Kristol, Kagan: Escalate Iraq to Beat Iran

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 30, 2007

Bill Kristol, chairman of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and editor of the Weekly Standard, recently teamed up with Fred Kagan, a resident AEI scholar and military history professor, to explain the real reason why the US needs to escalate its troop activities in Iraq.

The US must remain in Iraq so it can take the war to Syria and Iran.

With the Democratic-dominated Congress caving in completely on providing unrestricted war funding to the Bush administration, Kristol and Kagan advise the President to "turn his undivided attention to fighting the enemies who are attacking our soldiers."

They explain:

The reality is that foreign fighters are flowing into Iraq to kill Iraqis and Americans. Almost all suicide bombers in Iraq are foreign fighters, for whom this is the crucial battle. This means that our victory there will be an important victory in the larger struggle against terrorism--and our defeat there would embolden and empower our enemies.

From what countries are all these "foreign fighters" flowing?

[T]he reality is that Iran and Syria are enemies. Most foreign fighters join al Qaeda in Iraq via Syria. And Iran has been sending advanced weapons and advisers into Iraq. These weapons and insurgents supported by Iran are killing our soldiers on a daily basis. There should be no doubt about the hostile role Iran and Syria are playing in Iraq today.

So, to recap: the US needs to turn its undivided attention to fighting its enemies, and its enemies are Syria and Iran. You know, as long as we're already in the neighbourhood...

Dangerous Dissent

Unfortunately, not everyone in the US is on board with the President's strategy to escalate the war. There are even skeptics in the government itself!

Among the doubters we can count the following:

Congress: Troublesome congressional debates about whether the US is "committed to winning in Iraq" were "the major threat to progress since the president began pursuing the right strategy in January."

It looked like this was going to be a problem for awhile there, but that's resolved (at least until October, when the supplemental funding runs out again).

State Department: Those commie pinkos over State are "toy[ing] with fantasy diplomatic solutions based on overtures toward Iran and Syria." This, according to Kristol and Kagan, is "a trap" as long as the US lacks "leverage" in Iraq.

What's the point, after all, in negotiating with people who have "resolved to help Iraqi militants kill as many Americans as possible" - unless you're negotiating the terms of their surrender?

Defense Department: The knock-kneed surrender monkeys running the US military, including Defense Secretary Robert Louis Gates, are suggesting the US should start a drawdown and gradually hand responsibility over to the Iraqi military.

Obviously, this won't do. Drawing down the US military is not the way to gain the kind of "leverage" in Iraq that will let the US play hardball with Iran and Syria.

Bush Administration: Failure is insidious. Even Bush's very own hand-picked cabinet "has not made up its collective mind to support the president's strategy wholeheartedly."

This is no time for a policy debate that would "undermine the efforts of our commanders in the field." Anything short of total submission to the President's plan would only "imperil the victory strategy the president has embraced."

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

Conflating Distinct Parties

Do we even need to undertake the basic geopolitical analysis that breaks apart Kristol and Kagan's handy conflation of a bunch of different groups that have little in common politically or culturally and only one shared strategic interest (more on this below)?

Syria, a parliamentary republic, is run by the secularist, authoritarian Ba'ath Party. Over 90 percent of Syrians are Arabic by ethnicity. 74 percent of Syrians practice the Sunni Muslim religion.

Iran is an Islamic republic with an elected legislature but an appointed governing council led by a supreme leader. Ethnically, about half of Iranians are Persian, with a variety of ethnicities making up the other half. Around 90 percent of Iranians practice the Shia Muslim religion.

The only thing that Iran and Syria both have in common is that they're both under threat of attack from the US, a country that straddles both their borders on all sides, has threatened them continuously for years, and refuses to engage them diplomatically (notwithstanding those fey overtures from State).

With one side of its mouth, the US demands that Iran and Syria stay out of Iraq, which borders both of them and is illegally occupied by an imperial power.

With the other side, the US defends its own illegal occupation, ignoring the will of the Iraqi people (so much for spreading democracy) and establishing permanent strategic bases from which it can project military power indiscriminately.

The Enemy of My Enemy...

What the US also ignores is that the various groups that are in Iraq fighting against the US occupation have only one thing in common: opposition to the US occupation.

Kristol and Kagan tell us "Most foreign fighters join al-Qaeda in Iraq via Syria," but the secular Ba'athists who run syria and the fundamentalist al-Qaeda members hate each other. If they're holding their noses and cooperating at all, it's a direct result of the ongoing US occupation.

Before the US invaded Iraq, its proponents told us that Iraq was associated with the 9/11 terrorists. It wasn't true then, but to a certain extent, it became true after the invasion destroyed Iraq's government, failed to restore civil order, and dragged out over four years.

It continues to be true as long as the occupation continues and the various groups who otherwise have little in common continue to share a common enemy.

It's that simple. Terrorists, militants, extremists and the like will continue to stream into Iraq and fight the US occupation as long as the occupation continues.

Iraqi citizens who oppose the occupation, have lost family members, have been beaten, held hostage, and been tortured and humiliated, will continue to fight the US occupation as long as the occupation continues.

Iran and Syria, who will be deeply affected by the outcome of the US occupation of Iraq, will continue to take an interest in the occupation as long as it continues. (Flip the situation for a moment: if, say, China invaded and occupied Mexico, would the US obey China's demand not to get involved?)

A Manufactured Crisis

In a recent column on Salon, Glenn Greenwald shot back at the war champions who warn of the risks of pulling out of Iraq by asking: what are the risks of staying in Iraq?

One of the risks, of course, is that the conflict will escalate into a larger war with Iran. Greenwald argues persuasively that the neoconservative architects of the Iraq war - Kristol and Kagan included - are not only unfazed by this, but are actually counting on it.

He notes that both Kristol and Kagan have called for "offensive operations" (in Kagan's words) against Iran, arguing as they do in their most recent joint essay that a stronger position in Iraq gives the US leverage to use against Iran.

The longer the US remains in Iraq, the more likely that some event will take place to justify an "offensive operation" against Iraq's neighbours.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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