Iran’s role in Iraq: Same diagnosis, different cure

Reidar Visser is a Norwegian researcher in the politics of southern Iraq. The Century Foundation, a political think tank based in New York, recently published a remarkable article by him titled Iran’s Role in Post Occupation Iraq, Enemy, Good Neighbor or Overlord? In it he exposes many aspects of Iran’s role, its purpose and nature.

His arguments are convincing; it is hard to disagree with his diagnosis which is supported by many references to reports of factual events. He leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that the policies of George W Bush, his choice of partners and influence over the political process in Iraq led to the situation we are in, exemplified by the predominance of pro-Iranian politicians in the Iraqi political system. Then he suggests US policy alternatives of supporting more popular currents of nonsectarian Iraqi nationalism.

One cannot accuse Visser of being insensitive to the complexity of the situation since he states “it is probably unadvisable to suggest any more machinations by the United States to pick the right partners in Iraq, because so many mistakes have already been made. Instead, there are certain measures that undoubtedly would push in the right direction without creating accusations of further U.S. meddling in Iraqi affairs.” It is the suggestion of certain measures that push in the right direction without accusations of US meddling in Iraqi affairs which leads me to mention an alternative scenario. The bad influence of the Bush era politics should have more than counter influence, just as two wrongs don’t make a right the effect of reduced influence altogether deserves serious consideration, especially when the appraisal of strong and increasing nonsectarian Iraqi nationalism is credible. Counter influence is risky and potentially costly to the U.S. at the level of public declarations of support for constitutional change and for currents which are historically hostile to US policies in general. I favor a new UN mandate for Iraq to bolster democracy and protect peaceful political evolution rather than open counter influence measures to the George W Bush politics. A UN mandate initiated by the US will transcend the troublesome process of factional negotiations and distribute costs and responsibilities, I suggest it may bring new partners willing to send in troops and share the costs. A new mandate with limited supervisory powers but no injury to the sovereignty of Iraq, with the specific purpose of conducting general census, supervising the elections and protecting the boarder and airspace of Iraq for a period of time.

In my previous entry I wrote about what events should trigger the new mandate, I suggested a timeframe coinciding with the planned census and elections in October-November of 2009. Now, with the accelerating tempo of confrontations and exclusions, and with the possible referendum over SOFA I think the trigger could move forward.

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