Iraq and the Future of Gulf Security Cooperation A Lebanese Perspective
Since the early years of the twentieth century, Western powers have dominated the Gulf security system. The United Kingdom extended its security umbrella over the Gulf region for almost seven decades. In spite of some dramatic changes, notably the coup d’etat in Iraq in 1958, the successive coups in Iraq and neighboring states, and the rise of Arab nationalism, the United Kingdom managed to contain major conflicts in the Gulf region. Nonetheless, the declining British economy and the pressure exercised by nationalists forced London to totally withdraw its troops from the Gulf region in 1971, opening the way for the United States to pick up the pieces of the deteriorating security system. From the outset, the United States sought to avoid a conflict for military deployment as well as unwelcome regional security system based on its bad experience with the Baghdad pact, relying instead on local allies to establish internal security and on its own capabilities to project force if necessary.
Traditionally, the security system of the Gulf rests on three poles: Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia including other GCC states. While Saudi Arabia welcomed the American presence as a strategic and political asset to keep the status quo, Iran and Iraq did not. Iran felt the United States military and political presence in the area was denying it the right to play its role as a leading power in the Gulf and in the Middle East at large. Iraq has always had the ambitions to be a major player in both the Gulf security system and in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The absence of symmetry among the three Gulf poles resulted in a state of regional imbalance, which hampered the principles of realpolitik and the possibility of success, namely the ability to create a common understanding and a general acceptance to keep the status quo. Consequently, the region remained dangerous to its peoples and to the world – even as other regions engaged in a strong drive towards a more secure situation. ()
The U.S. strategy failed repeatedly to create a security system depending, one time, on Iran and Saudi Arabia and another time on Iraq and Saudi Arabia. These continuous breaks in the system resulted in three wars in less than sixteen years with the United States having played the major force in two of them. These failures to insure security and stability - using local power – resulted in adopting a risky and costly direct military strategy with total reliance on the weakest pole represented by Saudi Arabia and the GCC states. Even after removing the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, the United States is still facing Iran (a member of the “axis of evil”) which is showing a strong will to acquire weapons of mass destruction, to include nuclear weapons. Iran now represents a major challenge to the U.S. presence and strategy in Iraq and in the Gulf area as a whole as well as a detrimental factor in the U.S. policy in the Middle East. This is hardly a comforting situation; to cope with, it will require the United States to deploy great effort to create a more favorable, affordable, and durable Gulf security architecture which would promote political, economic, social, and educational changes.
Now, the Gulf security threats in the post Saddam era concentrate solely around Iran. The conservatives in the Irani regime still favor the spread of the Islamic revolution and will rely on subverting neighboring Gulf societies, including post-Saddam Iraq, to gain a preponderant influence.
In reality, the U.S. military presence in the Gulf, and especially on Saudi Arabian soil, since 1981 became a major source of popular discontent. The United States has contributed more to that discontent through its imbalanced policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict and its unlimited political, diplomatic and military support to Israel in its campaign against the Palestinians. The U.S. continuous support to autocratic Arab regimes coupled with the socio-economic pressures that grip most of the Arab societies greatly contributed to that discontent. Such pressures were highlighted in dramatic terms by the 2002 United Nations Development Program report on Arab human development. ()
The breakdown of the Madrid Peace process and the unconditional U.S. support for the radical policies adopted by Israel in Palestine and South Lebanon contributed to push that discontent to extreme expression resulting in the creation of such radical politico-military movements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon and, at a later time, al Queda and its subsidiaries of terrorist organizations.
Hezbollah, benefiting from Iranian and Syrian unlimited support, made Lebanon become the only battle ground between the Arab states and Israel. Hezbullah, appearing first as a military movement in 1983 following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, became the military arm of Iran and Syria in its struggle against Israel in South Lebanon. Iran did not limit its policy of using Hezbollah as a proxy for their struggle against Israel, but, moreover, as a counterweight force against the U.S. involvement in Lebanon. Such strategy resulted in the mounting of two attacks against the U.S. marines in Beirut and at the airport as well as the taking hostage of U.S. and foreign citizens.
Hezbollah, based on its Islamic ideology (emanating from the Irani Islamic Revolution teachings) and the financial and military backing of Iran, enhanced by the dispatching of one thousand members of the Irani Revolutionary Guards, became the main politico-military force among the Shi’a community in Lebanon and the main arm of what became known later as the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon.
Syria acquired through its long and strong military presence in Lebanon an upper hand in using Hezbollah to serve its strategic needs to pressure both Israel and the U.S. diplomacy in the region. The government of Lebanon fell under the Syrian umbrella and, consequently, took a back-seat position supporting the Syrian strategic posture, providing Hezbollah with all the legitimate political support as the main arm of the resistance.
These developments resulted in an unconditional Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon, polarizing most of the Shi’a community behind Hezbollah and resulting in giving Hezbollah a leading role in the continuous struggle against Israel and in opposing U.S. policy, not only in Lebanon, but also in the region as a whole.
Lebanon, now, could rely on its partnership with Syria and the active regional role practiced by Hezbollah as assets to come forward as a player in the process of making peace or war. Lebanon, as a government and as a society, takes great interest in the regional developments as it is evolving now. Consequently, Beirut is trying to monitor closely the political and security situation in Iraq and in the Gulf region as a whole.
This paper will examine Lebanon’s interests with Iraq. The relations with Lebanon and Iraq find their importance in the deep and historical links as two Arab countries, as well as the special links between the Shi’a community in Lebanon and the Shi’a community in southern Iraq. This paper will also discuss Lebanon’s worries and concerns of the tragic developments occurring in Iraq, as well as the American involvement in remodeling Iraq’s future. In addition, this paper will analyze the strategic challenges to Iraq, the Gulf, and the Middle East security. Finally, the paper will discuss the possibility of institutionalizing a security framework for the Gulf region and its possible linking to the Arab Near East as a single, geo-strategic continuum.
