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January 12, 2007
Arab Nations Support The Surge

Not everyone opposes the Bush administration's surge plan for Iraq, not even in the Middle East. Arab nations that do business with the US have quietly pressed the White House to find ways to stay engaged in Iraq, fearful of both the collapse of the keystone nation in the region and the rise of Iran:

Arab allies have quietly put serious pressure on President Bush to remain in Iraq, fearing premature evacuation will turn the country over to Iranian-backed militia, sources said Wednesday.

"What concerns us is the instability and uncertainty in the area," Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy told the New York Daily News. "We need to stabilize the situation before the next step, otherwise it will become complete chaos."

Several other Sunni Arab nations that are valuable U.S. allies - including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, the Emirates - are concerned about Iran's influence and the growing power of Iraq's Shiite majority. The Israelis, an unlikely ally, agree.

As Iran secretly backs Shiite groups in Iraq, wealthy Saudis already have begun to finance Sunni militias in Iraq, a source privy to Israeli intelligence said.

If the U.S. were to leave, the Saudi government would likely openly finance Sunni fighters, the source said. A senior U.S. official confirmed the mostly unseen Arab pressure on Bush to stay the course in Iraq.

These nations understand what will happen in the event of a precipitous American withdrawal. The Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias will either topple the elected government or infiltrate it to the point of farce. After that point, the Sunnis will face the decades of wrath they sowed while oppressing the Shi'a, and while some of that may well be their just desserts, the bloodbath and genocide that erupts will force the other Sunni nations to lend assistance to their outnumbered brethren.

It isn't just a sectarian division that keeps the other Arabs worried. The Iraqi Shi'ites are mostly Arabs, but their sponsors are the Iranians, and the Arab nations fear the expansion of Persian power throughout the region. The Iranians have tried to use Islam as a unifying string to gather the ummah together, but their efforts against the Sunnis in Baghdad bely their pan-Islamism. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the smaller Sunni Arab states all understand what Iran will have in mind for them if Teheran succeeds in their plans, and it isn't a Muslim paradise on Earth.

If Iraq collapses, we would likely see two layers of conflict in the region, with Islamic sectarianism as one divide and ethnicity as another. Such triggers could set the entire region ablaze, and not in a way that would create an impulse for democratic activism. The Arab nations would prefer not to have to fight that war, and the best way to keep it from happening is to build Iraq into a strong enough entity that Iran could not manipulate it for their own ends.

In other words, the Arabs want us on that wall -- in fact, they need us on that wall.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 12, 2007 12:10 AM

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