You think you lost your love,
When I saw her yesterday.
It’s you she’s thinking of…
–She Loves You, The Beatles, 1963
Iraq is, finally, going the way that many had wanted to see years ago, before Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s and General John Abizaid’s counter-insurgency negligence and the Sunni onslaught against the Shi’a nearly drove us and the Iraqis over the cliff. Iraq is far from being a lost cause…
–Are We Winning the “War on Terror”?, Reuel Marc Gerecht, 2007
With the singular exception of Elliott Abrams at NSC and John Hannah in Cheney’s office, all the major Right Zionists have now departed from service within the Bush administration. Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Bolton, Wurmser, etc.
You would think they would all be demoralized. And maybe they do feel marginalized and ostracized in Washington.
But they seem increasingly satisfied with a vicarious victory in Iraq.
Although some Right Zionists participate in the happy talk about how the sun will come out, tomorrow, that isn’t the basis of the satisfaction. Instead, Right Zionists are feeling like their effort to transform Iraq from a country ruled by Sunni Arabs into a Shiite-dominated country is winning the day.
The goal is not new. Gerecht, for example, has consistently championed Shiite power in Iraq.
But for a while there, Right Zionists were convinced that Right Arabists were winning all the political battles, in Washington and Baghdad. It looked as if Washington was going to abandon the Shia of Iraq and that a Right Arabist triumph in Washington would terminate Shiite power in Iraq.
Now there is every reason to believe that they feel they have lost much of the war for Washington but have won (in absentia) the war for a Shiite Iraq.
If some Right Zionists had reservations about Shiite power (i.e., the anti-Americanism of Moqtada al-Sadr), these appear to be dissipating.
Gerecht was, undoubtedly, the first to “choose Sadr” when confronted with the choice between Shiite militias and the Sunni insurgency.
But, as Gerecht pointed out in his most recent essay, he is not alone. There is also the British essayist, Bartle Bull, who has rehabilitated the “Mission Accomplished” claim and has learned to love Moqtada al-Sadr.
An Iraqi in the know, unsentimental about his country’s ways, sought to play down the cult of Abu Reisha. American soldiers, he said, won the war for the Anbar, but it was better to put an Iraq kafiyyah than an American helmet on the victory. He dismissed Abu Reisha. He was useful, he said, but should not be romanticized. “No doubt he was shooting at Americans not so long ago, but the tide has turned, and Abu Reisha knew how to reach an accommodation with the real order of power. The truth is that the Sunnis launched this war four years ago, and have been defeated. The tribes never win wars, they only join the winners”…
Four months ago, I had seen the Sunni despondency, their recognition of the tragedy that had befallen them in Baghdad. That despondency had deepened in the intervening period. No Arab cavalry had ridden to their rescue, no brigades had turned up from the Arabian Peninsula or from Jordan, and the Egyptians were far away. Reality in Iraq had not waited on the Arabs. The Sunnis of Iraq must now fully grasp that they are on their own. They had relied on the dictatorship, and on the Baath, and these are now gone; there had, of course, been that brief bet on al Qaeda and on the Arab regimes, and it had come to naught…
And there are other Right Zionists, some more obscure than others, who welcome Shiite power and retain a deep hostility toward Sunni Arab Iraq.
Consider, for example, the case of Gal Luft–executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS)–who recently co-authored an essay, “The Great Divide: Sunnis, Shi’ites and the West.”
[A]t least some elements in the Bush Administration seem to be leaning toward [Sunni Arab political dominance]. Increasingly disenchanted with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and intent on containing Iran, they have begun to speak of a new strategic alignment in the Middle East, arraying “moderate” Sunni allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf states against the Shi’ite “extremists” of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
Evidence for this shift in thinking lies in Washington’s rising regard for Saudi Arabia. Just five years after September 11, an attack perpetrated in large part by Saudi nationals, the US appears to be outsourcing parts of its Middle East policy to the House of Saud, bolstering the kingdom’s military capabilities and, according to reports, involving itself in clandestine operations with radical Saudi proxies who loathe America but happen to hate the Shi’ites even more. As Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the New Yorker, “At a time when America’s standing in the Middle East is extremely low, the Saudis are actually embracing us. We should count our blessings.”
But these “blessings” are themselves decidedly mixed, as the Bush White House itself has long recognised…
An alignment with supposed Sunni “moderates” is, in short, a huge gamble. Essentially it would perpetuate, or resurrect, the same Sunni order that has been responsible over the course of several generations for most of the Middle East’s pathologies. It is under the Sunni dispensation, after all, that the Arab world has lagged in every dimension of human development, from political and cultural freedom to economic growth, while simultaneously giving birth to a virulent Islamic radicalism.
The Shiite-led government in Iraq is flexing its muscles in relation to Washington on a host of issues including the courting of Sunni Arab insurgents, Blackwater and arms for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi police.
Might signs of Shiite stridency and autonomy shake the Right Zionist faith in their local Shiite surrogates?
Right Zionists would not be excited to see Iraq turn toward China. But they might not mind observing the ways in which independent Shiite power in Iraq “focuses the mind” of the Right Arabists who preside in Washington.