You know there’s trouble ahead when Iraq, in its present state, is the good news story for Bush Administration policy. While various civilian and military officials from the President on down have been talking up “success” in Iraq and beating the rhetorical war drums vis-a-vis Iran, much of the remainder of foreign policy in what the neocons used to call “the arc of instability” began to thoroughly unravel.
In the Horn of Africa, US-backed Ethiopian troops are bogged down in a disastrous occupation of the Somali capital, harried by a growing Islamist insurgency. Despite endless shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the administration’s Middle East peace conference, to be held at Annapolis, is already being dismissed as a failure before the first official invitations are issued. Meanwhile, the Turks are driving the administration to distraction by threatening to invade and destabilize the only moderately successful part of the new Iraq, its Kurdish region (while the Iraqi government in Baghdad calls on Iran for help in the crisis).
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently landed in Tehran and brazenly indicated that any US attack on Iran would be considered an attack on Russia. He then convened a local “mini-summit” and formed a regional Caspian Sea-based alliance with Iran and three energy-rich former SSRs of the departed Soviet Union implicitly directed against the United States and its local allies. On the day Secretary of State Rice announced new, tough sanctions against the Iranians, Putin commented pointedly: “Why worsen the situation by threatening sanctions and bring it to a dead end? It’s not the best way to resolve the situation by running around like a madman with a razor blade in his hand.”
Meanwhile, one country to the east, the resurgent Taliban has, against all predictions, just captured a third district in Western Afghanistan near the Iranian border–and, as the most recent devastating suicide bomb indicates, attacks are spreading north. And then, of course, there’s the President’s greatest ally in the Muslim world, Pakistan’s ruler Pervez Musharraf.