Thursday, February 01, 2007

Boston Globe Editorial - Bush's rattle Iran policy

Boston Globe Editorial - Bush's rattle Iran policy
Copyright by The Boston Globe
January 31, 2007

A clear consequence of President George W. Bush's war in Iraq has been the ascendance of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is causing acute anxiety among neighboring governments: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel.

The administration's recent raids on Iranian agents in Iraq, its deployment of a second aircraft carrier task force to the Gulf, its backing of United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran, and pointed public warnings to the Iranian regime by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are all blatant attempts to reassure rattled American allies.

One element of the Bush effort to cope with the rising challenge from Tehran appears to be properly thought out: the ratcheting up of international pressure on Iran to stop enriching uranium and resume negotiations on its nuclear program. Newspapers associated with the clerical establishment and leading political figures in Iran have castigated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his provocative statements.

But when it comes to Iran's role in Iraq, the Bush policy seems to suffer from confusion about who is an ally and who an enemy.

In the early stages of the occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon's civilian leadership dismantled the Iraqi Army and purged the civil service of most former Baathists. Not only did that fateful blunder leave Iraq without the manpower to preserve order and carry out the administrative functions of governance; it persuaded large numbers of Sunni Arabs that the Americans had come to Iraq to install Shiites and Kurds to rule over them.

Since then, the Americans have been trying to include as many Sunni Arabs as possible, even exploring negotiations with factions of the Sunni insurgency. But with sectarian massacres becoming more vicious, Bush's attempt to bring about security by suppressing Shiite militias as well as Sunni Arab insurgents risks opening up a two-front guerrilla war. Iran has long had tutelary relations with the Shiite factions in Iraq that are partners of the United States.

As suggested by the Baker- Hamilton panel, the best chance to prevent Iraq's sectarian war from igniting a regional conflagration is to forge understandings with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran. This need not mean allowing Iran to extend its influence. It means using the traditional combination of carrots and sticks to temper Iranian behavior. It means remaining firm on the question of nuclear proliferation while seeking agreements that limit Iranian influence in Iraq and Lebanon and with Hamas. Bush has two years to learn the difference between appeasement and diplomacy.


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