Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Iraq and its neighbors

"It's their job now, as Martha says," declared Terry Moran on Monday's Nightline (ABC). And you could tell how quick he was to dispense with it as ABC rushed to file another Spiderman on Broadway story, this one even longer than Martha Raddatz's Iraq report.

If it is "their job now" -- Iraq as a game of hot potato-- a broken hot potato? -- it's surprising how many phone calls the White House has been making in the last days and that the Iraqi media expects US Vice President Joe Biden to be in Baghdad today. Hossam Acommak (Al Mada) reports that he's expected to make "an unannounced visit" today to address the political crisis and that the two most pressing issues there are Nouri's arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Nouri's call to sack Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. True or false, it speaks to a desire within Iraq for something or someone to end the political crisis.

Back to last night's Nightline.

Martha Raddatz: They could be scenes from the height of the US war in Iraq, at least a dozen explosions tearing across Baghdad in the last few days, car bombs and improvised explosive devices targeting schools, markets and today the Interior Ministry leaving more than 60 dead and hundreds wounded. And in halls of power, a different kind of crisis. The Shi'ite dominated government issuing an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President accusing him of ordering attacks on government on government officials and police officers.

What happens in Iraq next, whatever that is, will likely effect the region. Iraq shares borders with Iran, Kuwait, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan and, via Basra, has direct access to the Persian Gulf which is an extension of the Indian Ocean.

Gozde Nur Donat (Today's Zaman) writes of the possibility that Iran will increase its reach in the region as a result of the Shi'ite dominance in Iraq:

Political experts speaking with Sunday's Zaman say a changing balance of power in favor of Shiites in the country would mean an inevitable rise in Iranian power across the Middle East, limiting Turkish regional influence politically and economically. Turkey sees Iraq as a doorway to the rest of the Middle East and has so far enjoyed warm ties with the Iraqi government that came to power following the US invasion in 2003. The Turkish government also announced plans recently that it could bypass Syria and use Iraqi routes for trade in the Middle East, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ignored Turkish calls for political reform in response to anti-regime protests, prompting Ankara to impose political and economic sanctions on Damascus. Losing Iraq as a main trading partner as well as a passage to the rest of the Middle East would deal a major blow to Turkey's economic aspirations in the Middle East.

Abdullah Al Shayji (Gulf News) reads the tea leaves to mean the dominant player in the region will be the Gulf Cooperation Council, "The GCC has played the role of mediator even before the Arab Spring — in Lebanon, Palestine and Sudan. Traditional powers like Egypt, Syria and Iraq are preoccupied with their domestic tectonic shifts. In the case of Iraq, there is bickering among its competing factions following the US withdrawal. That translates into the sidelining of the major power centres for years to come. This has prompted the GCC states to step in as the leaders of the Arab political system." Iran's Press TV speaks with Saad al-Muttalibi who is, of course, infamous for accusing people of being Ba'athists whenever he disagrees with them -- even on a talk show (see the September 7, 2010 snapshot). al-Muttalibi sees phone calls from Biden as attempts "to attack the Iraqi political system." Moments after claiming that Iraq should be friendly with all of its neighbors, he attacks Saudi Arabia and accuses it of being responsible for the violence in Iraq.

Mike's "Mondays" went up last night.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.