In the 1970’s Iraq was a major economic partner with Lebanon. These economic relations with Lebanon were disrupted two times: one, when the civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975 which caused all Lebanese ports to be closed and most of the industrial base to be destroyed and, two, when the relationship between Syria and Iraq went under stress because of the ideological split between the two branches of the Ba’ath Party holding power in both countries. In the latter situation, Lebanon found itself compelled to back Syria in applying pressure against the Iraqi regime. In the ‘90’s, the relationship with Iraq was almost totally disrupted, not because of the Syrian pressure but also in accordance with the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. In 2001 and 2002, the relations between
Syria and Iraq were improved, opening the door to Lebanese businessmen and industrialists to renew their relationships with the large Iraqi market. The balance of commercial exchange between the two countries was improving dramatically. Statistics showed a balance reaching 370 million dollars in the first year with an increase of prospects the following year to average 700 million dollars. This commercial free-exchange was a reflection of the good historical, political and diplomatic relationship between the two countries. The diplomatic relationship with Iraq did not experience any stress, even under the regime of Saddam Hussein, although it went under ambassadorial level due to external pressure and security developments in Beirut. Lebanon always tried to play a catalyst role between Iraq and other Arab regimes in Pan-Arab meetings. Such effort reached its culminating point during the Beirut-Arab summit in 2002 when President Lahoud was successful in reconciling Iraq with both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Economic relations between the two countries was quickly resumed after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, though it’s now experiencing some difficulties because of the instability in Iraq and the insecurity on the highways which has resulted in the kidnapping of several Lebanese businessmen and truck drivers.
The visits of Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, with a large ministerial delegation to Beirut in early August 2004 was to re-establish the strong relationship between the two countries and to create a prospect for a large participation for the Lebanese businesses in the rebuilding process of Iraq. Iraq is renewing its import through the Lebanese ports starting in 2001. Such activity has grown greatly despite the difficulties encountered by ground shipping as mentioned before.
The meetings with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, in Beirut have led to several agreements, among them the establishment of a high strategic committee headed by the Prime Ministers of both countries for the purpose of promoting strategic projects such as oil, gas and transport.
Lebanon intends to play an important role in the process of rebuilding the Iraq infrastructure and in supplying industrial commodities to the Iraqi market as well as serving as a link between Iraq and other countries attempting to acquire a greater share in the Iraqi market. This latter is reflected in Lebanon’s Prime Minister – Hairi’s – proposal to Turkey to increase its trade with Iraq through the use of Lebanese ports.
Impact of Iraqi Security Developments
We cannot isolate Lebanon from what’s happening in Iraq. By the same measure, Iraq did not isolate itself from what was happening in Lebanon in the 1970’s, 1980’s and the 1990’s. Iraq tried to keep its links with the Lebanese events through its branch of the Ba’ath Party in Lebanon or through the Palestinian resistance organizations (the Arab Liberation Organization financed by Iraq). In the late 1980’s, the Iraqi government was involved in the struggle between the Christian militias and General Michel Aoun by supplying both with heavy weapons in an attempt to pressure the Syrian presence in Lebanon.
At the strategic level, Iraq has always played the strategic depth for what was known as the Eastern front in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Despite continuous conflict and stress between the two Ba’ath parties in Iraq and Syria, Iraq represented a key player in addressing the strategic balance with Israel. The Iraqi army was to participate on the Syrian front in the October war of 1973 by simple and single Iraqi initiative.
As the result of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the dismantling of the Iraq state and army, Lebanon and Syria lost a strategic partner and, consequently, any possibility of correcting the strategic balance with Israel. This situation of strategic imbalance might last for several years – or perhaps decades – and would have strong impact on the balance of power in the whole region.
The visit of Mr.Allawi to Damascus and Beirut and the support expressed by both the Syrian and Lebanese leaderships to the new Iraqi government were an expression of how anxious Beirut and Damascus are anxious in seeing Iraq regaining its sovereignty and rebuilding and rehabilitating itself to regain its role as a major player in the regional security architecture.
As it is well known, most of the discussions at the ministerial level during Allawi’s visit to Beirut focused on economic relations. Iraqi’s Planning Minister Mehdi al-Hafez said on Monday, July 26, that Iraq wanted to mend relations with Lebanese merchants and industrialists, assuring businessmen in Lebanon that his government would resolve contract disputes stemming from the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. ()
“We will not allow any harm to be inflicted upon any Lebanese merchant or industrialist. We welcome all suggestions regarding economic relations between Lebanon and Iraq,” stated Hafez. Fadi Abboud, President of the Lebanese Industrialists, lobbied the Iraqi responsibles on behalf of the Lebanese industrialists, who contracts with the former Iraqi government were not completed following the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. The President of Lebanon’s Chamber of Commerce, Adnan Kassar, also urged Mr. Allawi to fulfill obligations toward Lebanese businessmen. ()
Media reports have also said Allawi’s talks with Hariri had laid the groundwork for reopening the Kirkuk-Tripoli pipeline as soon as negotiations are over on reopening the Syrian pipeline. ()
Allawi made it clear that his country wouldn’t normalize relations with Israel before other Arab countries did so as part of a comprehensive Middle East settlement. He also rebuffed recent reports claiming that hundreds of Israeli agents were operating in Iraq. ()
As a result of the negotiations, Lebanon decided to unfreeze Iraqi assets exceeding 500 million dollars. The visit of Mr. Allawi settled all pending issues between Lebanon and the new Iraqi government and has opened a bright chapter in relations between the two countries.
The Lebanese media welcomed all the plans advanced by Mr. Allawi on rebuilding Iraq, but expressed great concerns about the environment of instability and insecurity in several areas and cities in the center and southern Iraq. Such an insecure environment represents a great challenge to Lebanese contracts with Iraq.
Security Trumps All
The events taking place since the Allawi government assumed responsibility around the end of June 2004 should not give much comfort to him or to his ministers. The positive shock that occurred after the departure of Paul Bremmer did not last very long. The situation has changed drastically with the uprising of Moktada Assadr and his Mehdi Army in Najaf and other southern cities. The risks are high and multi-dimensional. When one analyzes the situation created by the young cleric mobilizing a large layer of the Shiites in a move to challenge the legitimacy of the Allawi government and his plans to hold general election in early 2005, it appears that this movement is not going to wane as soon as Najaf is liberated and it may evolve into an uncontrollable situation.
It should be admitted that post-war political reconstruction is always messy, but I believe that in Iraq’s case it will be made worse than the Lebanese situation. The scene in Iraq illustrates confusion as it is a marketplace of identities rather than ideas or ideologies, but cleavages along religious, ethnic or tribal lines are not (yet) tainted with blood like in the case with Lebanon. This fact leads one to believe that regaining stability and calm should come at the top of the Allawi’s agenda.
