I was recently fortunate, thanks to the brilliant organization skills of my friend Pranay Gupte, to meet with some of the delegates that attended the Festival of Thinkers in Abu Dhabi. While I am not personally prone to large 'festival' type functions where presumably 'thinking' would be the order of the day, I prefer the smaller five to six people around a table conversation, I was nevertheless quite fascinated that people were, rightfully so, concerned about the Iraq war and the region. I felt genuine concern for what is happening in the region and most of all there seemed a resonance of searching for a way out of the 'mess Mr. Bush and Co' have created.
After over 34,650 violent deaths in Iraq in 2006 alone, (averaging close to 100 per day) one has to wonder what indeed are the benefits of this entire episode. But calling it an episode would be a blatant understatement, and indeed one without any remorse or feeling. Iraq is a tragedy on a scale that will haunt Arab politics and, more importantly, the social fiber for decades to come. Beyond the bombed and mutilated bodies there is a bigger price to pay for a failed state. If Saddam Hussein created the failed state of Iraq through his ruthless dictatorship, the events after the invasion of Iraq have taken the concepts of a failed state to an art form.
Iraq's embroiling mess of blood and tears and endless tragedy is also a failure of Arab Leadership, who have silently watched the piecemeal destruction not only of the Baath political apparatus but the dismantling of society to the point where life for the common Iraqi is nothing but painfully fragile. While US policymakers have recently distracted the debate to Iran and its possible nuclear ambitions, which God only knows are well founded or not, the reality is being forgotten that an unstable Iraq is in nobody's interest, and least of all Iran's. However, Iranian leadership misguided as it is also is propped up more by American pressure to remove it than by its own 'wise' policies. So long as Ahmednijedad can stand up on center stage and be seen as standing up to the US, the system within Iran cannot change him for a more moderate leadership; that is how Iran works.
I was asked often, 'how does the US solve this mess?' I do not have an answer, I have some wild guesses, but clear cut answer through the smoke of gunpowder and killings is always next to impossible. I will, in respect to the illustrious names who asked me that question venture a guess.
Iraq needs stability and it needs Arabs to provide the stability. This means that the Arab leadership should consider, with US encouragement, the creation of an Arab or Muslim peace force to go in and replace all American and their allies in Iraq. In addition a format for a large government of national reconciliation be 'nominated' by the Arab League, to stir Iraq through this transition phase. This is the only possible solution till the domestic situation can be calmed down to the point where a modicum of stability and peace comes to the war torn country. This allows the US a withdrawal from the region, allows both the Arabs and the Iranians to take a stake in the stability and peace in their own backyard and atleast sets the path for some possibilities for peace.