Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obama's Middle East Endgame: Part IV - The Iran/Iraq Dynamic

In 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, the given reason was to stop Iraq from developing NBC (nuclear-chemical-biological) weapons.

Since Iraq has stabilized I've been wondering how long it will be before the U.S. takes a very different view of Iraq's nuclear ambitions, do mainly to Iran's nuclear program and Iraq's need to deter their historical enemy in Persia - which was the same reason Hussein sought nukes in the 1980s.

So today, as Iraq and Iran once again play their dangerous game, I imagine there are people inside both the Iraqi defense ministry and the American D.O.D. who are considering way to deter Iranian aggression against Iraq. And because Iran is a de facto nuclear power at this point, the options for deterring them are few:

1. Iraq could develop a notorious, indigenous, crash nuclear weapons program.
2. Iraq could embrace nuclear power for civilian use and follow the German/Japanese model of becoming a de facto nuclear power.
3. The U.S. can make an explicit security guarantee which places Iraq within a region wide, NATO style security agreement.
4. Iraq could pursue less kinetic means of fighting against the Iranians. For example, Iraqi government officials and clerics could express their moral outrage at every act of violence the Iranian regime perpetrates against its own people, or perhaps encourage Kurdish rabble rousing among the Iranian Kurdish population.

My guess is that over the short term options 2, 3 and 4 will be utilized by Iraq/the U.S. against Iran. Option 3 is a U.S. centric option but option 4 is an Iraqi centric option, because an Iraqi Shiite Muslim has the moral authority to speak out on behalf of the Iranian people that an American government official does not.   

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