Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Al-Quds al-Arabi's summary of what Cheney said

Al-Quds al-Arabi prints a summary of what its Arab sources said about Cheney's trip, and the main idea, according to this summary, is that the liklihood of war in the region is greater now than it was before the trip, and they think the expected Baghdad US-Iran ambassadors' meeting could be the last chance to avert this. Cheney is described as having told his hosts that the American troop-presence in Iraq would not be a handicap or a vulnerability in the context of Iranian reprisals. On the contrary, he is said to have expounded a theory to the effect that Sunni armed groups in Iraq would side with the Americans in the event of a strike against Iran, as a way of settling accounts with the Shiite Iraqi administration, thus in effect siding with the Americans. Cheney is said to have urged the Arab leaders to get the Sunni armed groups to settle down and look forward to this.
The sources said Cheney explained his conviction that a strike on Iran would perhaps be the best solution for his country's entanglement in Iraq, because Tehran has the biggest influence in that country and arms the militias, and the sources added that American assessments don't expect Iraqi-Shiite retaliation against American forces in Iraq in the event of war with Iran. Rather, the opposite could happen, namely that the Sunni-resistance factions and movements would take advantage of an American attack on Iran to settle accounts with the organization that currently rules Iraq, with the support and protection of the Americans. And the sources said Cheney asked his Arab allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE to reassure the Sunni groups in Iraq, so that they switch their calculations to the American side, and to send them a message to the effect that the US has completely lost confidence in Maliki and his government...
Other parts of the discussions included war-related details, for instance Cheney said that the Bushehr reactor, located on the opposite shore of the Gulf, would not be hit, and even if it was, there isn't any risk of polluting the waters of the Gulf because there isn't any enriched plutonium on the premises. This is an issue that the states of the Gulf had raised with the Americans, because they get 90% of their water from desalinization plants on the Gulf. The Al-Quds al-Arabi journalist doesn't tell us what the Arab interlocutors had to say about all of this, but he implies they are already taking the war scenario seriously:
It has been noticed that the countries of the Gulf have in fact started studying alternatives to the Staits of Hormuz for oil-exporting, and there is a proposal for a pipeline to the Red Sea, and another for a pipeline to the sea via Yemen, taking in to account the possibility of the Straits of Hormz being closed.
And the writer goes over Western estimates of the likely extent of Iranian reprisals to any attack, underlining the idea that a lot of people take the idea seriously. But he doesn't say a word about what the Arab leaders' reaction was to this particular set of meetings.

Instead, the writer stresses that Cheney's warlike attitude was answered swiftly by Iranian president Ahmedinejad, who visited the UAE right after Cheney's visit, and said in a press conference in Abu Dhabi that the Cheney threats are bluster and in any event Iran is capable of defending itself.

(I don't know if it is worth dwelling on the above-mentioned far-fetched Cheney hypothesis about getting the Sunni armed groups to side with the Americans in Iraq, via an attack on Iran. But at least it should be noted that this is the mirror-opposite of another hypothesis, the so-called "unleash the Shiites" hypothesis that has been propounded by some in Washington (and originally promoted as a theory by Cheney's office) (latest version here and here). My own opinion is that this comes down to a matched-pair of threats being issued by Cheney: (1) To the Maliki administration: get serious about accomodation or else the Sunni groups will join us in a generalized anti-Shia campaign (following an attack on Iran). (2) To the Sunni regimes: Get the armed resistance to cooperate in an accomodation, or else we will "unleash the Shiites", who are after all the majority of the population. Since domestic Iraqi accomodation becomes more and more out of reach as each day passes, what this amounts to is that the US is left with only these two threats, both of them based on the idea of firing up an all-out sectarian-based war. To which the only alternative would be US accomodation with Iran, something suggested by the Al-Hayat op-ed summarized in the previous post).

4 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

My own opinion is that this comes down to a matched-pair of threats being issued by Cheney: (1) To the Maliki administration: get serious about accomodation or else the Sunni groups will join us in a generalized anti-Shia campaign (following an attack on Iran). (2) To the Sunni regimes: Get the armed resistance to cooperate in an accomodation, or else we will "unleash the Shiites", who are after all the majority of the population. Since domestic Iraqi accomodation becomes more and more out of reach as each day passes, what this amounts to is that the US is left with only these two threats, both of them based on the idea of firing up an all-out sectarian-based war. To which the only alternative would be US accomodation with Iran, something suggested by the Al-Hayat op-ed summarized in the previous post.

Well said.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Archimedes39 said...

These alleged "Cheney threats" sound very reminiscent of Nixonian "madman theory of diplomacy", where the impression is left with potential "aggressors" that the US would consider making a seemingly irrational response to achieve a foreign policy objective, no matter what the consequences. In point of fact, the "madman theory" does indeed seem to be operative!

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Ziad said...

"It has been noticed that the countries of the Gulf have in fact started studying alternatives to the Staits of Hormuz for oil-exporting, and there is a proposal for a pipeline to the Red Sea, and another for a pipeline to the sea via Yemen, taking in to account the possibility of the Straits of Hormz being closed."

I never knew thousand mile pipelines could be built at the drop of a hat.

Seems they're also taking a big gamble that the Iraqi Shiites will stand idly by while their power is taken away, which is exactly the plan according to this article.

Then again, a desperate gambler may wager is last dollar on the longest of shots.

10:47 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Don't forget, this was really just a version what Cheney said, not necessarily what anybody agrees with...

2:45 PM  

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