Is there any way to stabilize Iraq without involving Iran and/or Syria?

This article argues persuasively that the formation of a “regional concert of powers” is indispensable.

Absolutely essential, I think. And I think the administration has actually had excellent progress on this front. I believe Jordan and Saudi Arabia are already on board with the new plan, as well one or two of the smaller states like Dubai. In fact, I just read that the Chinese have agreed to certain sanctions against Iran - this breakthrough in Chinese cooperation because Saudi Arabia has made a guarantee to the Chinese that they will make up any oil shortfalls that may come about if Iran retaliates against China by restricting oil exports to them. This was one of the big issues that has kept China from cooperating with U.S. plans against Iran.

Good article about the developing alliances in the ME here. Basically, there are a lot of forces working against Iran. As China integrates more fully into the world economy, its interests in Middle East stability start to look a lot more like the U.S.'s. Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations are very wary about the possibility of Iran coming to dominate the region. So there is significant common ground to work with. What remains is a lot of very good diplomacy. I actually have significant faith in Condi Rice - about the only person in the Bush administration who has even a shred of credibility with me. She’s over there now in what is clearly a heavy diplomatic push against Iran - both to help stabilize Iraq and against its nuclear program.

I think there are also signs that it may be possible to influence regime change in Iran peacefully by viscerally showing the Iranians the real consequences of their bellicose stance. Iran’s oil infrastructure is vulnerable to having external loans and equipment cut off, and without significant investment by the rest of the world Iran’s oil output will begin dropping. This risk, by the way, could explain why Iran is so heavily courting Venezuela and other left-wing countries. It’s trying to build its own oil alliance that can threaten the west.

In other news, Israel and Syria have been in secret negotiations (until the Lebanon war) to return the Golan Heights to Syria. I wonder if this isn’t part of the overall strategic plan for the Middle East - pull Syria away from Iraq and Iran through inducements and try to get them to renounce terrorism and work with everyone else, and push Iran away through harsher methods like sanctions and strong border policing. Let them hurt enough, and perhaps the hardliners will back off and let the moderates take the reins again for a while.

Secret Israel-Syria Negotiations

Heh, that was a good post that in no way addressed the question asked by the OP :slight_smile:

Copy it and you can paste it into the next thread about dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, though.

The cultural and political ties (as well as the more obvious geographic one’s) between Iran and Iraq, as inconvinent as they may be for us, are pretty undeniable. Iran will wield considerable influence in the new Iraqi state, and thus will be involved in the political scene there whether we like it or not.

Whatever the US et al does, Iran and Syria will be involved.

Geographically they can’t help it.

I agree that trying to get on friendly terms with Syria makes a lot of sense, ridiculously, their regime is one of the less obnoxious in the region.

Iran does not want a failed State on its doorstep, borders tend to be porous, and it, like Syria and Turkey is not comfortable with losing territory to a Kurdish State.

Both Syria and Iran have seen that the USA and Israel are adept at destroying infrastructure - it is quite easy to destroy something that takes years to build up.

:confused: You are aware, I hope, that in this thread, “this front” means engaging Iran and Syria to help out in Iraq – not fomenting regime change in Iran.

Realistically, it will have to involve Iran and Syria. They border on Iraq, and so have a certain selfish interest in having a stable state there.
Iran, of course, has a further selfish interest in having a stable Shia state there. Interestingly, though, they may not want it to be too stable, since most of Iran’s oil and gas resources are in parts of Iran that are occupied by Arabs: see, first, this map of the distribution of the peoples who make up Iran. Notice that the Arabs (brown area on the map) straddle either side of the Iraq/Iran border around the northern part of the Persian Gulf. See, after that, this map, which shows where the oil and gas is; notice here that very large parts of it are where the Arabs are.
So, keeping the Arabs occupied with fighting off each other (Shia vs Sunni in Iraq, not to mention tribal loyalties, which run deep in Iraq) and the Kurds is a smart thing for the Iranian regime; I have a funny feeling they know this.
Given that, one shouldn’t overestimate the Iranian need for Iraqi stability; my guess is they want it reasonably stable, but with enough tension to keep the Arabs in their oil-rich southwestern border area with Iraq from causing them too much trouble.

According to the Iraq Study Group, we really can’t do it without them. It just made reading that thing much more bittersweet- although the recommendations were sound, you just know Bush ain’t going to follow the key ones needed to stabilize Iraq.

Hey, by the way- why did we allocate tax dollars to the creation of an Iraq Study Group if the executive branch of government won’t follow any of its recommendations?

It’s the same thing. You aren’t going to get help unless you get regime change in Iran. Iran has no interest in a stable Iraq. Iran wants U.S. troops pinned down there, because then they can’t intervene elsewhere. Iran wants the U.S.'s reputation damanged. It wants the U.S. to LOSE. Asking Iran to help stabilize Iraq is a bit like asking Castro to help you fight the Soviets.

The only way Iran will play nice right now and help in Iraq is if A) they are under a big enough threat, or B) if they are playing along so that the U.S. will go away and leave them a free hand to destabilize and ultimately control Iraq a few years from now.

Um, they already control politics in Iraq. Sistani is an Iranian citizen, SCIRI has a nice bloc in their parliament, etc. Note of course that this is way way more influence than they had with Saddam in power. It’s just one more way that this war has been a disaster for US interests.
Anyway, saying they want the US to lose is a bit of a cartoonish view. First of all, that’s a done deal, regardless of what you think.
They do want the US influence, such as it is at this point, to go to a minimum. They do not want to destabilize Iraq, since troubles there might spill over, any more than the US would want to see Canada in civil war between franco and anglophones.
They want the Arabs to be weak, and for that they need them to be divided. This can be accomplished through mere sectarian tension rather than outright war. That keeps things relatively quiet compared to where they are now, but keeps the Arabs occupied with their own internecine conflicts, so they don’t have to worry about internal troubles with their own Arab population, but with them able to exercise influence among their co-religionists in Iraq, who will want help against the Sunnis.
Pretty much they want the current situation, minus the outright civil war that’s going on right now. That gives us a card in a weak hand, at least, and an opening for a diplomatic initiative, which is precisely the conclusion the ISG came to.

There are very sound reasons why we might expect a degree of cooperation from Iran.

The situation is deteriorating. It was a rosy situation, for all the dastardly reasons you’ve outlined above, but it has gone beyond that. However much joy Iran may take in an American comeupance, and no doubt they do…the situation is quickly skidding towards regional sectarian war, and this is most definitely not in their interest.

Iran wants to play a major, if not dominant, role in the Muslim ME. Not in the Shia ME, the Muslim ME. They have furthered this by stressing unity against Israel, a relatively convenient enemy with whom they share no common border. Any struggle in the ME that draws attention away from Israel weakens that position. Especially as that attention is turned to Iran’s minority status as the Shia nation.

Iran has already profited handsomely from our handfisted stupidity, there is not much more to be gained. But there is a great deal to lose. As well, if Iran could present herself as a Muslim peacemaker willing to rise above sectarian divisions, that would enhance her prestige enormously.

If Iran is so eager for more confrontation with the US, why has she reacted so tepidly to recent provocations?