Monday, February 14, 2005

Has The Shi'ite Hit the Fan?

. . . Robin Wright isn't the most objective source for this analysis, but the question remains: Have we sowed the seeds of a transparent, secular, democratic Iraqi government, or have we just created a greater Iran?:

From the Washington Post:

"Thousands of members of the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite-dominated slate that won almost half of the 8.5 million votes and will name the prime minister, spent decades in exile in Iran. Most of the militia members in its largest faction were trained in Shiite-dominated Iran. "

And our guys didn't do too well:

"Conversely, the Iraqi secular democrats backed most strongly by the Bush administration lost big. During his State of the Union address last year, Bush invited Adnan Pachachi, a longtime Sunni politician and then-president of the Iraqi Governing Council, to sit with first lady Laura Bush. Pachachi's party fared so poorly in the election that it won no seats in the national assembly."

Which leaves us with the $64,000 question:

"There's the assumption that the new government will be close to Iran or influenced by Iran. That's a strong and reasonable assumption," (Arab analyst) Khouri said. "But I don't think anyone knows -- including Grand Ayatollah [Ali] Sistani -- where the fault line is between Shiite religious identity and Iraqi national identity."

Iraq's Arabs and Iran's Persians have had conflicts throughout history, but we can't bank on this to trump a pan-Shi'ite alliance. The ultimate goals of our geopolitical strategy in the Mideast are to "drain the swamp" of terrorism, secure the free flow of oil, and inhibit the development of nukes, primarily through the promotion of democratic forces. I don't take anything away from the history-making precedent of the elections, but it might have resulted in a buffer around Iran and emboldened Shi'ite clerics. The Shi'ite might have just hit the fan.