NOTE: This Op-Ed was also printed on Common Dreams on November 18, 2006.
By virtually any measure, Iraq is a disaster. Tragically, those who bear responsibility for the ruin in Iraq not only fail to view it as such, they also appear headed down a similar path in Iran. Unless we change course, Iran is poised to become the next victim of a dangerously misguided U.S. foreign policy.
More than three and half years after the invasion, Iraq is more dangerous, deadly, and either on the verge of or engaged in a civil war – depending on your definition. The provision of basic services, employment, and economic opportunity are insufficient and in most cases worse then before the war. Iraq's democracy is, at very best, thread-bare.
Not surprisingly, nearly three-quarters of Baghdad residents polled by the U.S. State Department this month said they would feel safer if coalition forces left Iraq, with 65% of those asked favoring an immediate withdrawal. More than 70% of U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq polled in February said they believed they should be out of Iraq within a year.
President Bush disagrees. In a recent answer to a reporter's question, he declared, "absolutely, we're winning" in Iraq. What does the President know that the rest of the population does not? Possibly that the U.S. oil industry is poised to become an actual "winner" in Iraq with the passage of a new hydrocarbons law which Iraq's oil minister recently announced would be passed this year. The law, which mirrors an earlier State Department proposal, opens Iraq's previously nationalized oil industry to private foreign investment on terms that are unprecedented in the Middle East, or virtually any oil rich nation, in their bias towards the interests of private companies.
If, as the Iraqi government has all but promised, U.S. oil companies are among those awarded these contracts, they will have won that which they were denied prior to the war: access to Iraq's oil under the ground. Of course, they'll still need some security to get to work. That may well be where America's 140,000 troops come in.
Despite and because of the current situation in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy is repeating itself in Iran. The Bush administration is isolating and antagonizing Iran instead of negotiating and seeking resolution. As with Iraq, it is lobbing the same threats of sanctions and regime change. The administration specifically refuses to take the "military option" off the table, despite frequent requests to do so from our European allies.
Among its other benefits, Iran certainly has the lure of having the third largest reserves of oil in the world. The "victors" in Iran may well be the same as those in Iraq.
The Bush administration's foreign policy, based on intimidation and violence to advance the interests of the few irregardless to the harm
of the many, is making war with Iran increasingly likely. It is time for the administration to heed the advice of its European allies and return to a multilateral approach to global security. Specifically this requires direct U.S. negotiations with Iran without pre-conditions. There will be no "coalition of the willing" to participate in any form of military confrontation with Iran. The White House alone will bear the responsibility for an unnecessary regional conflagration that would be sure to dramatically increase future terrorist attacks on American targets.
According to the Bush administration's own intelligence reports, the war in Iraq is making the United States and its allies significantly less safe. A war with Iran, whatever its composition, will undoubtedly do the same. At the same time, it will all but guarantee Iranians the same cruel fate that befell their brothers and sisters in Iraq. A war against Iran may well serve the interests of those who have benefited from the war in Iraq, but it will most certainly harm the rest of us. We simply cannot afford to continue the same failed foreign policy.
Rostam Pourzal is president of the U.S. Branch of Campaign Against Sanction and Military Intervention in Iran. Antonia Juhasz is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time. Raed Jarrar is director of the Iraq Project of Global Exchange. The three were recently speakers on a 16-city tour of the Northeast organized by Just Foreign Policy.