Americans negotiate with Iran over Iraq’s fate. Iran needs to exert influence on Shiite Iraq, and whether it does so by supporting guerrillas or the political process is irrelevant. The Iranian and American tactical visions for Iraq coincide: a relatively peaceful state governed by a majority. For America, that means democracy; for Iraq it means Shia dominance. Iran traditionally supports Kurdish separatists in Iraq, and Iranian-influenced Shia rule is unlikely to oppress the Kurds. The Iraqi Sunni minority is of no concern to America and Iran, and only of nominal concern for Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Satisfying Western oil corporations, Kurds will continue to control much of Iraq’s oil production if Iraq falls into the Iranian sphere of influence.

The US invasion of Iraq would appear to have served Iranian interests; the Americans crushed anti-Iranian Saddam and delivered Iraq into Iran’s hands. Propaganda will obscure that public relations disaster. The Americans swallowed both the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation, and will similarly swallow ignominious withdrawal.

US Republicans insist on staying in Iraq largely to preserve some chance of wining the next election. Withdrawal amid incomplete security in Iraq would be trumpeted as political failure. The military-industrial complex supports the occupation of Iraq as an ad hoc replacement for the Cold War arms market. Corruption is another reason: billions of dollars in contractors’ profits pay for lobbying. Corruption is rampant in the Pentagon—and not only in regards to Iraq. The Pentagon approves commercial sales to Iran because of the sanctions, and the Pentagon’s bureaucrats route all orders through friendly contractors. When an independent supplier wins a tender, the Pentagon forces it to cooperate with its preferred contractors under the threat of blocking the deal. In several cases, the Pentagon interdicted legal shipments to Iran by uncooperative suppliers.

The Shiite empire’s expansion need not frighten Israel. Though Shiites are doctrinally more militant and centralized than Sunnis, Iranians are more civilized and intellectually advanced than Arabs. In the long run, Israel will have fewer problems with Iran than with Egypt. Fed up with the ayatollahs, Iranians are quickly secularizing, while Egypt has been taken by a wave of religious fundamentalism. Unlike the Egyptians, Iranians are friendly toward Jews: the only large and content Jewish community in the Muslim world lives in Iran. The Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah has no ambition to destroy Israel, and Hamas only nominally adheres to such a goal. The Shiite empire will engage the Arabs in an arms race, bankrupting them, and Arab crosshairs will be set on Tehran rather than Tel Aviv. Wahhabites and other Sunni radicals will fight Shiites rather than Jews; fighting fellow sectarians is simpler than fighting Israelis, and sectarians often hate each other more than they hate external enemies.

Bombings will not cease in Iraq if America and Iran settle the matter. It will take any Iraqi government years to re-create Saddam’s combination of pervasive turncoats and widespread brutality. America accepted former Nazis and even SS members (e.g., Schleyer) as top post-war German bureaucrats for the sake of efficiency, but they purged the Iraqi bureaucracy of the far more benign Baathists. The Iraqi government will prefer occasional bombings to losing American support, and subsidies over publicized crackdowns on civilian supporters of guerrillas. The Iraqi establishment welcomes a tolerable level of suicide bombings as a means to persuade America to provide more funds and weapons.

Contrary to Bush’s assertions, democracy cannot function under fire. Ancient Rome appointed dictators during national emergencies, and the police state of Israel is a democracy only in name. Market bombings disrupt the Iraqi economy, as do occasional kidnappings. Tired of insecurity, the Iraqi population will vote another Saddam into office. History knows a way of countering guerrilla warfare without massive harm to the population: paramilitary death squads. The underlying idea is countering a micro-threat on the micro-level without judicial review. Like Israel financed South Lebanon’s Army to act against the PLO (and should finance someone to act against Hezbollah), Iraq can encourage paramilitary organizations not directly traceable to the government to eradicate the insurgents. Lacking safe havens and strong backing, the guerrillas will eventually cease, though initially they will try increasing the scale of their attacks to grab headlines; larger truck bombings conform to such trend.

Iraq’s security problems are solvable; not immediately, but by attrition of the guerrillas over a period of years. The presence of US troops in Iraq compounds the problem rather than solves it. Many insurgents who are glad to fight the Americans won’t care to fight their fellow Iraqis; destabilizing the US-imposed order in Iraq is vastly more glorious than inconspicuous insurgency against yet another corrupt Muslim regime behind the headlines. Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia politically cannot quit supporting the guerrillas while US troops occupy Iraq. They might not quit even if the US withdraws.
American withdrawal from Iraq won’t repair the country, but the US occupation makes things worse.

In the current environment of raging media and self-serving political debate, evacuation increasingly looks like an honorable option in Iraq. American soldiers die and kill for nothing, senselessly. Such wars are only worth fighting when nations are prepared to gather their resolve and disregard the body count of their soldiers and enemy civilians. Starting a war in Iraq, which was non-essential for American people, has made inevitable the fall of Baghdad to a pro-Iranian insurgency. If things turn out well, the ordeal will end in a more orderly way than in Saigon.