May 15, 2007
Sharm el-Sheikh - Who Gives A Meatball
The recent conference on Iraq, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, and attended by more than 50 countries representing half of the world's population, seems at first glance to underscore the "great interest so many countries have displayed" over the future of that torn country.
But, perhaps we should lay it on the line and ask, "Who really cares about Iraq itself?" Let's look at the eight most prominent countries that attended the conference, those with the greatest stake in Iraq.
First, the United States: Trapped in a public relations quagmire with its own population, damned if it leaves and damned if it stays, the Bush administration is seeking a course of varied pretexts that allows it to secure control of the flow of oil that was and continues to be the main factor in America's strategic calculus.
Many Americans have lost patience and want America out. Never mind that specific U.S. policies for Iraq have plunged that country into civil war while unleashing the forces of extremist Muslim radicals committed to fight America and the West. And it is just too bad for the Iraqis that their country risks becoming a brand new breeding ground of terrorists beyond the regular fray of insurgents/anti-occupation guerrillas.
The U.K.'s prospect of gaining anything from their foray into Iraq has diminished along with the fading star of Tony Blair. The British, who evidently learned nothing from their first occupation of Iraq after World War II, want to bring their troops home.
To China, the Middle East and Africa are the most fertile grounds for the expansion of its global influence. China's unquenchable thirst for oil and gas to meet the demands of an exploding economy make Iraq and Iran critical to its long-term strategic supplies of energy. With deliberation and sophistication, the Chinese are gradually chipping away at America's influence in the region, using the Iraqis' plight and the consequences of the war to their advantage.
The Russians want to recover billions of dollars in contracts they signed with Saddam Hussein that were lost to the war. Russia could not care less whether Iraq is run by a democratic or totalitarian regime and will transact with the devil as long as they can secure their profitable deals while enhancing their regional influence.
To France, the Iraqi tragedy is just an unfortunate episode for the poor Iraqis. The French salivate over the Bush administration's dismal failure but, like the Russians, seek to regain billions in contracts lost with the demise of the Hussein regime. Quel dommage that Iraqis and Americans are dying, but feeling vindicated about France's objections to the Iraq war feeds well into their national psyche.
For Iran, Iraq is the greatest windfall. Not in their wildest dreams could the Iranians have imagined that Iraq, their great and proud enemy, would be handed to them on a silver platter and by their staunch adversary, the United States.
Now, although involved in heavy trade with Iraq, to promote their own agenda they also arm Iraqi Shiite militias, which have no scruples about killing Iraqi Sunnis while pretending to be Iraq's saviors. For Tehran, the goal is to exert every ounce of its increasing influence over Iraq's internal affairs to secure its rather mundane long-term strategic and economic ambitions.
These ambitions are the threats underpinning Israel's and the U.S.'s present confrontational course vis-à-vis Iran, not anything nuclear per se. Nuclear issues are but the stuff of useful pretexts for degrading Iranian economic influence in the Middle East by way of military threats and means.
Saudi Arabia, terrified of Iran's growing regional influence and the potential of Sunni-Shiite regional conflict, wants to stem the Shiite tide at all cost. The Saudis do not want to be engulfed should the civil war escalate beyond Iraqi borders. Fearing for their very existence, the Saudis seek to empower the Sunni Iraqis in order to decrease the threat of a Shiite-perpetrated genocide, which, from their perspective, is far more plausible once the Americans leave.
For Syria the war in Iraq has only increased its own economic difficulties. Although there was no love lost between Saddam Hussein and the el Assad regime, extensive trade crossed the borders between the two nations. Syria could benefit again from a stable Iraq and at a minimum repatriate the more than one million Iraqis who have found refuge there. Syria, however, has no incentive to be overly helpful as long as the United States both occupies Iraq and threatens regime change in Damascus.
So who really cares about Iraq? It seems that only the Iraqi people do. The harsh truth seems to be that nobody else with juice really gives a damn.
-Violently Edited & Addended Excerpts Of Alon Ben Meir Article In TJOTWO