Talisman Gate

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Kurds Marching Off





Copyright 2005 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The New York Sun

March 31, 2005 Thursday

SECTION: EDITORIAL & OPINION; Pg. 9

LENGTH: 1823 words

HEADLINE: Kurds Marching Off

BYLINE: Nibras Kazimi

BODY:


Iraq is about to complete its second month of political limbo as everyone awaits the formation of its first elected government. The Shia and Kurdish slates that took the largest share in January's election have yet to agree on a power sharing formula. The latest one-week delay is explained away as the week-long holiday for the Kurdish new year, Nawruz. Another three day delay went into effect when a Kurdish tribal leader, allied to Saddam until the very end of the latter's reign, died and the Kurdish block went off to observe his mourning.

March has always been an important month in the political calendar of the Kurds. All the following events happened in the month of March: The first Kurdish postage stamp, issued by the colorful leader of early Kurdish revolts in Iraq, who at one time declared himself the Messiah, was produced in 1923. The first Kurdish ministate of the 20th century, founded in modern-day Iran's Kurdish city of Mahabad, came to an end with the hanging of its leaders during 1946. In 1970, the Iraqi government arrived at an all encompassing deal with Kurdish rebels, only to have talks over implementation break down leading to hostilities in 1974, and the subsequent collapse of the Kurdish resistance movement the following year, after the mercurial patron of the Kurds, the Shah of Iran, had concluded a separate deal with Saddam Hussein. On the first day of March 1979, the iconic leader of 20th-century Kurdish revolts for rights and independence, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, who in one of many life roles served as the commander in chief of the Mahabad Republic, died a defeated and broken man in a Washington-area hospital.

Ali Hassan Al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, arrived in March 1987 to enact a genocidal campaign called the Anfal, which culminated in the March 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja. March 1991 saw the indigenous liberation of most of Iraqi Kurdistan subsequent to Saddam's defeat and ouster from Kuwait, only to have the gains reversed and then reversed again. In 1991, the weakening of Saddam's state, and belated world attention to the plight of the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of its own, contributed to the political anomaly of a de facto Kurdish state. During the 1990s, the month of March saw recurring military offensives in the civil war that pitted Mulla Mustafa's son, Massoud Barzani, as head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party against the one-time acolyte of the elder Barzani, Jalal Talabani, who heads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

March of this year also portends to be yet another important marker on the timeline of Kurdish politics and probably the most poignant of all: the decision by Kurds, of their own free will and under peaceful circumstances, to opt for the independent state they have fought so bitterly for. Independence has always been the story arc of the Kurds since the 19th century.

It is not hard to understand why the beginning of spring should carry so much history for Iraq's Kurds: just take a good look at their homeland on a map. The plains of Mesopotamia suddenly take on elevation, soaring thousands of feet into the sky. The Kurds celebrate their new year with the astrological spring Equinox, something borrowed from the ancient Babylonians and celebrated on March 21, as a day heralding the end of a dreaded winter, which can be quite gruesome at high elevations. The snows begin to melt and turn to bountiful streams that seep over the jagged mountainsides, a rock climber's heaven. Blooms of red, yellow, and white flowers erupt out of fields of lush grass. Such is the time of new beginnings, either for Kurdish revolts or the advent of conquering Iraqi, Turkish, or Iranian armies out to forcibly hold together their respective national states that harbor sizable Kurdish minorities.

The proportion of ethnic Kurds to the larger population of Iraq hovers around 22% to 25%, which is the largest in any country in the region, even though the Iraqi Kurds are outnumbered by their kinsmen in Turkey and Iran. Furthermore, the southwestern portion of Kurdistan, now a part of Iraq, has always been the center of Kurdish culture and nascent national ambitions for an independent Kurdish state. Two major fertile agricultural valleys, the Deshti Arbil and the Shahrazore, encompass the two power and cultural centers of southern Kurdistan: the cities of Arbil, where Barzani holds court, and Suleimaniya, the fiefdom of Talabani. Other markers delineate the boundaries between Barzani's turf and that of Talabani: two mutually intelligible dialects and two quite similar Sufi sects. In fact, both the Barzani and Talabani families, whose own ethnic origins are disputed, derive legitimacy not from the depth of tribal relations but rather from the Sufi orders whose leadership they had inherited and that brought a measure of unity among warring tribes.