We have learned from our experience in Lebanon that in post-conflict situation in which the state has collapsed, security becomes the central pillar that supports all else. Without security, people cannot organize to build again their communities, or to participate meaningfully in politics. Without security, fear pervades and unlawful forces dominate the scene; the country has nothing but disorder, distrust and desperation. The situation in Iraq now is taking the shape of a complex equation exactly like the situation Lebanon was facing in 1989-1990 with General Aoun in Baabda, the militia of the Lebanese Forces in the north of Beirut, and the rest of the country being subdivided among the other militias with a powerless President in West Beirut. The present situation in Iraq is not any different. Within this violence-ridden situation, the Iraqis tend to turn to any political force that promises to provide order to their local societies, even if it is oppressive. With the way things are shaping up in Falluja, Samarrah, Najaf, Koufa and elsewhere, it should be no surprise to Allawi to see the slogan – “Islam is the solution” – often raised.
Saving the Allawi government from isolation and collapse and preparing the ground for political reconstruction and making election in 2005 possible will require two things. First, the government must prove that it is capable of controlling the main cities in central and southern Iraq. Second, a wide campaign must be launched seeking support of the citizens for the interim government as the only alternative that does not involve any one or all of the awful scenarios – civil war, massive renewed repression, the creation of a safe haven for terrorist organizations.
Instability and Risks Across the Borders
The last two months have made clear that decent government is not possible without a minimal level of security; however, security could not have been improved without progress at the political level. Events taking place have proved how true this linkage between governance and security and between security and political process is. This was true especially in the case of the revolt of Assadr who was able to appeal to young Shiites who lacked any access to jobs or any government employment. The government also failed to perform in other areas like Falluja where the Sunnis were turning against the occupiers for excluding them politically. The government was also unable to take the challenge of demobilizing the militias while building the new Iraqi Army. This was largely due to weak governance, lack of military power and political rivalries among g the Shi’a leadership divided between secular and religious groups.
The experience of other post-conflict transitions does not encourage precipitated elections which, in the absence of well-considered preparations, may cause a slide toward violence and polarization – even civil war. The elections would likely be monopolized in the South by the Islamist parties with the Assadr movement in the lead.
The competition for power between the various communities will get stronger as the country gets closer to adopting a new constitution and preparing for new elections. This competition for power sharing between the Shiites and Sunnis is neither a new phenomenon nor one limited to Iraq. It has influenced the political behavior of various actors in pursuing their interests for decades. This competition has been a key element in shaping Arab-Iranian relationship. Thus, the ideology of the Islamic revolution promoted by the Irani conservatives was met by a Sunni militant Islamist ideology. Sunni identity became a part of the ideology of Al-Queda, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the “madrassas” in Pakistan and the various branches of the Moslem Brotherhood in the Greater Middle East.
There were some indications that some Sunni extremist groups operating in Iraq may try to use anti-Shi’a violence to spread instability in the country and to undermine the Allawi government’s plan for political reconstruction. Such a sectarian dimension is not limited only to Iraq, but may have an impact across the borders to become a real regional destabilizing factor.
“In other words, the Shi’a revival and the decline of Sunni political leadership in Iraq has not created Sunni militancy; it has invigorated and emboldened it. The ascendance of Sunni militancy is at the forefront of anti-Americanism in Iraq today and, as such, is likely to spread anti-Americanism in tandem with sectarian tensions throughout the Greater Middle East.” (-)
With chaos created by occupation and in the context of this political competion, Iran “has moved into its best position in decades to influence the political shape of Iraq”. () Iran’s aim is to have Iraq run by religious Shi’ite conservative politicians who could serve Iranian influence, and prepare the ground to force the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
After the defeat of Assadr’s Mehdi Army in Najaf and its withdrawal from the city, Iran has to behave cautiously: any exercise of open influence in Southern Iraq would expose Teheran to even more U.S. pressure and would push the new Iraqi regime to pursue a strong anti-Iran policy. ()
The Shi’a Connection
The fall of Saddam’s regime empowered the Shi’a majority; such empowerment will inevitably extend beyond Iraq’s borders involving the broader region from Lebanon to Pakistan. This change in the sectarian balance of power is likely to have a powerful impact on regional politics. The change in the balance of power in Iraq is likely to affect the foundations of the Shi’a politics of Lebanon.
Followers of Shi’ism have lived in parts of Lebanon and in Southern Iraq for centuries. In terms of doctrine and teaching, they follow the same school of thought (historically, a great exchange had taken place between Jabal Aamel in South Lebanon and Najaf Hawzah). Both communities have for a long time been marginalized politically. The situation in Lebanon during the civil war presented a ripe opportunity for the radicalization of the Shi’a political opinion, and two political movements were to lead the new process for a new power sharing – the Amal movement (created by the charismatic religious leader named Moussa Assadr and Hezbollah under the leadership of Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah with a group of young, pro-Iranian clerics. The chaos and the pressures on the Iraqi Shi’a create a situation similar to what the Shi’a of Lebanon have experienced under the Israeli occupation and the Christian-Sunni domination. These pressures carry the seeds of a civil war as messy as the one that tore Lebanon for seventeen years. There is a need for a miracle to reconcile the conflicting interests of the Shia’as in the South with the Sunnis in the center. Such a miracle will occur only with the triumph of a political plan, backed by the secular Shi’a parties – like Allawi’s group – to forge a secular democratic state.
There are other forces among the Shi’a grouped around clerical figures; among these are two subgroups, one aiming for an Islamic state patterned after Iran’s theocracy, and the other aiming for a secular Islamic state like Pakistan. The Shi’a of Lebanon will split between these Iraqi factions, with Hezbollah supporting the radical group in accordance with Iran’s interests, while the traditional clergy would give their support to the rise of a moderate secular state (supporting Ali Sistani’s proposals for a legitimate government).
Along these lines of subdivision, three opinions can be distinguished.
1. Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah (the Grand Ayotallah) who issued a “fatwa” on August 13, 2004, condemning the “American attack on Holy Najaf” and characterizing it as a sacrilege and the attack on other cities as a crime against humanity. ()
2. The Shi’a Supreme Council with Sheikh Abdel Amir Kabalan who condemned the attack on Najaf, but still expressed support to Ali Sistani and the interim government. ()
3. Sheikh Hassan Nassralah, the leader of Hezbollah, who expressed in several speeches a concurrence with the Iranian line of policy toward Iraq and, recently, his backing of the Assadr uprising. ()
The final position of Hezbollah concerning Iraq is closely tied to the Iranian policy. There is no way Iran and, consequently, Hezbollah can stay out of the evolving scene in Southern Iraq – though their intervention will come at a time and in manner of their own choosing.
