2.14.2005

North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Oh My!

In his latest "Commentary" from the Fernand Braudel Center, Immanuel Wallerstein offers his thoughts on recent developments in North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Regarding the spectre of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran, Wallerstein foresees two possible scenarios:
The fact is that, thanks to George W. Bush, the genie is long since out of the bottle. And thanks again to George W. Bush, the United States doesn't have the military or political strength to do anything about it. So what happens now? There are really only two scenarios possible for the next three years or so. One is that nothing significant happens in either Korea or Iran, as the U.S. finds itself too preoccupied with the continuing difficulties of getting out of the Iraq quagmire, too absorbed in its increasingly harsh internal political battles, and too isolated diplomatically to do more than alternately bluster and keep quiet. And the other scenario is that the superhawks overwhelm all resistance within the Bush administration, including that of the armed forces, and precipitate a military confrontation, either directly or through a third party (such as Israel for Iran).
As to the Iraqi elections, Wallerstein has this to say:
The U.S. is crowing these days over the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq, which President Bush called a "resounding success" reflecting "the voice of freedom." While the provisional figures are no doubt a bit inflated, it is clear that most Shiites and most Kurds voted, and that the Iraqi resistance could manage to kill only their usual quota that day. Is this so surprising? That more were not killed is a tribute to the intensive U.S. military mobilization (including the banning of cars moving on the streets). But was it surprising that Shiites voted? We have to remember that nine months ago, both the U.S. and Iyad Allawi were strongly opposed to holding these elections for an interim national assembly (primarily serving as a constitutional convention) at all, expecting that they would put the Shiites in a commanding political position, and Iyad Allawi out of a job. If the U.S. yielded, it was precisely because Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani made it clear that holding the elections were his bottom line, or else he would denounce publicly the U.S. occupation. Al-Sistani got his way, so of course the Shiites voted. As for the Kurds, a big Kurd turnout was their best guarantee to maintain at a minimum the degree of autonomy they now have de facto in their zones. The Sunni, as expected, effectively boycotted the vote. Also, amidst this "voice of freedom," the Kurds managed largely to keep the minority Christians and Turkomens in their areas from voting, since that would have diminished the percentages for the Kurdish list.