The Ottomans, who more or less controlled most of Kurdistan for the four centuries preceding our own, were happy to let the Kurds govern themselves as long as they didn't leave their mountains and start raiding the areas where the Ottomans farmed bountiful taxes. Several Kurdish mini-principalities spent their days of relative autonomy to conspire against each other. Once in the while, the banditry got out of hand and the Ottomans resorted to deporting Kurdish tribes to the far ends of the empire in Africa. The Ottomans had another way to contain the troublesome Kurds, and that is by importing ethnic Turkomans and settling them along a boundary line that separated the Kurdish highlands from the plains of Mesopotamia. Saddam Hussein's ancestors, refugees from

Crimean Tatarstan, were first settled in this area as auxiliary cavalry in the service of the Ottomans some 200 years ago. This boundary ran from Kifri to Altun Kupri, through a fortress town called Kirkuk.

Barzani and Talabani, the beacons of Kurdish independence, borrow PLO-inspired rhetoric and call Kirkuk the "Kurdish Jerusalem." They vow to make it the administrative capital of whatever entity Kurdistan becomes. In contrast to the majestic beauty of most of Kurdistan, Kirkuk is a hellhole in the plains that stinks of gas and would make anyone think twice about lighting up a cigarette. But Kirkuk floats on a lake of oil, bringing Kurds, Assyrians, and Arabs to this historically Turkoman city in search of livelihood. Oil is the single commodity that can make an independent Kurdistan viable; otherwise the Kurdish economy must rely on exporting dried fruits and nuts.

The reason a government is not being formed in Baghdad is due to the Kurds having two legitimate demands that at this point in time are tantamount to blackmail: absorbing Kirkuk into Kurdish administration, and the preservation of another vestige of the Kurdish wars for independence, the pershmerga armed forces. If the central authority in Iraq does not accept these ill-timed demands, then the Kurds are to shrug their shoulders and defer the formation of a government for a little while longer, riling up an already tense Iraqi population.

Barzani and Talabani are a lot like Arafat, and I'm not only talking about the corruption, lack of freedoms, nepotism, and cronyism that are the hallmarks of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the governments of Arbil and Suleimaniya. They share the same sort of weird political legitimacy of representing a battered cause, even though Talabani used to do Saddam's bidding in the past and should have on his conscience the massacre of Iraqi opposition forces in Pesht-Aashan in 1983, and Barzani brought in Saddam in 1996 to wipe out his archrival Talabani, in return for the regime's destruction of Iraqi opposition bases in 'free' Kurdistan. Both leaders have also handed over Iranian, Turkish, and Syrian Kurds to the regional oppressors of Kurds. But, no one can speak with authority on behalf of the Kurds, and shape Kurdish aspirations, like these two gentlemen.

And here's the rub: the rest of Iraq's polity understands the Kurdish demands for Kirkuk and the pershmerga as veiled maneuvers in the direction of outright Kurdish independence. If that's the case, then Barzani (who on election day said that he hopes to see an independent Kurdistan in his lifetime) and Talabani need to come out and speak clearly on the issue of independence. The language for the right of Kurdish self-determination, and a timetable for disentanglement within five years, should be worked into the upcoming constitution-writing process (to be concluded by next August) that spells outs the nature of the Iraqi state. Iraq

cannot afford to raise two generations on the notion that Iraq's unity is inviolate, only to be confronted by a "surprise" Kurdish secession down the road, thus enabling demagogues in Baghdad to whip up national sentiments to send young Iraqi men to do battle with young Kurdish men. This has been tried in the past, and now is the time to start negotiating an amicable and mutually agreed separation.

If the Kurds and their leaders are still toying with the idea of remaining within the Iraqi union, then they should also make it clear to Iraq's other component ethnic and sectarian groups, the Arab Sunnis and Shias as well as the Turkomans, what they need to compromise on in order to keep the Kurds happy and Iraq unified. Kirkuk does not need to be administratively controlled by the Kurds in order for them to get their share of its oil wealth; rather the wells could be privatized and the Kurds represented, along with Kirkuk's mixed Arab and Turkoman populace and the Iraqi central government, on its executive board. A cordial three-way sharing of the proceeds could be worked out. If Talabani and Barzani want to remain part of Iraq, they should turn around and tell all those Kurdish youngsters who have grown up without knowing a word of Arabic and devoid of any sense of belonging to a larger Iraq that an independent state of Kurdistan is never going to happen and that they should get used to existing as Iraqi Kurds. They should also deliver this message clearly to other Kurds in Turkey, Syria, and Iran that harbor hopes for national independence.

