Having spent two weeks in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Joshua Muravchik, the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) long-time democracy advocate who since last winter has been repeatedly calling for the Bush administration to carry out air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, is visiting yet another Arab country at the moment — Iraq. And he seems to have put aside his concerns about al Qaeda, Wahabis, other Sunni “jihadis” and Baathists and, like them, now sees Iran as the greatest threat to both democracy and the United States in the region.
From the Green Zone in Baghdad, where he is “bunking at CPIC (Combined Press Information Center) of the MNF-I (multinational forces in Iraq), where journalists are housed after catching either a “helo” or the “rhino” (armored bus caravan) from “BIAP” (the Baghdad International airport),” Muravchik writes:
“The principal thought on the lips of most Iraqi politicians I spoke to was the urgency of saving their country from domination by Iran. The dominant parties of Iraq’s Shi’ite government are viewed as subservient to Tehran. The new security services have been thoroughly penetrated by Iranian agents. The Sunni chief of a secular party told me that he had received offers of funding from Iran’s ambassador. When he reminded the ambassador that he was outspokenly anti-Iranian, the man replied suavely that Iran wants to help all Iraqis.
“Much has been written in recent years about the decay of the U.S. intelligence in its collection and analysis functions. But what about the operational side, i.e., counterintelligence and covert action? One hopes against hope that it is equal to the power struggle in which we find ourselves. Ironically, while America is obsessed with Iraq, Iraqis are prone to see their plight as being the epicenter of a larger struggle. Iran is at war with us for dominance of the Middle East. Iraqis see it. Iranians see it. When will we notice?”
So, having presumably just arrived in the Iraqi capital, Muravchik has already interviewed great numbers of Iraqi “politicians,” very few of whom are associated with the Shia-Kurdish coalition that runs the government that and dominates the parliament as a result of elections that Muravchik and his neo-conservative fellow-travelers hailed as the greatest advance in democracy in the Arab world since… well, there was no precedent. And now he’s echoing — uncritically — the complaints of these “politicians” that the same democratically elected government is “subservient to Iran.” No names, mind you, although he mentions that he had interviewed “onetime [sic] members of the Baathist youth movement.”
I suspect that Muravchik in the coming days will be writing a lot more about the threats posed by Iranian influence in Iraq than about those posed by “former” Baathists, Sunni insurgents, and assorted Wahabis — all those, in other words, who from 2002 until very recently constituted the neo-cons’ “Public Enemy Number One” in Iraq. The realists’ logic of my enemy’s enemy being my friend — now so evident in Gen. Petraeus’ strategy in arming Sunni militias who may yet turn their guns on that democratically elected government — is fast becoming irresistible to all those “Wilsonian” neo-conservatives. “One-time” Baathists are suddenly sounding mighty persuasive.
Muravchik is widely considered among the most idealistic of the neo-cons, but I think we can detect, at least in his initial observations in Iraq, a certain flexibility regarding his championship of democratically elected governments, particularly ones with close ties to countries deemed hostile to Israel and the United States.
Muravchik, whose writing style i quite like, has also published a new defense of neo-conservatism in this month’s edition of ‘Commentary’ magazine (obligingly republished by the Wall Street Journal on-line) which I hope to get the time to review at greater length later this week. In addition to insisting once again that neo-conservatives hold no special brief for or concern about Israel (except as a fellow-democracy, of course), he makes the most-remarkable claims about how they played no role whatsoever in the disastrous mistakes, such as the sweeping de-Baathification program, of Paul Bremer or Donald Rumsfeld and thus cannot be blamed in any way for the debacle that followed.