by Patrick Lang

The tragic outcome for Iraq and the region could be that both Arabs and Iranians might enhance their assistance to their respective sectarian allies in Iraq in what is shaping up as a fight by proxy.

These are the very developments that the Bush administration and its allies had wanted to avoid. But they are now confronted with them as a fait accompli. The occupying forces can no longer really trust either the Iraqi Sunni or Shiites. The only friends on whom they can count are the Kurds. No wonder President Jalal Talabani, the most prominent Kurd in the present Iraqi leadership, is desperately trying to persuade the United States and Britain against any early withdrawal of their troops.

“Unless Bush and Blair succeed in opening direct negotiations with the Iraqi resistance and enlist the support of Iraq’s neighbors, especially Iran and Syria, as well as the Arab League, the Iraq conflict is set to grow into a bigger and longer-term regional crisis. ” (

(Amin Saikal, a professor of political science, directs the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University.)

Col. Patrick W. Lang (Ret.), a highly decorated retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces, served as “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism” for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and was later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service. Col. Lang was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point. For his service in the DIA, he was awarded the “Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive.” He is a frequent commentator on television and radio, including PBS’s Newshour, and most recently on MSNBC’s Hardball and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

His CV and blog are linked below the fold.

Our basic mistake in Iraq was to believe that Iraq was eagerly awaiting a social revolution that would sweep away the old and welcome the new in a kind of joyful French Revolution festival of retribution and enabling. The neocon Jacobins, true to their names, believed this most of all and somehow believed that the 12er Shia would be the instrument for the realization of this fantasy. These Shia were the same people who were angry at Saddam for not allowing them to beat themselves with chains and machetes on Ashura.

So, instead of re-starting the clock of history in Iraq …

Continued BELOW:
So, instead of re-starting the clock of history in Iraq as a first and triggering step toward a general festival of westernization in the Middle East, we have de-stabilized a system in which the only thing that unites all the groups, tribes, ethnic nations and religious identities is their mutual detestation of the “other.” Oh, yes, they don’t have much use for us either. (Kurds excepted, but they might get there yet.)

So…. After the momentary elation of the referendum (purple thumbs) dies down, let us all think of how we are going to try to live in the real world and give up for a while our preference for some other world.

Oh! I am inclined to think that some measure of accountability should be attempted for the catastrophe that has been visited on so many. In Lincoln’s time the Congress created the “Committee on the Conduct of the War.” Perhaps the word “misconduct” could be substituted.

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Drinking the Kool-Aid,” Middle East Policy Council Journal, Vol. XI, Summer 2004, No. 2

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