As it is, Kurdish reluctance to spell out what they want is setting up the stage for further future strife. Talabani and Barzani need to decide, now, whether to call for a Kurdish referendum on independence by March 2010 or seal a binding union with the Iraqi state. Keeping matters in flux against the backdrop of terrorist turmoil in Iraq is a massive shortcoming of the Kurdish leaders and an uncharacteristic mark of cowardice. The delays in forming a government this past March have left a bitter taste in the mouths of most Iraqis who are eager to move on from the travails of the last few years. The right thing for the Kurds to do now is to inform the rest of Iraq, as well as the Americans who have invested so much in creating a new Iraq, whether they are staying or leaving.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Gadhafi Policy




Copyright 2005 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The New York Sun

March 17, 2005 Thursday

SECTION: EDITORIAL & OPINION; Pg. 9

LENGTH: 1583 words

HEADLINE: A Gadhafi Policy

BYLINE: Nibras Kazimi

BODY:


In 1971, Woody Allen made a movie called "Bananas." In one memorable scene, the chief of the San Marcos rebels seizes power and goes nuts, decreeing that all persons under 16 years of age are now 16, and that all citizens should wear their underwear on the outside and change into a cleaner pair every 30 minutes.

If ever life imitated this sort of bizarre art, then it would be in the person of Muammar Gadhafi, who seized power through a military coup as a Signals First Lieutenant two years before "Bananas" was made, and progressively became a crazy person. Gadhafi is the kind of nut that other patients in any mental asylum would refer to as "that crazy one."

Over-the-top eccentricity may have some charm: It is quite quaint to read through Gadhafi's official Web site and browse his myriad solutions for global conflicts. Gadhafi, who often appears in public festooned in colorful flowing robes and flanked by an all-female brigade of bodyguards, is big on Korean reunification and Kashmiri independence. He admonishes the Kurds for not seeking full independence, and is an ardent supporter of a one-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the establishment of a country he calls Israphine.

A week ago, Gadhafi took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post to argue against expanding the United Nations Security Council and for diluting its powers vis-a-vis the General Assembly. Clearly, he has a lot of time on his hands and a lot of money to dole out. Oil, discovered in large quantities in the 1960s, allows Libya to export about 1.5 million barrels daily and empowers Gadhafi to be a bit of an eccentric philanthropist; you may find a Gadhafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, or plenty of available funds for one of his sons to pursue a career in soccer by buying up large chunks of established European soccer teams.

Oh, by the way, Gadhafi also uses what should be the wealth of the Libyan people to finance civil war and genocide in West Africa. Some loose change is also set aside to wage personal vendettas against Arab leaders like hiring assassins to rub out Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdallah, who Gadhafi had a verbal altercation with a couple of years ago.

And this is just the stuff he has been up to recently in the last decade since his previous career in funding worldwide terrorism came to the fore with the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people including 178 Americans. But Gadhafi has used his moneybags to absolve himself of past sins; paying off $10 million to each of the victims' families in 2003 and basically getting off the hook with a tepid apology note attached. By this analogy, when Osama bin Laden is ruling Saudi Arabia in the year 2016, he can pay off the victims of September 11, hand over a couple of flunkies for prosecution according to terms set by himself, and become internationally respectable with a "sorry, my bad" afterthought.

It seems American foreign policy since the Reagan administration toward Libya's Gadhafi is as crazy as Gadhafi himself.

President Reagan understood that there may be something amiss about allowing a man like Gadhafi to rule 6 million people and run amok in global affairs with plenty of petrodollars and a Stasi-trained intelligence service. There is even some evidence that the Reagan administration, in desperation, enlisted Saddam's help in trying to overthrow Gadhafi. Since then, however, regime change has not been American policy toward Libya, and its people, bereft of their Great Leader's largesse and living in miserable poverty and under brutal oppression, have footed the moral and economic bill.