Though the Shi’a in Iraq, like those in Lebanon, are split among themselves, they appear united in their determination that their communities will not put up being marginalized any more. ()
Analogies can be misleading sometimes, but the Lebanese experience suggests that if Allawi’s government with the support of the Americans and the United Nations fail to turn the security situation around, the Shi’a majority in Iraq could develop into a greater threat of regional stability and to the world at large. Such developments would produce several effective terrorist movements. In this case, central Iraq may turn to be a new safe haven to Al-Queda subsidiaries like Abu Massab Al-Zarquawi, who is now operating there.
Lebanon has repeatedly expressed great concerns about the Iraqi instability and the possible spread of sectarian tensions along anti-Americanism. Lebanon recognizes from its own experience the danger of such sectarian dimensions on its own and on the regional politics and understands how instability in Iraq impacts the security of the region.
The Iranian-Syrian Connection
The United States saw its war on Iraq as part of its global war against terrorism. Iran and the Arabs, especially Syria, did not share this view. When the United States came up with the Bush Doctrine and decided to take military action against Iraq, Iran and Syria who, under normal circumstances would have welcomed such effort to remove Saddam’s regime, were unwilling to lend any support to the U.S. war effort. Iran felt threatened by the U.S. view of it as an “evil power” based on the Bush “axis of evil” concept. Syria, following the same logic used for Iraq’s war, felt it could fall next into sights of the American military adventure. Why should Iran and Syria help overthrow the Iraq regime when rapid victory may incite American hegemony to deploy efforts to overturn the regimes in Teheran and Damascus?
From Iran and Syria perspectives, Iraq was no longer the focal point of their concerns but,
rather, the new U.S. boundaries created by the invasion and the Bush administration’s intentions towards them. From this perspective, Teheran and Damascus would sensibly regard their boundaries with Iraq as immediate defense lines and thus establish policies to prevent the United States from securing full control of Iraq and, consequently, use all available opportunities and options to keep Washington fully occupied with the task of stabilizing the situation in Iraq.
Regional tensions in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine and South Lebanon also shape Syria’s and Iran’s foreign policies and bring them to cooperate on forging strategies to meet the new U.S. challenges along the borders with Iraq. The cooperation between Teheran and Damascus is not limited to what is going on in Iraq, but has been closely practiced in South Lebanon with support provided by both capitals to Hezbollah in its struggle against Israel as well as the support of the two Palestinian Jihadist movements of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Such groups along with the resurgent forces inside Iraq are perceived by the Bush administation as the new rejectionist front to the U.S. presence in Iraq and the Gulf states as well as to the peace process in the Middle East.
The Syrian officials stress that Syria wants dialogue with the U.S. and has already cooperated in the past with it in the fight against terror, but in return they blame the Americans for continuing to describe Israel as a reliable guard of U.S. interests. “The American policy is utterly biased toward the side of the Israeli occupiers.” () Talking about U.S. sanctions against Syria, the Syrian officials wonder, “What is the crime for which Syria is accountable? Do they want it to turn its back on Lebanon and leave it in general anarchy? Must it leave its principled stand on the Palestinian problem? Must it open its heart, its mind, its airport and its coasts to the coalition forces, so they can destroy what remained of Iraq?” ()
Using this logic, the Syrians have pushed the Lebanese government and parliament to amend the constitution to extend by three years the term of President Emile Lahoud, their primary ally in Lebanon. Consequently, Lebanon will remain, as far as foreign policy is concerned, in the Syrian backseat.
In general, the Syrian foreign policy displayed by Bashar Al-Assad is mainly the same as the one deployed by his father. His approach on the Arab-Israeli conflict which used to occupy the center of the Iranian-Syrian connection consists of three rhetorics: no yielding on peace process (same basic requirements), support for Hezbollah in their claim to Shebaa Farms, and support for the intifada (Hammas and Jihad organizations) with reactivation of the Arab boycott and severing of all Arab relations with Israel,
Following the fall of Saddam’s regime, Iran raised its anti-U.S. tone. As both Teheran and Washington were preparing to reap the fruits of the war, new conflicting interests have emerged. Iranian criticism of the U.S. was universal, but reformers and conservatives had different tones. The latter used sharper criticism reflecting deep anti-American sentiment against the violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, while the liberals viewed the war as a threat “against humanity and global peace.” ()
A prominent Lebanese Shi’a cleric turned down any possibility for Iraq to come under Iranian influence: the Iraqis would refuse to see that happening on the one hand, and Iran with its understanding of real politick imperative, knows very well it could not turn Iraq into its backyard garden. In this cleric’s opinion Grand Ayatollah Sistani represents the traditional Shi’a school and from this position he does not intend to allow the “Marja’ya” to be involved in politics; that is why he did not call for armed resistance against the occupiers nor show any inclination toward the Moktada Assadr uprising. The cleric contended that Iran based on its long experience with Iraq as a state and as a society would venture to try to dominate the country as well as to do everything necessary to insure its interests there as well as with all the other Gulf states. ()
Iran remains a military problem to the U.S. presence in the Gulf to all GCC members and to Israel, particularly in the area of WMD development where deterrence will not be achieved primarily by maintaining large-scale conventional U.S. forces in the region.
Lately, Iran has been increasingly defying the United States, the European Union, and the International Energy Agency since it has embarked on uranium enrichment process. It can be expected that Iranian proliferation efforts will intensify during the coming year. The Iranian strong drive to acquire nuclear weapons, after the development and deployment of its “Shihab 3” ballistic missile will have spillover effects on the security decision-making processes on the international and regional levels.
President Bush’s national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, said on Sunday, August 8, that the U.S. and its allies “cannot allow the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon” and warned that President Bush would “look at all the tools that are available to him” to stop Iran’s program. ()
Now, reports indicate that Israel might be deploying missiles from land or sea that are capable of inflicting awesome damage on Iran. Should Israel decide to strike at the Iranian nuclear installations, it is more likely to use its F15 fighter-bombers. ()
The Arab states, in general, and Lebanon, in particular, do not look at the Iranian nuclear program with the same suspicion as the U.S. Europe and Israel. They find that raising this issue will enhance their call for a Middle East WMD free zone.
