatives, American Enterprise Institute, posted November 30, 2005.

Most of the proposed American efforts to undermine the existing Iranian regime did not involve a direct American military attack, but the latter was not ruled out to stop Iran’s nuclear program: “The stakes are sufficiently high that we must also be prepared to use military force — alone if necessary, with others if practicable — to disrupt Iran’s known and suspected nuclear operations.”[28]Ibid.

One way to weaken Iran would be to fragment it into various groups — in line with Yinon’s plan for the Middle East. That seems to have been the underlying theme of the October 26, 2005, AEI conference titled “The Unknown Iran: Another Case for Federalism?,” moderated by AEI resident scholar Michael A. Ledeen. The announcement for the conference stated that “few realize that Persians likely constitute a minority of the Iranian population. The majority is composed of Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmen, and the Arabs of Khuzistan / al-ahwaz. In the event the current regime falls, these groups will undoubtedly play an important role in their country’s future.” Those speaking at the conference included ethnic separatists.[29]American Enterprise Institute, “The Unknown Iran,” October 26, 2005; and “Iran Minorities Participate in AEI Debate,” Ahwaz News Agency, October 27, 2005.

As time went by and violence against the American occupation of Iraq continued, the American people were becoming opposed to the military endeavor, and in early 2006 Congress established a special, independent, bipartisan commission, the Iraq Study Group, which would not only provide a solution for Iraq but also deal with the broader Middle East. Since it was headed by James Baker (a close confidant of the elder Bush) and other establishment luminaries, neocons realized, and various leaks confirmed, that the group would propose to extract U.S. forces from Iraq (though in a gradual fashion). That would militate against American efforts to induce regime change in additional Middle Eastern countries, especially Iran. Moreover, it was revealed that the Iraq Study Group sought to establish U.S. engagement with Iran in order to bring about stability to Iraq and the entire Middle East by diplomatic means — stability being the foreign-policy establishment’s fundamental goal.

To prevent the group’s ideas from reaching fruition, a counter-proposal was developed at AEI — its principal authors being Frederick Kagan and General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army — that called for a drastic increase in American forces. It became commonly known as the “surge.” Although the surge was opposed by most members of Congress, military leaders, the foreign-policy establishment, and a majority of the American people, President Bush nonetheless adopted it in early 2007.

After a rocky start, the surge strategy by the end of 2007 would bring about a significant reduction in the violent resistance in Iraq. It proved to be a significant political victory for President Bush and the neocons, and even today it is touted as having been a great success. However, the original rationale for the surge was to reduce the intense ethno-sectarian fissiparous divisions in Iraq, thus unifying the country under the national government. Clearly, that did not take place.

In fact, the surge militated against national unity because a fundamental U.S. tactic was to strengthen local Sunni tribal leaders to fight the al Qaeda insurgents, which included providing them training and arms. The tribal leaders effectively fought al Qaeda but, in the process, they set up their own little fiefdoms independent of central-government control. Marc Lynch, a Middle East specialist at George Washington University, noted in the fall of 2007 that the approach was leading to a “warlord state” in Iraq with “power devolved to local militias, gangs, tribes and power-brokers, with a purely nominal central state.”[30]Jim Lobe, “Fears grow of post-’surge’ woes,” Asia Times, November 22, 2007.

It is just those organized and armed Sunni groups that have now joined with ISIS in the effort to overthrow the pro-Shiite Maliki government of Iraq, which had tried to bring them under its control. In fact, it now seems apparent that the ease with which ISIS swept through predominantly Sunni northwest Iraq was largely due to the fact that the Iraqi army there was primarily composed of Sunnis, who were unwilling to fight on behalf of a pro-Shiite regime, and that the local inhabitants saw ISIS as a force that would liberate them from any existing or attempted domination by the Shiite-run central government in Baghdad.

