With due deference to President Bush and some of my co bloggers who continue to focus on how to keep the bus that is the American presence in Iraq from going off the cliff, the bus went off the cliff a while ago. What we are left with is what happens when it hits the ground.
Austin Bay is among those bloggers who might not completely buy into the bus-off-the-cliff analogy, but knows that given realities in Baghdad and Washington (which is to say that the political clock is outrunning the military clock), it is time to look ahead to the big splat and post-U.S. occupation scenarios.
Bay posits seven scenarios, which he calls â€œspeculative dramas,â€ while acknowledging that they are not mutually exclusive and could overlap. They make an excellent springboard for looking ahead.
â€œKurdistan in the north becomes an independent country â€“ and immediately begins to wrestle with Turkey over the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK) which is waging a secessionist struggle in southeastern Turkey. Kurdistan has oil. Southern Iraqâ€”a predominantly Shia â€“ area, becomes a Shia stateâ€”with oil. Parts of Anbar province become a Sunni state (Iraqi Sunnistan) â€“ which has few oil fields. But what becomes of Baghdad? Does it divide like a desert Berlin into Shia and Sunni sectors? Baghdad remains a source of continuing conflict.â€
â€œIran sees a chance to recover not only the Shaat al Arab region â€“ the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates, but a chance to extend its border into the economically productive areas of southern Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait immediately react to Iranâ€™s drive into southern Iraq. Iraq has served as a â€œbufferâ€ between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Iranians, and the buffer is dissolving . Jordan and Egypt prepare for action. The War Over Mesopotamia could last for weeks, it could grind on for years.â€
â€œTurkey reclaims control of territory all the way to Kirkuk, creating a new Southern Turkey: The Ottoman Empire once controlled Mesopotamia. Turkey has a lingering claim to areas of northern Iraq. For almost two decades Turkey has fought with the Kurdistan Workers Party â€“ a Kurdish secessionist group in Turkey which has bases in northern Iraq. Turkey could conclude the way to end the war with the PKK would be to absorb Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey would pay a huge political price. It would lose all chance of joining the European Union. Ties with the West would deteriorate â€“and as a result Turkey might become less secular and more Islamic in both identity and in political orientation. The Iranians would be glad to see their â€œKurdish issueâ€ disappear, but would be wary of a militant Turkey.â€
â€œShiite Arabs conduct an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Sunni. They create a condominium state with the Kurds. Iranian influence increases . Iraqâ€™s Sunnis either die (a genocide) or flee to other Sunni controlled states â€“ or move to the US.â€
â€œThe region becomes a cauldron. Iraq shatters into ethnic enclaves, a few â€œnew Mesopotamian city statesâ€ managing to control oil fields. Iran and Turkey exert â€œregional influenceâ€ over eastern Iraq and northern Iraq, respectively, but concerned about confrontation between themselves or provoking sanctions from Europe and the US, neither send their military forces in large numbers beyond current borders . Terror attacks and intermittent fighting afflict neighborhoods throughout Iraq. Local warlords rule by fear and make money either smuggling oil, drugs, or arms. This tribal hell is a perfect disasterâ€”the kind of disaster that allows Al Qaeda to build training facilities and base camps for operations throughout the Middle East and Europe.â€
â€œShiite Arabs in Iraq are numerous, well armed and increasingly well organized â€“ at least enough to expel all of the Sunni Arabs. The Shiites and Kurds, who are now over 80 percent of the population, decide to eliminate their main enemy, and the source of most of the terrorismâ€”the Sunni community. Neighboring Sunni Arab nations are kept out with the threat that Iran will intervene. Arguably, this scenario is already happening, though in slow motion.â€
â€œThe democratic government proves to be resilient and popular. The assumption behind this scenario is that Iraqâ€™s new democratic government is just responsive enough and its security forces are just strong enough to withstand attacks by extremists and give Iran pause. After several months of brutal warfare, the Iraqi Army destroys insurgent groups.â€