Oct 21, 2006

Old Middle-East Hand Talks Shop

Frank Anderson worked for the CIA from 1968 until 1995. According to his unclassified biography, he served three tours of duty in the Middle East as an agency station chief, headed the Afghan Task Force (1987-1989), and was chief of the Near East Division. He now runs a consulting practice that focuses on the Middle East.

What will Iraq look like five years from now?

There is no prospect under which we will depart from Iraq in better circumstances than we entered. It's probable that every month we stay there our position will be worse than it would have been if we had left the month before. The conflict that is underway in Iraq will continue until a new order is established and there's an equilibrium based on the new reality. In five years, it's not unlikely that U.S. Special Operations forces will be working with Sunnis in western Iraq against a Shiite-dominated pro-Iranian government that controls much of the country. And that's the optimistic scenario, because it assumes that we have the resources and the friends in the area to make those deals with western Iraqi tribes that find it in their interest to work with us.

What's the diplomatic fallout from Iraq and the Bush Administration's general Middle East policies?

Our enemies are comforted and our friends are looking elsewhere. The policymaking group that decided to invade Iraq regarded the strategic relationship between the United States and the Saudis as a problem, not an asset. And now the Saudis are quietly shifting their diplomacy and their economic outreach to the Far East -- China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan. Saudi Arabia is not going to become our enemy, but they are coming to believe that they can live in a world in which the United States is less relevant.

As it turns out, Iraq under Saddam Hussein did not pose any significant threat to American security. How do you evaluate the case of Iran?

Iraq was not a strategic threat -- it was in a box for eleven or twelve years. But Iran is not in a box. Iran is stronger in the region than it's been in a long time -- and that should be a concern to everyone.

So if Iran poses a real dilemma, what's the best course of action?

There was a Defense Science Board task force in 2001 that looked at homeland defense. The board proposed that we look at terrorism in the same way we look at jurisprudence -- that we examine means, motive, and opportunity. Look at Iraq. Iraq was not an enabler, nor was it a chief supporter, of terrorism. The invasion of Iraq did not attack the means of terrorism --but by invading we provided a major motive for terrorism and an enormous opportunity by putting 190,000 soldiers there as targets.

Now look at Iran. It hasn't had any fingerprints on international terrorism since the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996. Their capability of hitting us with a strategic weapon is remote. But any military attack on Iran will provide a motive for terrorism in many parts of the world, yet we'll achieve no significant reduction of means with military action. We gain very little, but there's great potential harm.

I divide the world into copers and fixers. The former say, -- There's a mess but we can cope with it. --The fixers say "let's take a risk and try to fix it." My attitude is that it's better to cope with Iran.

From Six Questions for Frank Anderson on the Middle East


Donald Douglas said...

This interview is a crock! Where do you get this wacked-out stuff! Iraq not a threat? Are you kidding me? The entire global intelligence community was worried about Iraqi WMD. Not only that, Saddam's long-term designs were for Middle Eastern Hegemony. The stalemated Iraq-Iran war just slowed things down. The Bush administration just went ahead and executed the Iraqi Liberation Act, which was passed during the Clinton administration. And Iran not a threat today? Your analyst is out to lunch. Ahmedinejad seeks to blow Israel off the map, used Hezbollah as a proxy for its war against the Jewish state earlier this year, and is a main backer of the insurgency in Iraq today. Swede Man! You can do better than this!

Burkean Reflections

steve said...

Absolutely. This interview is bogus. It makes no sense. Where does Frank Anderson get off, disputing the accepted wisdom of our blessed administration? Condi and Dick and George have told us that Iraq was a threat, and Iran is a threat. What more does it take to convince you people?

Not only that. Anderson makes no reference whatsoever to the Cucumber people, who are, as everyone of any intelect at all who has a modicum of historical knowledge knows, the greatest threat to mankind. It is well documented that their threats of vegetable terrorism against western democracies (in collaboration with, but at the same time, inexplicably, still lashing out against, Clinton, the broccoli eater) are at the root of all conflicts in the modern world.

Anyone who disregards the threat to our modern way of life by the those Vegetables from the Moon (and the minor planet, Ceres) are just whistling in the dark! Yeah, just continue to ignore the Cucumber People -- at your own risk!

And thank you for bringing up Iraqi WMD! It sometimes seems like EVERYONE has forgotten the putrid stench of Iraqi Warmed Mutton Dainties. That just shows that they've never experienced the horror of an Iraqi BBQ. Those who have lived through one will surely never forget it. William Colby himself said, late at night sometimes, when the wind was howling through the bullrushes, he could still taste that mutton.