Hello -- what to make of this?
The Saudi daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat has reported an Iranian buildup of troops on the Iraqi border. The paper claims this is part of Iranian preparations to invade Iraq after US troops leave. The ostensible justification is to prevent a security vacuum from developing.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted "reliable Iraqi sources" as saying, "Iran moved part of its regular military forces towards the Iraqi border in the southern sector at a time its military intelligence agents were operating inside Iraqi territory".
A few thoughts.
The Iranians are not planning to invade Iraq, not even after we leave. As demonstrated last year, we know how to go back to Iraq. But even if Ralph Nader were president, an Iranian invasion still wouldn't make any sense.
Name the most recent, successful invasion/occupation/annexation of one nation-state (or even just part of one) by another. Need a hint? It was 1975, when North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam, giving us a single Vietnam. Not quite 30 years later, the forced marriage is showing the strain. The one before that was in 1950, when China occupied and annexed Tibet.
Adding punch to my point, South Vietnam was little more than the anti-Communist (and pro-Nothing) colonial leftovers of French rule. Tibet is a largely-inhospitable plateau with hardly any people in it. Neither nation-state was really much of a nation-state.
NOTE: You could argue that Morocco's annexation of Artist Formerly Known as Spanish Sahara should count. I disagree. Western Sahara (as it was briefly known after Spain pulled out), was even less of an organized state than Tibet. And as any POLISARIO thug will tell you, Morocco still hasn't completed the process of absorbing the new territory. Anyway.
You have to go back to before the First World War to find just one solid example of one nation-state successfully invading, occupying, annexing, and holding on to another.
Despite the dreams of eurocrats and UNaphiles, the global political trend is towards devolution, not consolidation. The Soviet Union becomes 15 independent republics. Eritrea secedes from Ethiopia. Czechs and Slovaks go their separate ways. British India becomes India and Pakistan, becomes India and Pakistan and Bangladesh. Entire nations in Africa effectively cease to exist outside their capital cities.
Despite the worries and protestations of the usual idiots, the age of colonial empires is dead, too. British red and French blue no longer dominate our maps of the world. The Iron Curtain was torn down. Americans, even war-happy bloggers like myself, can't wait until this war is won and we can bring our troops home, hopefully to never leave our shores again (even if we know better).
So, why would Tehran be marshalling forces on the Iraqi border? I have a few ideas.
To stir up trouble. While Iran, if the mullahs are smart, wouldn't want to invade Iraq, they certainly don't want us to succeed in our nation-building efforts. Having troops nearby means having lots of guns and ammo nearby, too -- which they can smuggle over to their comrades-in-terror across the border.
It looks good. It's good domestic politics to stare down the Great Satan, and moving troops around near our troops makes the mullahs look brave and menacing. Helps keep the diehards happy.
It looks bad. To potential troublemakers, that is. Many Iranians are pretty sick of their masters, but a few unannounced troop movements reminds freedom-lovers that they're outgunned.
Panic. In recent days, Tehran has gone public with what everybody already knew -- they're building nukes, quick as they can. With that boldness must come the fear that the US might just do something about it. Massing troops near the border helps them prepare for the worst.
Oh, who the hell knows. Dictatorships do stupid things with their armies all the time. The Minister of This and That might have told his general friend to move some troops around, to scare his mortal enemy, the Minister Against This and That. If you think democracies like ours can be schizo, do a little research on how tyrannies operate -- they make Sybil look like Gary Cooper.
But enough of that -- what most interested me was that the Saudis are the ones ringing the alarm bell. Officially, Riyadh didn't approve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unofficially, we did get to use some of their airspace. Now that al Qaeda is targeting Saudi Arabia, however, the government there does seem to be more serious about fighting terror.
If they are, then scaring Americans into staying in Iraq would be a smart move for them to make. I'd explain why, but this poor excuse for an essay is already too long and too dull. Hash it out it the comments section, and I'll add my two cents throughout the day if y'all are getting it wrong.