As many of you know I am a strong supporter of the current administration, President Bush, and the recent actions of our military in Afghanistan and Iraq. I believe that we are at the dawn of a new age in world politics and that the decisions that our country makes now will determine the course of history for decades to come.
I also believe that in a world of inaction and the endless run around from international organizations such as the United Nations and its members, that it is imperative and indeed logical that a leadership position be taken by a country that has the character to ask the hard questions and possesses the resolve and means to face the answers and enact solutions. At this critical crossroads in history, that country is the United States of America.
Is the United States a perfect representative of a perfect system? No. I do not hold the belief that there is such a thing. However, I do believe that we, the U.S. have by design, circumstance or fate become the best chance that the world has for survival into the next century. For all of our follies and mistakes that we have made, we still represent what is the best prescription available to cure the illnesses that plague this planet. We are a moral and just country built upon the ideals and principles of some of the most brilliant men who have ever graced our planet, the founding fathers of this country. For over two hundred years we have remained true to those ideals and though our critics are numerous, some being justified, many not, I would ask you to consider this alternative. What if the Soviet Union had prevailed and having won the cold war, had become the dominant, hyper-power in the world? If it were possible to repeat the dark ages, that is what I fear that that is potentially what we would have faced.
As I sit here watching over a million Iraqi Shiites making their first pilgrimage to Karbala in almost 30 years I am proud for what we have made possible for these people and yet extremely troubled.
Now, from the beginning of Saddam’s establishment as a regional power in the mid-east, other Arab countries have been extremely guarded (and worried) about the political and military aims of him and his regime. As clichéd as it may sound, the true blood of the Middle East really is oil. The primary concern of the countries located there is the uninterrupted flow of oil. The uninterrupted flow of oil out, and more important, the uninterrupted flow of dollars back in. At the same time, all of the present governments that are in power in the Mid East are tenuous at best. They rule by the control of power and that power is wielded in each case by families who control the flow of oil out and money in. They are able to dole out the money where it most benefits them (generally the military) and continues to support their positions of power. The greatest threat to their power base is instability. That instability can be caused by many factors but is threatened in the greatest sense by three separate situations: religious insurrection, democracy (and the sharing of wealth and power), or an unstable or unpredictable regime or dictator. Saddam Hussein represented the latter. Border disputes stop oil flow, armed incursions stop oil, invasions stop oil, WAR stops oil. No matter what they have said, no matter what the public political posture taken, no matter what the religious leaders espoused, all of the mid-east states were relieved to see the coalition forces take action against Saddam and his regime. Almost without exception, all of the Arab states openly or secretly aided our efforts with logistics, support, or intelligence. In order to maintain adherence to their Islamic tenants (to defend Muslim brothers) and their status among fellow Arab states they all agreed publicly to condemn our acts of aggression against Iraq as evidenced at the league of Arab States meetings in Cairo. In truth though, almost all of the Arab Countries were eagerly acting behind the scenes, participating in the ousting of Saddam and his regime. In the same vein, these same Arab countries so vitriolic in their hatred of Israel were actually terrified that Saddam might have, in one of his unpredictable moods actually have launched an attack on Israel. This would represent a worst cast scenario among all of the Arab states, for they all know that this would trigger a devastating response from Israel which would, as a result, definitely stop the flow of oil and dollars.
Now we are at a pivotal and crucial turning point in Iraq. Aside from the obvious individual freedoms that have been delivered to the Iraqi people there is now the freedom for all of the competing factions within Iraq and without, to wrest positions of power for their individual reasons, none of which are in the true, best interests, of the people of Iraq.
One of the most obvious power struggles is the struggle that is developing in the Kurdish regions in the North of Iraq. Having been forced out of their ancestral homeland region over the last 30 years and severely oppressed by the former regime, they actually do have a cultural and historical right to the areas that control a bulk of Iraq’s oil production. There are several dilemmas presented by their position:
1. Who controls the oil controls the power. This is obvious, both to the Kurds and Iraq as a whole.
2. Over 30 years, Saddam relocated thousands of Arabs to the region while displacing the Kurds. These Arabs, many being born there, now consider the region their homeland.
3. The Kurds have revenge and retribution on their mind. After a systematic purging, verging on genocide for the last 20+ years, they feel that there are many scores that need settling. An eye for an eye is an important philosophy in the Muslim culture and has led to terrible retributions throughout history. All in all, the Kurds are going to be very difficult to negotiate with and given the choice would form a break away state at any moment, under the right circumstances. This of course represents a paramount threat to Turkey because of the large indigenous Kurdish populations in the bordering areas of Eastern Turkey who would certainly join with the Iraqi Kurds in declaring independence.
There is however a more sinister and serious threat to the true liberation of Iraq that exists, and to the general public is the one that is so obvious it will not be seen. Indeed the main reason is that it lies masked under the veil of religious freedom and would seem to be the very reason that we used to “liberate” Iraq.
To the direct east of Iraq, sharing the largest border area is the Republic of Iran. Iran is a country on the verge of revolution. In spite of the lionizing of the Iranian Government (they really are a terrorist sponsoring state and deserve the axis of evil name tag), Iran is also one of the most liberal of the Arab States. The pendulum of public opinion has gradually swung from the extremes of Islamic fundamentalism to a more open and free thinking society. As a result, Iran represents a country that on its own is ripe for democratic revolution. Unfortunately, the Islamic fundamentalists are still the ruling power in Iran. The greatest threat that exists to the current government of Iran is the existence of democracy in Iraq. Nothing on earth will spread faster than freedom and you can simply look historically at what happened in Eastern Europe after the tide turned against the Soviet backed regimes.
Iran will do everything in its power to prevent the ideas of democracy from taking hold in the fertile ground of Iraq. What is the influence and power that Iran can wield in this agenda that they must perpetuate?
Iran is a country of Shiite Muslims. A large majority of southern and central Iraq are Shiite Muslims, although traditional enemies (Iraqi Shiites being Arabs and the Iranian Shiites are Persians), the Iranian government is pouring thousands of dollars, logistical support, religious backing and every other means available to them to back the spread and empowerment of the Shiite Muslim movement in Iraq. At the same time they are trying to infiltrate the Iraqi Shiite factions with hundreds of Iranian Shiites who are trying to subvert, or influence the tide flow of political and religious direction in any way that will benefit them the most and give them the most influence. The Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala represents the most visible start of Shiite empowerment and as it unfolds appears to be as much as an Anti-American pilgrimage as a true religious pilgrimage. It is imperative that we recognize and identify the Iranian agenda at work and do our best to make the rest of the world community aware of this power play. This will be a daunting diplomatic task as it will appear that we are attempting to shut down the free choice of religious and political self determination. The European left will no doubt jump at the chance to proclaim that this is what the people of Iraq really want, and use it once again to subvert American efforts to truly liberate the Iraqi people. Iran needs to know that we will not tolerate their efforts to impose a totalitarian, fundamentalist Islamic regime, having just gone to such great effort and sacrifice to rid Iraq of a previous totalitarian system.
I believe that it is the moral duty of our administration to see this job now started, through to the end. That end should be a democratic, freely elected government that will serve as a model to the rest of the Arab states. As bitter a pill as it may be, the monarchies and totalitarian governments of the Arab states have reached a point in the evolution of human-kind on this planet where their time has passed. It is time for them to join the 21st Century along with the rest of the world community and embrace the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and the freedom of religious choice and tolerance, which are truly only guaranteed under democratically elected governments. As we march forward to forge a better world for all people, the time is now.
Ernest Emerson – 2/20/04