Posted by Joshua on Monday, November 27th, 2006
Washington's opponents in the Middle East are becoming more strident in their demands that the US withdraw its troops from Iraq quickly and completely. This is the starting point for bargaining over the future of Iraq. Due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions of Iraq's civil war, they believe that Washington will have little choice but to withdraw, whether or not it decides to engage in discussions with Iran and Syria. They undoubtedly fear that Washington will decide to reposition its troops into Kurdistan or to abandon Iraq to civil war, while keeping troops in isolated bases inside Arab Iraq in order to influence the outcome of future fighting in the region. Should Washington decide on a strategy of redeployment before stabilization, it could doom Iraq to prolonged civil war and act to prevent a pax-Irania from settling over the divided country. This question is at the heart of the neocon-realist debate now raging in Washington.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that he was ready to help [the US]– if they left now: "The Iranian nation is ready to help you get out of that swamp on one condition … You should pledge to correct your attitude," he said on television.
"Go back, and take your forces to behind your borders."
Muqtada al-Sadr wants an immediate U.S. withdrawal and has threatened to boycott the government if Maliki meets Bush.
Issa Darwish, a writer and former deputy foreign minister, said: "Syria won't be bitten from the same hole twice," referring to a widespread Syrian feeling that it got nothing in return from the U.S. after it agreed to participate in the earlier 1991 Gulf war to push then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
"Why should Syria help the Americans to leave Iraq in honor (this time), if they are not ready to reciprocate?" he asked in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Overall, political dialogue with Washington would be good for Syria, said Aymen Abdel Nour, a political analyst linked to the reform wing of the ruling Baath party in Damascus.
But he also warned it would come at a high price: Damascus would certainly demand that Washington help Assad regain the Golan Heights from Israel, stop efforts to isolate his regime and also put an end to attempts to implicate Syria in Hariri's death.
"Syria is talking about a package _ you either take or leave it," Abdel Nour said. He acknowledged, however, that this "might be difficult for the Bush administration to swallow."