Libya, geographically, is also a bit schizophrenic. Successive civilizations treated its major cities along the Mediterranean coast as places to get a good night's sleep on route to Phoenician and later Roman power centers in modern Tunisia's Carthage, or Greek and later Roman states in ancient Egypt. Libya was situated smack in the middle of a no-man's land of geography and civilization; to the east, the Middle East, and to the west, the Maghreb of northwest Africa. Inland, the terrain dissipates into the vastness of the African Sahara. The Arab Muslim conquest swept through the mostly flat stretch of arid sand toward more meaty conquests in Spain, and in its wake, Arabized the ethnic Amazig (commonly known as Berber) tribes that did not have the insular mountain redoubts of their kinsmen in the Atlas Mountains to the west.

In later eras, Libya became the home of the unwanted: rebels, embattled sects, pirates, and minor Arab tribes escaping the Arabian Peninsula but not strong enough to dislodge earlier migrants in better pastures elsewhere in the Muslim world. During the time of European colonialism and the gradual carving-up of an ailing Ottoman Empire, nobody would take Libya except the late-coming Italians.

At the geographical midpoint of this land, you would find the dust-blown coastal town of Sirt, and it was here, during the last year of Italy's rule preceding its loss of Libya during World War II, that Muammar, son of Mohammed Bou-Minyar Al-Gadhafi, was born. It seems that his ancestors had made their way to Libya some three centuries ago from southern Iraq, and for that, as an Iraqi, I apologize to the world.

A lot of nonsense has been written about Gadhafi's formative years and how regional and international politics produced this zany outcome of a man. I believe the key to understanding his mania lies in his young life as a child helper to his dad, who used to be the oft-humiliated servant in the household of a particularly harsh tribal chief named Ahmed Saif Al-Nasr. One of the first things Gadhafi did when he got to power was put the elderly Saif Al-Nasr in jail and demolish his house. Interestingly, the last paragraph of the last section in Gadhafi's "Green Book," which is the convoluted polemic arguing for his Third Universal Theory and his brand of Libyan utopia, annuls domestic servitude and makes the hiring of maids punishable by law.

This man, abused as a child and growing up with a deep sense of insecurity, has other interesting laws on the books, such as the Extended Punishment Law of 1997, where the families and friends of political dissidents must also answer for individual "crimes" against the state and suffer the ghastly consequences, like severe torture and public hangings.

This is the crazy Great Leader that the United States government has recently helped to remove international sanctions from and re-extend international recognition to. Top State Department officials have, in recent years, been his welcome guests. So have European leaders such as Berlusconi, Schroeder, and Blair. Libyan embassies, centers during most of the 1970s and '80s for funding and orchestrating world terrorism, are back in business. America was not even serious about denying Libya the ridiculous opportunity to chair the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2003.

America's policy toward Libya is a vestige of the defunct and bankrupt "realist" foreign policy of the Republican Party, a wing personified by James Baker and Brent Scowcroft. While President Bush embraces democracy and freedom for the Middle East, American oil companies and their "realist" foreign policy strategists are tailoring their vision of a future Libya around Gadhafi's progeny, who they expect to rule that country for several generations to come.

They argue that this split-personality policy is justified by Gadhafi's turnaround on his weapons of mass destruction programs right after the liberation of Iraq and Saddam's downfall. Handing over his evil toys is enough to allow him to re-enter the playground of world affairs. All this happened under the watch of State's John Bolton, who is now slated to become the American ambassador to the U.N., the same organization Gadhafi seeks to reform.

Robert Novak, in a recent column, did a marvelous job in reassuring Washington that Mr. Bolton is a conservative, not a neoconservative. Thank you, Mr. Novak, for I'd hate to think that a real neocon would so foolishly reward a tyrant like Gadhafi when everyone should know better. Mr. Bolton is up for confirmation by the Senate, and the grilling task would fall to Senator Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations committee, who is uncharacteristically right on supporting democracy in Libya.

Mr. Biden should ask Mr. Bolton if he is going to bring up the case of American green-card holder and Libyan dissident Mansour R. Al-Kikhia, abducted in Egypt by Libyan intelligence in 1993, when, and if, he gets the top American job at the U.N. And since everyone is scrambling for ways to win over Lebanon's Shias, Mr. Biden should also ask if there is ever going to be an international investigation into the disappearance in 1978 in Libya of Lebanese Shia leader Musa Al-Sadr, who as a result of an argument with Gadhafi, became one of the latter's many victims.