Lebanon, like all other Arab states, finds that after stripping Libya and Iraq of their nuclear weapon programs, the region is ripe for diplomacy to create a nuke-free zone – if Israel, as the only nuclear power in the Middle East, would begin the long process of peace and confidence-building that could eventually lead it to putting its program under international inspections and to doing away with its stockpile of nuclear weapons.
The problems for the I.A.E.A. is that it has no chance of persuading Iran to give up its programs without taking some positive steps to freeze the Israeli program. Lebanon feels the United States needs to start showing Iran and others in the region it can follow an even-handed policy, asking both Iran and Israel to join international efforts to forgo nuclear weapons capabilities.
All the Arab states wish to see the United States pushing Israel to restart the peace process, opening the way to parallel talks on a regional nuclear weapons free zone.
The American and British military victory in operation Iraqi freedom has been burdened by the tasks of stabilizing and reconstructing and building new governing institutions. The fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the establishment of a new Iraqi government is not a panacea for all the security threats that beset the Gulf region. Undoubtedly, regime change in Iraq will reduce the threats that Iraq poses to regional stability, at least in the near future. The paradox of Iraqi power can be put forward in simple terms: for geopolitical reasons, related especially to Iraq’s traditional rivalry with Iran, a new Iraq, regardless of all changes brought to its political or ideological affiliations, will continue to develop the same aspirations for a regional dominant role as the Ba’athist regime did – it will generate the same ambitions which will result in tensions and antagonisms among Iraq’s neighbors. The fall of Saddam and the disbanding of the Iraqi Army strengthen Iran’s position as a regional power. The Iranian regime, with its two factions, reformers and conservatives, is likely to pursue its policy to insure regional hegemony through improving its military capability and acquiring long range missiles and developing nuclear weapons. Moreover, the state of imbalance caused by the war on Iraq seems to generate new internal political challenges to stability and to enhance the expansion of extremism and terrorism inside Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
These new developments will exert growing pressures on all the parties concerned with the Gulf security and especially on the United States to reduce its regional military deployment thereby leaving much of the security burden to the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Iraq, Iran and Yemen.
The war on Iraq and its consequences have opened the door for the United States and for the regional powers to join efforts in an attempt to establish a more effective and durable framework for Gulf security. It is the right time for all parties concerned with the Gulf security to come forward with a broad rethinking of their strategies to meet the growing challenges – old and new – such as extremism, terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Threats to the regional stability over the next decade may occur in three main areas of critical activity: Iraq’s security and political reconstruction, Iran’s nuclear program, and internal unrest in the states of the GCC and Yemen. There are no easy solutions to any of these threats. (See Appendix A – “US Interests versus Regional Interests.”)
Any effort to rebuild a shattered Iraq should include four basic tasks: political reconstruction of a capable government, provision of an efficient security system to provide internal order and safety and border surveillance and security, economic reconstruction including rebuilding the physical infrastructures and creating jobs for the people, and social reconstruction including the building of a civil society and providing a new political culture.
Iraq is paying a heavy price on all four fronts for lack of security and efficient governance. The Allawi government is deploying the will to deal with the security dilemma that was aggravated by previous decisions and practices of the CPA. Paul Bremmer and the U.S. forces could have done more to build stability and contain the forces of disorder before the handover. Unfortunately, Bremmer lacked both the understanding and the organizational skills to deal with the developing problems. They failed to create a new security apparatus that could compensate the security shortfalls. They also did not show the determination to face political and security threats emanating from the Fallujah and Moktada Assadr cases; they were left free to fan and exploit anti-American nationalists and Islamists to foil any plan for political reconstruction in a bid for power.
It is unlikely the weak and besieged Allawi government will have the will or capacity to enforce the demobilization of all the militias in a step to insure holding elections. If these militias “remain active, the campaign is likely to become very bloody and undemocratic. Candidates will face assassination, and the electoral machinery will be hijacked by those with the most weapons.” ()
As for Iran, according to even U.S. and I.A.E.A. media reports, its nuclear program has gone into overdrive, and unless stopped it “is likely to produce one or more nuclear weapons within five years.” ()
One of the reasons used by Bush to invade Iraq was to prevent Saddam from possessing weapons of mass destruction. Bush had hoped that other states trying to acquire such weapons would take U.S. warnings more seriously. The Bush administration has the right to argue that Libya’s decision to dismantle its nuclear program is the dividends of the unmistakable message sent by the United States and its allies to regimes seeking to develop WMD that such programs will not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, such warnings did not bring any fruitful results with Iran and North Korea. Analysis brings forward the logic applied by both countries that led them to believe that it is the wrong time for the U.S. to be confrontational with them and to back its threats of war before stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. These countries decided it is the right time for them and it is a real opportunity they should seize to develop their nuclear weapons as fast as possible.
The United States preaches a policy of universal nuclear nonproliferation; in practice, Washington has been more concerned with proliferation by its enemies (such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea) than by its friends (such as Israel). The U.S. policy on the matters of WMD has never been even-handed.
Although the Iranians have often expressed their opposition to Israel’s existence and their determination to destroy it, that is not enough to convince most prominent Israeli strategists (such as Martin Van Creveled) that Israel is the Iranians real concern. () Teheran appears to want nuclear weapons principally to deter an American attack. Iran now feels surrounded by American deployments on all sides – in the central Asian republics to the north, Afghanistan to the east, the Gulf to the south, and Iraq to the west. This feeling of being threatened from all directions urged the Minister of Defense of Iran, Shamkhani, to say in an interview on Al-Jazeera on August 18 that Iran should strike first if they sense an imminent attack from the United States.
Iran does not represent an imminent regional threat though it may change its strategic assessment once it gets its first nuclear weapon and, consequently, adopt a more aggressive military policy. To keep Iranian threats (including the possible closure of Hormuz Strait) under control, the United States might find it necessary to keep a sizeable force deployed in bases in Iraq, GCC states, and Yemen.
