Professor Juan Cole’s Complete Assessment of my H.N.N. Article: “Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal.”

This is Professor Juan Cole’s, one of the world’s greatest authorities on the Middle East, complete assessment of my article.

“Peter N. Kirstein argues for a complete and total and immediate US withdrawal from Iraq. That would be fine with me, but only if somebody can help provice stability to the place. It isn’t just going to be all right. Iraq is not Vietnam, where there was a clear nationalist-Communist force that was relatively popular and could take over everywhere. It is more like Lebanon or the Balkans. Nor is it like Vietnam in the sense that its falling apart would have few international consequences. The neighbors could be drawn into a new regional war (a proxy war between Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is possible). And if the oil installations and pipelines in the Gulf started being bombed, the world economy could go into a tailspin. I do agree with Kirstein that Cheney’s nightmare of a terrorist al-Qaeda mini-state in Anbar province is impossible. Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan would not put up with it, and they are powerful enough to put paid to any such thing in their neighborhood.”

“That would be fine with me, but only if somebody can help provide stability to the place. It isn’t just going to be all right.”

I agree it is not going to be “all right.” This war crime will have devastating consequences but one should not let the worst be the enemy of the bad. Removing American troops will at least end western colonisation of Iraq. Simply keeping American forces in county who kill Arabs for no good reason and are themselves killed and wounded is without rational foundation. No possible consequence of an American withdrawal can exceed the horror of this superpower devastating bit by bit Mesopotamia.

“Iraq is not Vietnam, where there was a clear nationalist-Communist force that was relatively popular and could take over everywhere. It is more like Lebanon or the Balkans.”

Well this is probably true but who are we talking about? The Shi’a that constitute 60% of the population may well rule and win any civil war and insurgency in Iraq. There may well be an emergent force that will conquer and destroy the other sectarian units and rule Iraq. It won’t be pretty and it will be deadly but I doubt if this is going to be a Sri Lanka or southern Thailand where insurgencies last for decades without resolution. Yet Iraq may bifurcate or trifurcate into disparate units such as the Lebanon and Balkans. I always thought Syria’s defence forces in Lebanon were necessary for stability and yet with the removal of those forces, Lebanon has held surprisingly well together so perhaps the extrication of an external force may be conducive to unity or at least not lead to rampant sectionalism that destroys all vestiges of a unified nation state. I doubt if the Kurds, a Sunni people in the North, who dream of independence can carry it off because Turkey will ruthlessly invade northern Iraq and exterminate Kurdish resistance fighters who seek a greater Kurdistan. Turkey will throw away European Union dreams of accession if it means giving its own Kurds independence; so the virus of national unity and Kurdish independence from Syria, to Turkey to Iraq to Iran, will not be allowed by Turkey which would most certainly invade Iraqi Kurdistan to contain the cancer of self-determination.

Yet Turkey should be praised, admired and honoured for its refusal to allow U.S. imperial forces from staging in southern Turkey precedent to their invasion of Iraq. Turkey did not yield to considerable U.S. pressure to use Turkey as a bulkhead for a northern front. Turkey should have been admitted into the European Union as a reward for its greatness in resisting American imperialism in the region.

My next post will assess Professor Cole’s other comments as well.

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