Despite President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s call for an inclusive, non-sectarian national government, it is not apparent that such a thing could be established without antagonizing one or the other of the major ethno-sectarian groups. Washington’s sending in enough troops to suppress the Sunni insurrection and compel the central government to accept significant representation and input from the Sunnis — in short, creating a government that did not represent majoritarian rule — would be unacceptable to many Shiites. Efforts to establish some type of balanced government representing both the interests of Shiites and Sunnis (even leaving aside existing Kurdish autonomy) would be apt to lead to insurrections by the factions and would likely require the forceful imposition of a U.S.-controlled puppet government. That would seem to be in line with much of the neocons’ thinking, but it would not be acceptable to the American people, and it also would probably be unacceptable to the American foreign-policy establishment, considering the difficulty involved in achieving such a Herculean task and the regional hostility, with its concomitant negative effects on American regional interests, that it would inflame.

From the American standpoint, the simplest and least expensive way, in both blood and treasure, to establish stability is to allow for Iranian and Syrian intervention on behalf of either the Maliki government or another government that reflected the will of the Shiite majority. As pointed out earlier in this essay, that is one result that the Israeli government and the neocons seek to prevent, perceiving, as they do, Iran as Israel’s major enemy. Furthermore, that approach would not be guaranteed to succeed since it would probably lead to greater support for the Sunni insurgents from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

So far, the Saudis and the Gulf sheikhdoms have provided intermittent support for radical Islamist groups such as ISIS, which they perceive as a very effective weapon against their Shiite and other non-Sunni foes (e.g. Assad’s regime in Syria) in the region, but which they also fear because of the latter’s threat to their own regimes, which the radical Islamists consider to be pro-Western, corrupt, and insufficiently Islamic. Thus, the Saudis and the Gulf states try to make sure that radical Islamist groups such as ISIS do not become too powerful. That restraint would likely be much lessened if the Syrian and Iranian involvement intensified. Chances are that such a development would lead to a stalemate in Iraq, with the ISIS-led coalition of Sunni forces retaining control of the Sunni heartland in northern and western Iraq while the Shiite-dominated central government remained in control of the predominantly Shiite areas in the eastern and southern parts of the country, including Baghdad.

That would likely be an unstable situation with undefined borders where continuous military skirmishing would be the norm, which would also involve the Kurds in some areas. Moreover, it is quite likely that internecine fighting would take place within those areas themselves, as different groups contended for power among themselves.

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The result of almost all the aforementioned scenarios — consisting of continued Sunni-Shiite regional warfare, along with Iraq’s fragmentation — is certainly in line with Yinon’s view of Israel’s security. And the neocons who have been pushing for greater American intervention can always maintain that any chaos and violence in the region is due to the fact that their advice to retain large numbers of American troops in Iraq and “educate” (control) the Iraqi leaders was not followed.

A number of commentators have compared the situation in Iraq to the well-known English nursery rhyme for children, “Humpty Dumpty.” Mr. Dumpty is portrayed as a squat, egg-like being who falls, breaking into pieces, and cannot be reassembled. However, for a more precise analogy, the “Humpty Dumpty” rhyme requires a revision, to read something like the following:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty was pushed and made to fall,
And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty back together again.
(And those who pushed him — ow! —
seem to prefer him as he is right now.)

References

[1] David Ignatius, “Piecing together the shattering Middle East,” Washington Post, June 17, 2014.

[2] Bint Jbeil, in its Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, provided the following description of Israel Shahak’s writing:

Shahak gained a wide international audience through his regular “Translations from the Hebrew Press,” which gave the non-Hebrew-speaking world a unique glimpse into the extreme and racist rhetoric about Arabs, Palestinians, and Jewish supremacy that characterizes much of “mainstream” discourse in Israel. The translations also clarified Israeli strategic thinking and policy goals in a manner that directly contradicted official “hasbara” (propaganda), which presented Israel as a besieged state struggling only for peace and survival. Shahak’s writings continuously exposed and denounced Israel as an expansionist, chauvinist, and racist state bent on the domination of the surrounding Arab peoples, especially the Palestinians.