The United States does not feel under pressure to react militarily to Iran’s defiance. Should Israel strike Iran’s nuclear facilities the way it did against the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981? “It all depends on Ariel Sharon – an old horse who back in 1982, led Israel into a disastrous invasion of Lebanon. One can only hope that this time he will think twice.” ()
Terrorism and internal instability represent the most imminent threats to Iraq and the states of the GCC and Yemen. These threats are fueled and exacerbated by several internal and external dynamics such as the following:
- Political, economic and social problems within the Gulf states
- Extremism and Islamic fundamentalism
- The rise of Al-Queda and its subsidiaries
- Despotic governments that do less for their peoples while oppression grows greater (no freedom or civil rights
- The continuous Israeli attacks on Palestinians and the failure of the peace process
- The American invasion of Iraq and troop deployment on the “land of Islam”
- The fear of a western cultural invasion against Islam
Most of the Gulf regimes are even fearful of these mounting internal threats. Though they are often connected across borders, there is no risk of this amounting to a dangerous level of a general uprising or a civil war. The only real risk from such threats resides in Iraq where instability caused by terrorism and confessional cleavages may throw the country into a long and destructive civil war.
Rethinking Gulf Security
Ten years ago Richard Nixon described in his book Beyond Peace the major threat to U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf as stemming “from radical regimes in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan and Libya, and from the terrorist organizations that they support inside and outside the region”(). President Bush’s assessment after two wars and under the current global war on terror would not be any different. Surprisingly, the U.S. assessment of the Iranian strategy to expand influence and domination over other countries and the need of European powers with the military resources to project force and block the Iranian advance in the region hardly underwent any change.
The occupation of Iraq seems to have created more problems than solutions to Gulf security. Developments inside Iraq lead one to believe that “there will be no final victory in such a war. Victory will consist in having the resources and the ingenuity to avoid defeat.”() Consequently, the United States needs to recognize that military deployments alone cannot stabilize Iraq or deter all regional threats. Power that evidently cannot be used as a deterrent is not true power.
The present weaknesses in the Gulf security make imperative a fundamental rethinking of U.S. strategy, not only in Iraq, but also toward the Gulf states and the Middle East as a whole.()
Prior approaches to Gulf security based on U.S. alliances with regional strong rulers – first, the Shah of Iran from early 1950’s to the late 1970’s and then Saddam Hussein from the late 1970’s through the 1980’s – have proved to be disastrous. The conservative approach to Gulf security based on the strategy of offshore balancing failed because Iran and Iraq were very strong regional powers and the “over the horizon posture was not a sufficient deterrent.”() Now, however, Iraq and Iran are weaker and are likely to compromise in any search for a new security system (at least until Iran acquires a nuclear weapon).
During the two wars of 1991 and 2003 and with the new tough diplomacy adopted under the war on terror, the United States could adopt a new approach which would dramatically reduce its military presence in the Gulf, leaving only the minimum lever of forces necessary to honor its bilateral commitments to the GCC states like Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. Such an approach could be initiated as soon as the situation in Iraq starts to come under the control of an elected permanent Iraqi government in 2005.
There are some requisites and basic criteria that should be considered to insure the success of any new regional security architecture:
1. Establishment of a stable government in Iraq with all the necessary military and police forces to insure stability and security internally and along the borders with its neighbors. U.S. military bases in Iraq, though desirable, would have drawbacks on future policy.
2. Provision of a new mechanism to relaunch Arab-Israeli peace process on all tracks. Let it be “a comprehensive peace plan for a comprehensive peace” through a call for a Madrid II conference. () The future of the Middle East must be built around “one single common challenge: peace. This is true for the Middle East, this is true in Iraq.”() Such a process is a first step toward reducing anti-Americanism, containing extremism and terror, regaining close contact with community conscience and promoting political and religious moderation.
3. A regional framework that involves Iran necessitates a change in the confrontational environment between the U.S. and Iran. This could be achieved through active diplomacy in matters related to all issues pending – to include the Iranian nuclear program, terrorism, and the peace process. The U.S. must put up with Iran as a first step toward constructing a regional security framework.
4. The United States has an important role to play in the establishment of the regional framework; however, this task should not lead to a new “made in America pact.” Such a process would draw popular feelings and suspicions against it.
Gulf Security System
A gulf security framework that involves GCC member states, Iraq, Iran and Yemen would likely be welcomed by all; its success would depend on the goals, the contribution and the will of its members, the interaction between the members and the U.S. in connection with American presence and basing – regulated by bilateral agreements – and the mechanism applied to develop security institutions to improve regional security.
Such a security system cannot be crafted in several months, or even several years; it took Europe with all its political maturity over 25 years of negotiations to produce a workable economic and security system. Agonizing past experiences in the Middle East leave no reason to believe this new approach to a regional security system will be any easier. Establishing a NATO like system would not be feasible without having the United States to sign defense alliances with all the members – something impossible to achieve with Iran – and which would bring back all the bad memories and drawbacks of the Baghdad Pact.
The proposed members for the new security system (ranging in political styles from absolute monarchy through various forms of authoritarianisms and democracies) have been at war more than once, and numerous territorial conflicts and other tensions are still unresolved and remain as sources of diplomatic stresses and security concerns. Internal affairs constitute a major preoccupation for every government in the Gulf region and each of them has expressed continuing great concern for international norms such as sovereignty, territorial integrity, and noninterference in domestic affairs.
All these difficulties in the relationships among the members, coupled with all the historical burdens, imply the application of a flexible cooperative security system like the one adopted by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) with something like the ASEN Regional Forum (ARF) to engage other neighbors, such as Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, in future security dialogue.
In such a security system, the United States will remain a major player – but not a hegemon. This is a necessary task to respond to the concerns of the GCC smaller states and to fill the security gap between a withdrawing United States and the failure to develop a replacement organization. ()
In reality, the security in the Gulf does not require a rigid organization like NATO, but an incremental security process consisting of overlapping bilateral and multilateral security arrangements with the following ultimate goals:
1. Reduce tensions and promote an environment of cooperative security dialogue and reduce the external threats as well as reducing the probability of a new clash between Iraq and Iran.
2. Reduce security concerns for the smaller states in the GCC.
3. Enhance a wider multilateral process with the Arab League and the Islamic Conference Organization.
(See Appendix B – “Regional and Sub-regional Organizations.”)
Of course, such ambitious tasks will not be attainable in a single, formal agreement. Instead, it will require an incremental buildup through dialogue, preparing the ground for formal, but loose, type of institutions.
The process of building such architecture should go through three phases.
