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http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EK12Ak03.html Nov 12, 2003 No US escape from Iraq trap By Syed Saleem Shahzad KARACHI - With every passing week, the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq becomes more testing for the United States as the respective guerrilla wars in those countries escalate, yet Washington has very different approaches to dealing with them. In Afghanistan, where the resurgent Taliban continue to make gains, the US appears to be committed to an exit strategy that would allow it to pull out its troops as soon as possible, provided that it could do so without too much loss of face. In Iraq, however, despite mounting casualties, Washington shows no signs of a possible retreat, whatever the cost in both lives and money. Both Afghanistan and Iraq were attacked to effect regime change. The Taliban, in the case of Afghanistan, were targeted as they openly hosted and supported Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda, responsible for the September 11 attacks on the US and other terror acts. In Iraq, meanwhile, it was seen as crucial to remove Saddam Hussein and establish a pliant government as part of a broader strategy of remodeling the Middle East to US designs, the spurious charges of weapons of mass destruction against Saddam notwithstanding. And in both cases the US military was spectacularly successful, quickly driving the targets from power. And in both countries, the resistance movement has proved far tougher than expected. Yet the responses in Washington have been very different. According to sources in the European intelligence apparatus who spoke to Asia Times Online, the US will continue its efforts to raise more foreign troops to help out in Iraq, or send more of its own if it has to. The target is to man every locality and neighborhood with soldiers to literally squeeze out the guerrillas, and at the same time mount blanket search and seize operations to track down hidden arms caches. This will continue until the "war" is finally won. In Afghanistan, though, as far as the US is concerned, the war has already been won. The Taliban have been "punished" for harboring al-Qaeda, and that network has now been severely disrupted. All that remains is to get out, as the US has little interest in what happens to the country next. As such, it is actively engaged in discussions with so-called "moderate" Taliban to involve them in the Kabul government, as this could result in bringing stability to the country, and allow the US to depart gracefully. According to the latest information, former Taliban minister Abdul Wakeel Mutawakil, with US support, is preparing to establish a political party to participate in mainstream national politics, and through which the religious segment of the country's Pashtuns would be given strong representation in the capital. However, the Taliban do not appear to be about to split in any major way. Indeed, they continue to regroup and gain footholds in the country, which is a first in the history of Afghanistan as all former rulers have ended up slain or in exile. Taliban chief Mullah Omar is very much alive and orchestrating the resistance. This is what is stopping the US from getting out at present, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that in the not too distant future the US will have to cut a deal with Mullah Omar. In Iraq, though, the US's goals go far beyond simple regime change. The US set its feet in Iraq for multiple inter-linked reasons. These include oil - to break the monopoly of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as a tool to effect change in the economic and political dynamics of the whole Middle East, forcing monarchs and dictators to introduce democratic reforms which in turn would help curb extremist trends and roll back the Islamic revolution of Iran and the Ba'athist doctrines of Syria. However, perhaps the US did not anticipate what a blend of Ba'athist doctrines and bin Laden rhetoric has done to Iraqi and Syrian societies in the post-September 11 environment. This correspondent has personally witnessed the almost indoctrination-like effect of the philosophies of Michel Aflaq (a Syrian Christian - born 1910 - who founded the Arab Ba'ath Party) on Iraqi society. Aflaq introduced the idea of Arab resurgence and dominance in which he emphasized that Islam should be the basis of unification of Arab societies, and called the Jews the number one enemy. These theories were embraced by Saddam and his Ba'ath Party in Iraq. Saddam in fact was a favorite of Aflaq, who was instrumental in having Saddam elevated in the party hierarchy, from where he was able to take full power. Saddam consistently played the anti-Jews and anti-communist cards, and promoted a special brand of Islam that only represents Arabs. After September 11, the Ba'athist societies of Syria and Iraq saw the emergence of a truce between Islamists and the Ba'athists, who had previously been arch rivals. It was for this reason that this correspondent predicted before the Iraqi war the emergence of a third force in Iraq in the shape of the Muslim Brotherhood (A 'third force' awaits US in Iraq - March 1) once the Ba'ath regime was eliminated. This has happened, in the form of the Hizbul Islami al-Iraqi (Islamic Party of Iraq), which sprouted in Mosul in the north and spread rapidly. Under Saddam, all literature of the Muslim Brotherhood was banned, even for reference purposes. The Muslim Brotherhood is the oldest Islamist group in the Arab world, founded as a religious and political organization in 1928 in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna in opposition to secular tendencies in Islamic nations and in search of a return to the original precepts of the Koran. It grew rapidly, establishing an educational, economic, military and political infrastructure in Egypt and then in other countries, such as Syria, Sudan and Arab nations, where it exists largely as a clandestine but militant group, marked by its rejection of Western influences. This new alliance of two theories - Ba'athist and Islamist as voiced by the Muslim Brotherhood - is the most powerful stumbling block to the US occupation of Iraq, as well as its designs on the region, where the US will meet resistance from Shi'ite Iran, Salafi (Wahhabi) threats in Saudi Arabia and Ba'athist and militant threats in Syria. These forces have the potential to grow side-by-side with US influence in the region, and challenge its designs as well as its strategic interests. It is for this reason that the decision-makers in Washington are convinced that they have to make Iraq a decisive battlefield, while in Afghanistan they can afford to simply walk away. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk