Friday, September 14, 2007

US Democrats More Afraid for Israel than of Obstructionism Charge

Juan Cole suggests that Democrats do not cut funding for the war, which they could do with their bare majority today because they are afraid of being painted as obstructionists by the Republicans which might lead Republicans to win seats in a future election.

That doesn't make much sense to me, and this is a good segue into just how damaging for Israel a US withdrawal from Iraq would be.

The Democratic party just doesn't seem willing to differentiate itself from the Republicans in any practical way on this issue.

The problem is that mainstream Democrats do not want to withdraw from Iraq. To figure out why, we have to look at what will happen if the US withdraws.

Iran would reach out to the Saudis to stabilize the country, as is consistent with their interests and as they are repeatedly saying.

Iran and the Saudis together would certainly do a better job stabilizing the country and resolving the differences between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds than the US can do.

If Iraq is to be held together, it will be held together by a Shiite Iraqi nationalist who is in the mainstream of Iraqi political thought, which is to say anti-Western/anti-Zionist (like Sadr). Iran and Saudi Arabia together can make that happen. The US cannot.

But the down side would be that Saudi Arabia would increase its cooperation with Iran and a unified democratic Iraq would vote by a landslide to join the Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria anti-Western/anti-Zionist configuration. That configuration would end up taking power in Lebanon (it does have the most votes now in any one-person one-vote arrangement) and start pressuring Jordan.

Saudi Arabia in these circumstances would strongly consider joining that configuration itself.

A US pullout would be an absolute nightmare for Israel. Yeah, it would save maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, hundreds of billions of US military dollars and several hundred US troops per year but Israel's medium and longer-term viability as a Jewish state would be maybe fatally jeopardized.

To the degree that the US has interests that are separate from Israel's, there would not be much direct harm to US interests from a withdrawal. The Saudis and Iraqis would still sell oil, eventually at a lower price when Iraqi production comes on line and the country has stabilized.

This is a clear example of a divergence of interests between the US and Israel. Elements of the US political system sympathetic to Israel will have the US pursue a policy that is harmful to the US but essential for Israel.

So the Democrats are not taking effective action to force a withdrawal because they don't want a withdrawal.

The Democrats would ignore the charge of obstructionists the same way they ignore the charge of baby-killers over abortion - they have similar majorities of the public on their supposed side of both issues.

The United States at some point will have to begin a discussion about how much it is worth to US interests to ensure that Israel has a Jewish majority forever.

Israel accepting Palestinian refugees could be a peaceful, permanent solution to the Arab-Zionism dispute but would leave the Middle East without a Jewish state. How many US soldiers and resources is the US willing to sacrifice to prevent that is a question that is being answered by events as we speak.

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