Phase One: confidence building measures aiming to produce transparency by reducing or eliminating concerns and misperceptions about security matters. This process should start with a positive dialogue among high-ranking officials and later taken to be discussed in series of meeting among the ministers of foreign affairs. The process should be taken by committees of experts and analysts. Thoughtful reflection should suggest establishing better channels for communicating “more information” and better opportunities to “know each other.”
Traditional minimalist approach to confidence building is an inadequate mechanism for fostering positive change in security relations. There is a need to adopt at the top level of diplomatic dialogue a transformational view that focuses on developing a mechanism that can help to transform security perceptions from simple metaphor to a process of creation and implementation of a well-defined system.
Phase Two: defining and prioritizing security challenges. Defining and prioritizing of security challenges constitute a very important step in the establishment of a cooperative security system. The endorsement of cooperative security should be based on a common perception of the nature and severity of threats. This will not eliminate the use of “national interest” considerations to guide interstate conduct. Such considerations may dictate that states support only a select set of definitions in the threat assessment menu although convergence on the perception of threats is no guarantee for consensus on how to deal with them.
Three centers could be institutionalized to support the achievement of this phase: (a), a threat assessment center (TAC) whose task would be to define the nature of threats and apprehensions and to establish a common understanding and acceptance of it; (b), a cooperative security development center (CSDC) whose primary mission would be to develop ideas and concepts for cooperative security and to create a consensus around them; and (c), a conflict assessment center (CAC) which should focus on defining the nature and severity of probable conflict or dissension among state members and also serve as a center to channel information related to emergencies and non-conventional threats – to include terrorism, smuggling prevention, and search and rescue operations. One of these centers would be established in each of the three capitals of the three major regional powers: Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
Phase Three: expansion of process as opportunities arise to embrace a regime
Institutionalization not only to give regularity and consistency to cooperative security
mechanisms, but also to have commitment of states secured in such a way to insure the continuous participation of everyone in the system. This may require periodic meetings of the ministers of foreign affairs and high-ranking defense representatives and the establishment of a central military committee that will focus on promoting cooperative security programs. Such security regimes will be institutionalized in some sort of treaty or convention and consequently will be incorporated into the national policy of state members. However, the development of a workable, multi-dimensional cooperative security system is not a quick or easy process and may require years or decades of hard work.
On June 28, 2004, the U.S. occupation of Iraq came to an abrupt end. The transfer of authority to an Allawi interim government does not exempt the United States from its responsibilities to stabilize and rebuild the country.
Many of the miscalculations made by the Bush administration are well known. What is important right now is not to look for an exit strategy and set a certain date for withdrawal but to provide the leadership necessary to get the U.N. and Europe and some Arab and Moslem countries involved in the stability and reconstruction plans. Stabilizing Iraq and preserving its unity is a paramount for regional security and for the world economy – with its recognized oil reserve estimated to be 118 billion tons.
Reference the Gulf security architecture; the United States must weigh the ultimate risks and costs associated with any option it takes. Washington must estimate the increasing vulnerability to domestic unrest and perhaps civil wars in Saudi Arabia, other GCC states, Iraq, Yemen, and Jordan. Anti-Americanism, along with lack of political, social and economic reforms is set to encourage terrorism and to prepare the ground for dramatic changes. In reality, a new security system will require time to reach its stated objectives. Time is pressing. The United States must act quickly in formulating a different strategy and in choosing options which promote consensus, open dialogue and, consequently, change the approach of “hard power” it has tried twice in the Gulf: “soft power” represents the needed approach to the Gulf problems – especially to promote a cooperative security system and to initiate the application of reforms based on “The Greater Middle East Plan.”
U.S. INTERESTS VERSUS REGIONAL INTERESTS
Oil and geostra-tegic locations
Free and stable flow of oil at relatively cheap price.2/3 of world reserves.25% of world production. Gulf critical location to: ME, Central Asia , South Asia, Eastern Africa
Regional economies are tied to oil revenues. Oil is a commercial commodity.OPEC quotas. Pricing policy dictated by the market.
U.S. military bases in GCC states and large deployments in Iraq. Bilateral security agreements with GCC states & possibly with Iraq. Protect lanes of shipping. Contain external threat. Part of geostrategic posture. Stabilize Iraq. Pressure & contain Irani threat (proliferating & hegemony).
Needed by GCC for own security. Needed by Iraq for stability. Needed for overall regional stability. Generate extremism, anger, militant Islamists.S.A. prefers projection of force from sea to ground bases. Iran=threatened, role as regional power reduced.
Iraq’s future and stability
Keep level of forces to achieve stability & reconstruction. Establish democratic government. Oil and economic development (new partnership).Rights to establish bases. Active player in regional security.
GCC need for a stable, unified Iraq, though not too democratic. Balanced power sharing between Shi’a and Sunnis. Not falling under Iran’s influence. Iran: weak Iraq, dominated by pro-Iranian forces to drive U.S. out of Iraq.
Enhance the struggle against terrorists. Assist in cutting financial resources.
Promote culture of moderation. Dry the ‘pond’ in Iraq. Accuse Iran of supporting terrorism.
Fight terrorism 1st priority to all, including Yemen. Iran policy leaves question marks.
Iran’s denial of U.S. accusations.
Regional cooperation security system
Promote cooperation security=GCC & Iraq & Yemen Keep military bases in Gulf & Iraq Promote changes in Iran policy Bilateral security agreement with GCC
Accept idea of cooperative security, doubt feasibility. GCC wanting U.S. guaranties Iran welcoming cooperative security without U.S. domination.
Stop proliferation of all WMD in region. Put Iranian nuclear program under IAEA. Multi-dimensional diplomacy with Iran – blind eye with Israel.
S.A. purchase of missiles for defense. Iraq no proliferation. Welcome M.E. free zone. Iran = NO to IAEA inspection. Deployment Shehab 3 missile. Request Western even-handed policy with Israel.
Security of Israel
First priority. Israeli military supremacy. Back Israeli policy by all means.
Demand balanced U.S. policy. Legitimate defense system. Stop Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Acknowledge Israel’s right to exist within 1948 boundaries. Iran: promote continuous struggle
Road map. Follow Sharon’s strategy. No pressure to resume peace process. No links between Gulf security and Iraq stability and peace process.
Arab peace initiative. Resolutions of U.N. and Madrid principles. Resume peace talks on all tracks. Link regional security to peace process. Iran: opposition of process.
