What if the US left Iraq?

One increasingly relevant perspective on Iraq is that it is the latest front in the ongoing war with Iran, started when our embassy was invaded and Carter did nothing to stop it. But beneath the obvious surface of US-Iran tensions lurks the larger fissure of Shia and Sunni Islam. Over a million people died in the most recent war, between Saddam's Iraq and the Mullahs' Iran, fought across that cleavage.

Now that Saddam is gone, the Saudis are all that's left to confront an aggressive theocratic Shia Iran, with America currently keeping the peace ineffectively and at unsustainable political cost. When costs are too high, one solution is to eliminate the middleman. Diana West of the Washington Times
asks us to consider the possibility that there may be advantages (for us) to a US withdrawal from Iraq, that it would not signal so much as a victory for Iran as a reconfiguration of the opposition faced by the mullahs. Most intriguingly, she raises some real advantages for the US that might stem from the Saudis picking up our role, which increasingly consists of tamping down the Shiites backed by Iran, implicitly protecting the safety of the Sunnis.

She combines a trenchant analysis of why PC has prevented our troops from being effective (implying the Saudis would face no such contraints), with the idea recently expressed by Nawaf Obaid, an adviser to the Saudi government, that Saudi Arabia might intervene in Iraq if American troops pull out, in order to avert a bloodbath for Sunni Arabs.

[it] actually sounds promising -- not a term that usually springs to my mind to describe Saudi scenarios. Contemplating what he would call an unwelcome American withdrawal from Iraq, Mr. Obaid writes that the Saudi government just might fill the breach out of "religious responsibility" to Iraq's Sunni minority. Saudi Arabia, "the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community," Mr. Obaid writes, just might decide to support Iraq's Sunni fighters, just as Iran has been supporting Iraq's Shi'ite fighters, to avert a possible "full-blown ethnic cleansing."
Best of all is the prospect that in order to impair Iranian regime’s ability to make war, the Saudis might employ the oil weapon, opening the spigots on their reserve production. If oil prices significantly decline, the mullahs’ ability to finance nuclear development and support Hezb’allah and keep domestic order at home (where economic conditions have worsened significantly under the mullahs) would be weakened. Obaid mentions possibly cutting the price of oil in half.

This scenario probably includes the mobilization of other Sunni manpower by the Saudis, since their own population, while young and growing, may not be sufficient if the Iranians respond by sending in their own nationals to defend the Shia. The war could easily escalate, and I suppose from the Saudi standpoint, if such is to happen, it would be better that the Iranians not yet have a nuclear weapon.


Of course, in the event of such a war, the Saudis might not be able to ship any oil via the Persian Gulf, nor the Iranians either. The world economy would be hit by a mighty spasm, and if the interruption lasted very long, tens of millions or more might die in the world’s poorest countries, and the rich countries would find themselves facing a lot of economic disruption.

Hat tip: Andrew Bostom
One increasingly relevant perspective on Iraq is that it is the latest front in the ongoing war with Iran, started when our embassy was invaded and Carter did nothing to stop it. But beneath the obvious surface of US-Iran tensions lurks the larger fissure of Shia and Sunni Islam. Over a million people died in the most recent war, between Saddam's Iraq and the Mullahs' Iran, fought across that cleavage.

Now that Saddam is gone, the Saudis are all that's left to confront an aggressive theocratic Shia Iran, with America currently keeping the peace ineffectively and at unsustainable political cost. When costs are too high, one solution is to eliminate the middleman. Diana West of the Washington Times
asks us to consider the possibility that there may be advantages (for us) to a US withdrawal from Iraq, that it would not signal so much as a victory for Iran as a reconfiguration of the opposition faced by the mullahs. Most intriguingly, she raises some real advantages for the US that might stem from the Saudis picking up our role, which increasingly consists of tamping down the Shiites backed by Iran, implicitly protecting the safety of the Sunnis.

She combines a trenchant analysis of why PC has prevented our troops from being effective (implying the Saudis would face no such contraints), with the idea recently expressed by Nawaf Obaid, an adviser to the Saudi government, that Saudi Arabia might intervene in Iraq if American troops pull out, in order to avert a bloodbath for Sunni Arabs.

[it] actually sounds promising -- not a term that usually springs to my mind to describe Saudi scenarios. Contemplating what he would call an unwelcome American withdrawal from Iraq, Mr. Obaid writes that the Saudi government just might fill the breach out of "religious responsibility" to Iraq's Sunni minority. Saudi Arabia, "the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community," Mr. Obaid writes, just might decide to support Iraq's Sunni fighters, just as Iran has been supporting Iraq's Shi'ite fighters, to avert a possible "full-blown ethnic cleansing."
Best of all is the prospect that in order to impair Iranian regime’s ability to make war, the Saudis might employ the oil weapon, opening the spigots on their reserve production. If oil prices significantly decline, the mullahs’ ability to finance nuclear development and support Hezb’allah and keep domestic order at home (where economic conditions have worsened significantly under the mullahs) would be weakened. Obaid mentions possibly cutting the price of oil in half.

This scenario probably includes the mobilization of other Sunni manpower by the Saudis, since their own population, while young and growing, may not be sufficient if the Iranians respond by sending in their own nationals to defend the Shia. The war could easily escalate, and I suppose from the Saudi standpoint, if such is to happen, it would be better that the Iranians not yet have a nuclear weapon.


Of course, in the event of such a war, the Saudis might not be able to ship any oil via the Persian Gulf, nor the Iranians either. The world economy would be hit by a mighty spasm, and if the interruption lasted very long, tens of millions or more might die in the world’s poorest countries, and the rich countries would find themselves facing a lot of economic disruption.

Hat tip: Andrew Bostom