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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "A Long List of Suckers": Or Opening the Floodgates of Hell

All who read this blog know that I have long opposed US ground involvement in Afghanistan, and I regarded Obama's decision to escalate American involvement in Afghanistan, i.e. Obama's attempt to mimic Bush's surge in Iraq, as a tragic mistake. As such, I welcomed Thomas Friedman's call in his latest New York Times op-ed, "A Long List of Suckers" (, to curtail the US military presence in Afghanistan.

However, in this op-ed, Friedman also endorses Obama's precipitous decision to yank American troops from Iraq, and here I would observe that Friedman is mistaken in a number of his assumptions. Moreover, this determination by Obama could well open a Pandora's box, whose ultimate repercussions cannot possibly be known.

I opposed the Second Gulf War, given that the toppling of Saddam Hussein was certain to destroy the equilibrium of power between Iraq and Iran. In addition, I believed that Iran was a greater threat to US interests than Saddam. Bush nevertheless waged this war, and unlike Friedman, I fear that sudden removal of American forces will indeed leave Iranian regional ambitions unchecked, particularly at a time when Tehran is threatening to send warships off America's East Coast ( and to sink US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf (

Although the Iranian threats are toothless, timing is all important, and Obama, who never learned to play the game, is currently sending the wrong obsequious message to Tehran.

Friedman is not afraid of Iranian designs in Iraq, believing that Arab/Persian enmity will trump Sunni/Shiite hatred:

"Iraqis are a proud people. Once our troops are gone, Iraqi Arabs will surely focus entirely on their own government’s performance and on any Iranian or other attempts to try to be the puppeteer of Iraqi politics. Any Iraqi leader seen as Tehran’s lackey will have problems.

I actually think the dominant flow of influence will be from Iraq toward Iran — if (and it is still a big if) — Iraq’s democracy holds. If it does, Iranians will have to look across the border every day at Iraqis, with their dozens of free newspapers and freedom to form any party and vote for any leader, and wonder why these 'inferior' Iraqi Arab Shiites enjoy such freedoms and “superior” Iranian Persian Shiites do not."

"Iraqis are a proud people"? Remarkably, Friedman does not once mention the semi-autonomous Kurdish minority in Iraq's north, comprising over 15% of Iraq's population. Other than Israel, the US has no better friend in the Middle East than Iraq's Kurds, who are now suddenly hedging their bets.

On Saturday, the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, arrived in Tehran in order to meet with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei and Iranian president Ahmadinejad (see: Barzani declared:

"We will not forget the assistance of the Iranian people and government during the hard times passed by Iraq.

To preserve our victory, we need Iranian assistance and guidance in this sphere."

I view the Kurds as a weathervane in this area, and Barazani's meetings signal stormy weather ahead. Friedman questions whether Iraq's democracy will hold. Answer: Not a chance at this time.

The Kurds are not the only ones getting nervous about Obama's decision to precipitously evacuate American troops from Iraq. As reported by Yaakov Lappin of The Jerusalem Post (

"Over the past several days, Hebrew media reports have been engaged in intense speculation regarding a possible imminent Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites."

In short, Obama may have just opened the floodgates of hell in the Middle East.

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