Monday, August 27, 2007

Analysis: U.S. strategy on Iran now based on failure in Iraq

Above: Women walk past a wall mural of Charlie Chaplin in Tehran, Iran's capital city.

The Bush administration, beyond the daily temperature readings about the progress of the U.S. troop surge in Baghdad, is making a subtle but important shift in its strategy for the Middle East -- establishing containment of Iranian power in the region as a top American priority.

A simple shorthand for this approach might be "back to the future," for it is strikingly reminiscent of American strategy during the 1980s after the Iranian revolution. The cornerstone is a political-military alliance with the dominant Sunni Arab powers -- especially Saudi Arabia. The hardware will be new arms sales to Israel, Egypt and the Saudis. The software will be a refurbished Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The message to Iran is, 'We're still powerful, we protect our friends, we're not going away,' " explains a senior State Department official.

While the Iraq part of the story still has to play itself out, the new approach isn't premised on success there but the possibility of failure. Iraq will continue to straddle the Sunni-Shiite fault line. Rather than a bulwark against Iranian expansion, as it was under Saddam Hussein, the new Shiite-led Iraq will be a battleground. To the extent that it comes under radical Iranian influence, it, too, will have to be contained.

Read the rest at the Washington Post