[3] The Zionist Plan for the Middle East (PDF), translated and edited by Israel Shahak, Belmont, Mass.: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Inc., 1982.

[4] Victor Ostrovsky and Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Agent, New York: St. Martin’s Press, p. 124.

[5] William Kristol, et al., Project for a New American Century, Letter to President George W. Bush, April 3, 2002, appearing in the Washington Times, April 4, 2002.

[6] William Kristol, et al., Project for a New American Century, Letter to President George W. Bush, April 3, 2002, appearing in the Washington Times, April 4, 2002.

[7] Bernard Lewis, “Rethinking the Middle East,” Foreign Affairs, Fall 1992.

[8] Michael Hirsh, “Bernard Lewis Revisited,” Washington Monthly, November 2004.

[9] David Wurmser, “Coping with Crumbling States: a Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant,” Washington, D.C.: Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), 1996.

[10] Daniel Pipes, “The Case for Supporting Assad,” National Review, April 12, 2013. Reflecting the same line of thinking is Daniel Pipes, “Civil War in Iraq?,” New York Sun, February 28, 2006.

[11] Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, Norfolk, Va.: Enigma, 2008, pp. 73-75, 337-38.

[12] Marcy Kreiter, “Netanyahu Warns U.S. against Working with Iran to Halt ISIS Advance in Iraq,” International Business Times, June 22, 2014; and Michael Wilner, “Netanyahu suggests pinning ISIS against Iran,” Jerusalem Post, June 24, 2014.

[13] Frederick W. Kagan and William Kristol, “What to Do in Iraq,” The Weekly Standard blog, June 16, 2014.

[14] Max Boot, “Getting Fooled by Iran in Iraq,” Commentary, June 15, 2014.

[15] Elliot Abrams, “Our New Ally Iran?,” “Pressure Points,” Council of Foreign Relations, June 16, 2014.

[16] Norman Podhoretz, “In Praise of the Bush Doctrine,” Commentary, September 2002, p. 28.

[17] Max Boot, “The Case for American Empire,” The Weekly Standard, October 15, 2001.

[18] “Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Jay Garner,” Department of Defense, News Transcript, June 18, 2003, accessed November 20, 2007.

[19] “Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz on MSNBC Hardball,” June 23, 2004; accessed November 20, 2007, quoted in Sniegoski, Transparent Cabal, p. 232.

[20] Norman Podhoretz, “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win,” Commentary, September 1, 2004; quoted in Sniegoski, Transparent Cabal, p. 232.

[21] William Kristol and Lewis E. Lehrman, “Crush the Insurgents in Iraq,” Washington Post, May 23, 2004, p. B-7.

[22] Jim Lobe, “Neocons Go Macho on Iraq,” Antiwar.com, May 25, 2004.

[23] Jonathan Wright, “Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Calls for ‘Regime Change’ in Iran, Syria,” Reuters, April 28, 2003, posted at CommonDreams.org.

[24] William Kristol, “Getting Serious About Syria,” Weekly Standard, December 20, 2004.

[25] Dana Milbank, “AIPAC’s Big, Bigger, Biggest Moment,” Washington Post, May 24, 2005, p. A-13.

[26] “Books add to rightwing campaign to demonise Iran,” Financial Times, July 8, 2005.

[27] Michael Rubin, et al., Launch Regional Initiatives, American Enterprise Institute, posted November 30, 2005.

[28] Ibid.

[29] American Enterprise Institute, “The Unknown Iran,” October 26, 2005; and “Iran Minorities Participate in AEI Debate,” Ahwaz News Agency, October 27, 2005.

[30] Jim Lobe, “Fears grow of post-’surge’ woes,” Asia Times, November 22, 2007.

(Republished from The Last Ditch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq War, Israel 
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