Ahmadinejad’s offer completely untenable
Any Democrats campaigning on an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq may have just been given the best reason in the world to change their tune.
Iran has volunteered to “fill the power vacuum” an American withdrawal would be leaving behind in Iraq.
"The political power of the occupiers (of Iraq) is being destroyed rapidly and very soon we will be witnessing a great power vacuum in the region," Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced. "We, with the help of regional friends and the Iraqi nation, are ready to fill this void."
The “regional friends” Ahmadinajed has in mind? Syria and Saudi Arabia.
"They are trapped in the swamp of their own crimes," Ahmadinejad insisted. "If you stay in Iraq for another 50 years nothing will improve, it will just worsen."
Of course, nothing is guaranteed to improve under a new occupying power, either. In fact, if it’s guaranteed that the Iraqi quagmire will worsen under continuing American occupation, it’s just as guaranteed that it will worsen under Iranian occupation.
Iranians, Syrians and Saudis in Iraq would, with near-absolute certainty, fall prey to the same forces that the Americans have – that of Iraqi nationalism.
It was Iraqi nationalism that American observers underestimated when they insisted they would be "greeted as liberators". Ahmadinejad isn't underestimating it any less.
Some may find themselves prone to endorse Ahmadinejad’s proposal on the basis that Muslims – more importantly, Shi’ites (like Iraq’s majority) – would have better luck pacifying the country than the Americans. These people underestimate the power of Iraqi nationalism.
They’re also forgetting their history. Between 1980 and 1988, Iran and Iraq fought one of the bloodiest conflicts of post-WWII history – one of the most recent conflicts in which more than one million people were killed.
Many Iraqis are still old enough to remember this war. Even those who aren’t old enough to have lived through it have been indoctrinated to view Iran as their enemy through Baathist propaganda.
Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to find support amongst their neighbours. Ahmadinejad’s attempts to establish a regional security pact have been rebuked by Gulf Arab states, who have their suspicions regarding Ahmadinejad’s intentions.
As well they should.
Taking Ahmadinejad up on his offer also has implications for Iraq’s Kurdish population. The region that historically comprises Kurdistan is currently split four ways, between geographical Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
Under Ahmadinejad, the Kurdish population could be due for the same oppression that Kurds in Iran and Kurds in Syria currently face.
There is a reason for this. Historical Kurdistan accounts for a significant portion of Iran’s territory.
Ahmadinejad’s offer is far from an altruistic gesture in favour of regional peace: it’s a ploy to undercut the emergence of a new nation state that could prove territorially threatening to both Iran and Syria (as well as Turkey, Kurdistan accounts for up to one-fifth of its territory).
Establishing an Iran-esque Muslim theocracy in Iraq would also spare Ahmadinejad the uncomfortable position of eventually being sandwiched between two stable democracies cast in the western mould – in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad honestly believes his proposal represents some sort of "miracle cure" for the Iraqi quagmire, he desperately needs to re-think it. Iraq will prove no more receptive to Iranians -- with whom Iraqis fought the region's bloodiest war of the 20th century -- than it has been for the Americans.
Ahmadinejad's offer must be rejected out of hand. It's either entirely ill-conceived (though no more ill-conceived than the Iraq war itself), or just plan disengenuous.
The stakes in Iraq are too high to turn the country over to a wolf in, well... wolf's clothing.