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    Middle East
     Jan 3, 2007
Page 1 of 3
More fuel on Iraq's spreading flames
By W Joseph Stroupe

The year 2003 marked the implementation of bold and reckless strategies aimed at handing the US and Britain virtual ownership of the crucial Middle East region and far beyond, but 2006 was the year all the negative repercussions of their failed policies finally converged, obliging the two reckless powers to stare into the yawning chasm of a regional forfeiture.

Now, 2007 is the year that marks the full-blown arrival of the endgame in the Middle East, when the US, Britain and Israel

attempt somehow to pull a "win" from the mauling flames of regionwide failure. Their desperate policy of "one last push" to achieve that win is already shoving all the region's fractious players into a similar endgame stance, powerfully accelerating the region's descent into instability and upheaval as all its players take postures to make their final moves to prevent the loss of their respective goals and interests, each one attempting to win the game before time and opportunity run out.

However, while the region is certainly characterized by a multitude of fractious entities all struggling for advantage and ascendancy, the negative effects of the ill-fated US/British invasion and occupation of Iraq and now their "one last push for a win before defeat" policies are causing the region's varied sectarian, political and militaristic factions to polarize. They are lining up on only two fundamental sides, with the ever more distinct dividing line between them constituted as the issue of Shi'ite against Sunni in a struggle for regional ascendancy and domination.

Thus the entire region is sharply mirroring the bipolar sectarian configuration of Iraq itself - with Shi'ites and their sympathizers and supporters on one side and Sunnis and their sympathizers and supporters on the other.

Crushing balance of power mechanisms
When the US and Britain removed the oppressive and bloodstained Sunni-based Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, they simultaneously unleashed the very real prospect of Shi'ite regionwide ascendancy. The Hussein regime effectively and strategically kept Shi'ite Iran contained, and worked to keep its regionwide tentacles (such as Hamas and Hezbollah) weak and manageable.

Prior to the 2003 invasion, there existed a rough balance of power between Shi'ite and Sunni factions across the region - neither was able to achieve inordinate regionwide power or dominance. The US and Britain took directly on themselves the enormous task and responsibility of maintaining that rough regional balance of power when they crashed into the Hussein regime. They were entirely unprepared to assume that strategic responsibility, however.

They permitted and, by rushing along Iraq's troubled political process, they even facilitated and encouraged the steady rise toward ascendancy of one faction over the other, and not merely within Iraq. They facilitated the regionwide ascendance of the Iran-friendly Shi'ite faction.

Thereby, they set the stage for a fundamental, lopsided power imbalance, one that has pointedly inspired the hopes and determination of the rising Shi'ite faction with respect to the achievement of (1) freedom from its perceived cruel domination by Sunnis, (2) increased regional influence and power, and even (3) regional domination.

At the same time, as that US/British-instigated imbalance of power continues to tip in Iran's favor, it has acutely disturbed and frightened the oil-rich Sunni Arab regimes who legitimately fear a regional takeover by ascendant Iran.

In 2007 the final consequences of the United States' failed policies will arrive. Those consequences are extremely unlikely to include anything resembling the "win" still hoped for by the US, Britain and Israel, for the simple reason that all the evidence points to the conclusion that the regional tipping point toward ascendancy by the Shi'ite faction may already have been reached.

Reconstructing broken mechanisms
Now, the US and Britain are faced with the insurmountable problem of finding a way, at this extremely late date, to restore a rough balance of power to the region by attempting to reconstruct something similar to the mechanisms they eliminated and failed to replace in 2003. And they now have but one last chance, and they must be successful before the sectarian tinderbox they helped create is set aflame by only one of many impending sparks. All the odds are entirely against them.

The two powers realize they cannot literally reconstruct a dominant Sunni regime in Iraq to face down the Shi'ites and Iran in a bid to revive power-balancing mechanisms. Those former mechanisms are gone and they cannot be revived. Those are no longer workable strategies and policies, anyway.

But if Iran and the region's Shi'ite factions are to be faced down and counterbalanced, only the Sunnis can hope to accomplish the task and hold it in place on a strategic basis, because the US, already severely over-stretched and bogged down in Iraq, cannot genuinely accomplish the feat by itself.

This is true notwithstanding the United States' increasing naval presence in and around the Persian Gulf. Except for short-term, 

Continued 1 2

The pending fourfold crisis (Dec 23, '07)

Syria flirts with the West (Dec 22, '07)

A risky throw of the dice for Bush (Dec 22, '07)


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