Allowing a murderous freak a seat among world leaders is a stupid and immoral course for America. Reactivating Reagan's policy of regime change would be more in the spirit of what the freedom-loving people of the Middle East have come to expect, and hope for, from the Bush administration. One measure of last resort would be to send in the Marines, who did a fine job 200 years ago when they defeated the pirates of Tripoli, modern Libya's capital. After Gadhafi is captured, maybe Woody Allen will be able to find a role for him.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Iranian Playbook





Copyright 2005 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The New York Sun

March 10, 2005 Thursday

SECTION: EDITORIAL & OPINION; Pg. 11

LENGTH: 1580 words

HEADLINE: The Iranian Playbook

BYLINE: Nibras Kazimi

BODY:


The hottest best seller in the small market niche of books for autocratic Middle Eastern tyrants is the "Iranian Handbook of Feigning and Thwarting Reform." It has eclipsed the previous chart-topper in the Self-Preservation aisle of the bookstore, "The Dummies' Guide to Fueling Insurgencies."

At a recent and informal brainstorming get-together of Arab and Iranian democrats, ideas were exchanged about what to call a pan-Middle Eastern block of activists that stands in solidarity with indigenous democrats fighting autocracy. The Arabs were all excited about the term "reformer" but were taken aback when the Iranians explained how this term had become an eight-letter dirty word in their own political vernacular.

Many young Iranians, who were in their teens or mid-20s when President Khatami rose to power through elections eight years ago, invested their pent-up capital of hope and optimism in such reformers. Last year, the market of new ideas crashed in Tehran, and these once-exuberant investors are broke and spiritually broken. The reformers failed, in the face of an intransigent power structure, to deliver real change. Consequently, the youth of Iran are increasingly finding refuge in personal escapes; either borne onto a chemically-induced magic carpet ride of amphetamines and heroin, or finding religion. Not the state sanctioned religion of the Islamic Republic but rather older Iranian religions like Zoroastrianism or the mellow spiritual outlook of Sufism. Either way, these young men and women played loose and lost on the stock market of real political change, and they were defeated by the corporate sharks, the mullahs.

Guess who invented the game of chess? It was the ancient Persians, the forerunners of modern Iranians. The mullahs ruling that ancient land figured out that reform can be a form of frivolous and recreational entertainment. They were facing a powerful opponent: the inevitable movement of history. Arrayed against them were the potent and vindicated ideas of human liberty, and the ticking time bomb of youth demographics. In desperation, they employed the tactics of "guerrilla chess" that are inspired by the fundamental premise of guerrilla warfare: you win by not losing. So what did they do? They demonstrated that holding elections does not equal democracy, and that Mr. Khatami can pronounce ad infinitum about lofty ideals, but that real power - the power to thrash about with batons, assassinate dissidents, and fire into crowds - is firmly wielded by the state and its henchmen. Such a state apparatus has a vested and vital interest in staying in power, at all costs.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, three other important autocratic states in the Middle East, thought that they could check the advance of history through stoking the fires of the insurgency in neighboring Iraq. Their thinking was that democracy would be discredited by the chaos and mayhem of the terrorists. Their subjects would conclude that change was a bad idea, and that it was relatively better to keep things as they stand. But something happened on the eve of the Iraqi elections and democracy suddenly became viable in the Middle East and these three states had to go to Plan B: employ the Iranian tactic of discrediting and sullying reform and democracy as a process toward change. The audience they had to persuade were their younger generations that are coming of age and finding few jobs and little dignity in the corrupt and mismanaged status quo. The task of these regimes is to turn the terminology of democracy and reform into dirty words.

I absolutely hate being the Cassandra of doom and gloom. But when the New York Times publishes an editorial saluting a supposed wave of democracy washing over the Middle East, well, I get a little jittery. For, after all, to put it mildly, those editors have been slightly off on all things Middle Eastern for quite a while.

We are witnessing the counterattack of the tyrants: the Saudis will be sloppy as usual, the Syrians will be murderously bold, and the Egyptians will be the most cunning.

