This week's syndicated column
March 7, 2008
I can't think of a point of historic comparison to the figurative bed we have made for ourselves in Iraq--particularly now that our Iraqi allies have welcomed our Iranian enemies right into it.
Maybe the way to understand international affairs is to turn not to history but to pulp fiction--namely, the old love triangle. The good guy (us, natch), has been betrayed by the love object he supports and defends (Iraq), having been left to watch and stew as she gallivants with his rival (Iran).
In real life, of course, Iran is responsible for many of our nearly 4,000 war dead in Iraq, many of our nearly 30,000 war-wounded in Iraq, along with murders, kidnappings and torture of Americans throughout the Middle East over the past quarter-century through its terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
This all makes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Baghdad a stinging Mesopotamian slap across the American face. And don't forget that Iran's leader, the classic heavy in our plot, was quite possibly a participant in the 1979 Iranian seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and ensuing 444-day hostage crisis.
As a potboiler, such triangle stuff works. As post-9/11 US foreign policy, it's certifiably insane. We are living and dying for a ward-like "ally" who is happy to cozy up to our worst enemy. Weirdly enough, no one seems to notice.
So let's review. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--nuke-seeking Holocaust-denier, homosexual-and-apostate-slayer, and wanna-be destroyer of both the Great (United States) and Little (Israel) Satans--was just this week the honored guest of the Iraqi government. And yes, that would be the same Iraqi government the US taxpayer is supporting to the tune of $200 million a day.
The countries share more than a border. As USA Today pointed out, "Saddam Hussein was replaced by a new crop of Shiite leaders, many of whom were groomed during years of exile in predominantly Shiite Iran. Many of Iraq's Kurdish leaders have also spent years in exile in Iran and retain close ties there." And some, including Iraq's senior religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, have never given up Iranian citizenship.
This may explain why Iraqis rolled out the red carpet (literally) for Ahmadinejad, but not why we are sappy enough to pretend nothing significant happened--beginning with the infuriating fact that Ahmadinejad, on his ceremonial arrival in Baghdad, required minimal security compared to the furtive security gauntlet American leaders must run. There's a reason, of course: Iranian-supplied bombs and rockets endanger American presidents, not Iranian ones.
At the Iraqi presidential palace, Mr. Ahmadinejad was greeted with multiple kisses from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. (Blech.) An Iraqi military honor guard--make that a US-trained Iraqi military honor guard--saluted the two leaders. An Iraqi military band--make that a US-trained Iraqi military band--also played the Iranian and the Iraqi anthems. "Call me Uncle Jalal," Mr. Talabani told Ahmadinejad. "Iraqis don't like Americans," Mr. Ahmadinejad told the world.
And so went Iran's "brotherly" visit to Iraq, as if US protests (and U.S. casualties) over Iran's violent subversion of the country didn't exist. There were political meetings, gas, oil and electrical agreements, and an Iranian interest-free $1 billion loan. To cap things off, Iraq and Iran issued a joint statement condemning Israel, America's bona fide ally in the region, for taking belated action in Gaza to stop Hamas from firing Iranian-supplied rockets into Israeli towns. (Did I mention Hamas gets Iranian support?)
It's not a question of which side Iraq is on. Certainly, as Iraq becomes what Radio Free Europe analyst Kathleen Ridolfo described as "economically, if not politically subordinate to Iran," that becomes increasingly clear. More disturbing is why we think we're on the same side--why we think there's a future for us in this and similar relationships.
The fact is, this unsuitable ménage isn't unique to Iraq. Desperately naive American courtships across the Middle East follow similar patterns of hypocrisy, deceit and danger. From Saudi Arabia to Egypt, artificial, if costly, American "alliances" are mocked and trashed by such countries' aid and abetment of jihad.
Just this week, The Washington Times reported that oil-rich Qatar is massively underwriting Hamas. At the same time, Qatar--which hosts a colossal pre-positioning base for the U.S. military--is supposed to be a "moderate" Islamic ally of ours. What next--permanent U.S. military bases in a Shiite-Kurdish satellite of Iran? I wonder whether we will ever walk out on these destructive relationships and recover our self-respect.