Greater Middle East reforms
Press for reforms=political, economic, social & cultural.
GCC – Iraq – Yemen Reforms come from inside. Reforms=gradual process. Saudi Arabia reforms very slow. Iran: conservatives regain control from reformers; reforms = Western domination of Islam.
Regional and Subregional Organizations
Arab League (AL)
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
Arab Cooperation Council (ACC)
Arab Maghreb Union – North America (UMA)
Europe and North Atlantic
European Union (EU)
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
Western European Union (WEU)
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and
ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
 Andrew Rathmell, Theordore Karasik and David Gompert, “ A New Persian Gulf Security System” (Rand, 2003) http:/www.rand.org/publications.
 Nader Fergany, “The Arab Human Development Report 2002” (New York; UNDP, Regional Bureau for Arab States, 2002).
 Cilina Nasser, “Iraqi official, we will fulfill obligations to Lebanese businesses claim war disrupted contracts” Beirut Daily Star, July 27, 2004.
 Naharnet Newsdesk, “Iraq may soon reopen oil pipeline to Lebanon and Syria” Beirut, August 11, 2004, www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/newsdesk
 Nafez Kawas, “Allawi: No Normalization with Israel before Other Arab States,” Beirut Daily Star, July 27, 2004.
 Larry Diamond, “What Went Wrong in Iraq” Foreign Affairs September-October 2004.
 Vali Nasr, “Provocations: the Changing Face of Islam – Regional Implications of Shi’a Revival in Iraq,” The Washington Quarterly 27, 2 (Spring 2004).
 Edward Wong, “Iran Is in Strong Position to Steer Iraq’s Political Future,” New York Times, July 3, 2004.
 Anoushiravan Ehteshami, “Iran-Iraq Relations after Saddam,” The Washington Quarterly (Autumn 2003).
 Assafir Newspaper Beirut, August 14, 2004.
 Ad-Diyar Newspaper Beirut, August 25, 2004.
 “Nassrallah Speech at a Remembrance Ceremony of a Lebanese Officer,” Assafir Beirut, August 21, 2004.
 Carl Coon, “The Shia Community of Lebanon and Iraq,” Progressive Humanism (January 29, 2004).
 Dr. Mahoud Al-Abrash, interview with the Syrian government daily Teshreen Damascus, December 29, 2003.
 David Manashri, “Iran, the War in Iraq, and the United States,” www.mideasti.org/articles/doc251.pdf
 Sarkis Naoum, “Would Iraq Become Iranian?” An-Nahar Newspaper Beirut, August 18, 2004.
 Condoleeza Rice, interview NBC news program “Meet the Press” Sunday, August 8, 2004. Ms. Rice was responding to an article in the New York Times on Sunday that claimed that the Bush’s administration diplomatic efforts during the past 20 months to stop the progress of nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea had so far failed.
 Martin Van Creveled, “Is Israel Planning to Attack Iran,” International Herald Tribune Beirut, August 21-11, 2004.
 Larry Diamond, “What Went Wrong in Iraq,” Foreign Affairs (September – October 2004).
 Kenneth M. Pollack, “Securing the Gulf,” Foreign Affairs (July-August 2003).
 Van Creveled.
 Richard Nixon, Beyond Peace (New York: Random House, 1994) 143-144.
 Philip Bobbit, The Shield of Achilles (New York: Anchor Books, Random House, 2003) 813.
 Joseph Cisincione and Anatol Lieven, “Rethinking the US Exit Strategy,” International Herald Tribune Beirut, May 17, 2004.
 Nizar Abdel-Kader, “A Comprehensive Plan for ComprehensivePeace: Madrid II” http://www.menl.org.2004.
 Dominique Devillepin, Un Autre Monde (Paris: L’Herne, 2003) 255.
 Same concerns were expressed by some members of ASEAN. See William H. Lewis and Edward Marks “Searching for Partners: Regional Organizations and Peace Operations,” McNair Paper, ISNSS, National Defence University (Washington, D.C., 1998) 115.
يرى الباحث أنّ الفشل الأمني الأميركي في منطقة الخليج تسبّب في إنتاج ثلاثة حروب في تلك المنطقة. وبعد القضاء على صدّام حسين، تجلّت إيران باعتبارها التحدّي الأساسي لأميركا في الخليج. وبالنظر إلى العلاقة الوثيقة لإيران بكلٍ من سوريا ولبنان، فضلاً عن امتداداتها العراقية، فقد اشتدّت ضغوط هذا المحور على القوّات الأميركية في العراق، ما أفضى بأميركا في النهاية، في ظلّ الرّعاية السورية للمقاومة اللبنانية ضدّ اسرائيل، إلى إصدار قانون لمعاقبة سوريا، وهو القانون الذي أثار سخطاً واستنكاراً فضلاً عن تساؤلات مختلفة حول مبرّراته الحقيقية.
والثابت أنّ إحتلال أميركا للعراق فاقم المشاكل القائمة بدلاً من أن يحلّها، والأمن المضطرب هناك قد يدفع أميركا إلى إعادة التفكير بسياستها القائمة على القوّة، ليس في العراق فحسب، بل في منطقة الخليج عموماً والشرق الأوسط برمّته ولا بدّ أن تضع اميركا في حساباتها إعادة هندسة أمن الخليج واعتماد سياسة "القوّة الناعمة".
وفي حين أنّ سوريا تطلب من أميركا موقفاً عادلاً تجاهها، فإنّ موقف لبنان عموماً من النزاع في الشرق الأوسط يقول باستكمال عملية السلام العادل والشامل في المنطقة.
وكان الرئيس الأميركي بوش يأمل، بمهاجمته العراق، أن يعطي عبرة لدول مثل إيران وكوريا الشمالية بالتوقف عن إنتاج الأسلحة النووية لكنّ هدفه لم يتحقّق. وجاءت تصريحات غونداليزا رايس عن نصب اسرائيل صواريخ بوسعها إلحاق الأذى بإيران، لتدفع وزير الدفاع الإيراني إلى التصريح بأن على إيران أن تهاجم هي أولاً عندما تتأكد لها نيّة أميركا بمهاجمتها. وهذا كله يفيد أنّ سياسة بوش المبنيّة على القوّة والعنف لم تنجح، وأنّ عليه اعتماد سياسة مختلفة مبنيّة على الحوار والتفاهم