The Saudi royal family seems to think that putting together a consultative talk-shop will be enough to defuse popular anger and give a new set of talking points to their hired lobbyists in Washington to spin its progress toward change. It is more akin to a dress rehearsal of feigning reform rather than the opening night. The Egyptians need those annual billions of aid dollars courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, and will dance to whatever tune the Bush administration plays, as long as the Egyptian people realize that the Mubarak dynasty are their latter-day Pharaohs. In both cases, reform as a process is a glittering show to delude their people and a cynical show-off to appease the American ally.

The Syrians, pretty much in the news these days, are exhibiting their puppeteering skills in Lebanon. They can badger their long-term clients, Hezbollah, to send hundreds of thousands of ostensibly pro-Syrian protesters into Beirut's streets to drown out the smaller anti-Syrian crowds. They can arm-twist the Maronite Christian patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir, by pointing out that the full implementation of the Taif Accords, signed in 1989 to end the Lebanese civil war and stipulating Syrian troop withdrawal, would also speed up the enactment of a provision that ends the practice of sectarian-based power sharing, thus spelling out the demise of Maronite control over key levers of power. The Syrians can even start talking about a population census, not held since 1937, that would confirm what everyone knows but refuses to address: The Shias, led by Hezbollah, are the plurality. The Syrians can even get their Saudi partners in self-preservation to be publicly indignant at Hariri's death, but to privately ameliorate the anti-Syrian anger of his successors and instruct them to tone it down.

Yup, the Syrians are very adept at playing dirty, while the Americans are not. The Syrians can appear to be making piecemeal concessions in the face of Western pressure, but the Syrian people and the Lebanese are getting the message that the Assad dynasty is pretty much in control of the situation, and that events are running according to a Syrian timetable.

Westerners, living in cold climates, are ecstatic about what they are calling a Middle Eastern spring. Little do they realize that in that turbulent region, springtime is the brief respite preceding a scorching summer. So, in the face of these challenges, is the defeat of democracy inevitable?

No. And why is that? There are 135,000 American soldiers defending the newborn democracy in Iraq. Lately however, the Americans have dropped the ball: defeating or ending the insurgency has become their top priority, which is a policy that lends itself to lowered expectations of what a new Iraq could become, and what role it can play in the region. As evidence, the Iranians are adding a new chapter to their playbook: They are actively trying to exploit the election victory of their own long-term Islamist clients to infiltrate the new power structure of Iraq. The Iranians intend to fan out within the system to undermine Iraq's democracy, especially through the security structure. They have 11 months to do this before the next round of elections, and they need to make sure that should Iraq really develop into a democracy, then the Islamists would be well-poised through the military and intelligence services to seize power violently.

The American government should be doing all it can to deny the Iranians this outcome, and yet the Americans have been wishy-washy about it so far. America is wringing its hands and basically saying that the political aftermath of the elections is a sovereign Iraqi concern. Hell no! Democracy should not be a vehicle for those seeking to throttle it to come to power.

The priority should be turning a democratic Iraq into a nightmare scenario for the neighboring autocrats. Can Hezbollah credibly decry "foreign intervention" if the call for liberation and freedom is coming from Baghdad? America should subcontract Middle Eastern dirty tricks to a mischievous Iraqi democracy. Iraq is geographically, culturally, and economically situated at the confluence of the region's unfolding drama. A strong and self-confident Iraq can be the engine of reform and change: Millennia have conspired to lend legitimacy to what is uttered in Baghdad or Najaf and having it reverberate audibly throughout Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Saddam's regime had his finger in every Middle Eastern pie; a new Iraq can play a similar role but aiming for a radically different outcome.

Democracy must emerge victorious and unsullied. Should these autocrats succeed in thwarting it, then the frustrated youth of the Arab Middle East, much like their Iranian counterparts, will turn to escapes like drugs and religion. But their newborn religious creed will not be mellow and introverted, because bin Laden-style Islam, unlike the popularly tested and rejected version in Iran, is still lurking in the shadows as an option for violent change.

The attitude of comfortable complacency and hubris in Washington over what seems to be progress is delusional and dangerous. Iranian tactics have shown us that self-professed reformed wolves cannot be trusted to manage a successful poultry farm. These regimes must go, and a democratic Iraq must be guided and empowered to become America's ally in getting this strategic task done, and done faster.