by Alan Caruba
Far from the stability the Bush Administration neocons thought they would bring to the Middle East by overthrowing Saddam Hussein, today the region is "in play" as various elements of it seek to secure power and/or territory or both.
Today martial law was imposed in Pakistan. While obstensibly a democracy with its own constitution, legislature and supreme court, the nation is a laboratory study of what happens when large portions of the population think al Qaeda would be preferable to democracy. Desperately trying to keep the nation in one piece while keeping himself in charge, President Musharref suspended the constitution. What happens next is anyone's guess. Miss Bhutto should probably grab the first plane out of Karachi.
Meanwhile, Turkey has 100,000 troops, backed by planes and tanks, on its border with the Mosul Province of Iraq where the Kurds live and where a Kurdish Communist group, the PPK, has been staging attacks on Turkey for years. Even Saddam turned a blind eye when Turkish troops came across the border in hot pursuit, but the only real power in Iraq these days is the U.S. and it lacks sufficient troop strength to allocate any to the northern border to deal with the PPK. Since Turkey has wanted the return of Mosul since the end of the Ottoman Empire, you can bet that some of its politicians are thinking this would be a good time to put troops in and make that a fait accompli.
Lebanon is relatively quiet these days but that could change overnight. The Syrians want it back under their control and they, along with their surrogates, Hezbollah, may be able to cause enough mayhem to make that happen. The only problem they face is the presense of so-called United Nations peace-keeping forces, but they could be withdrawn at the sound of the first shot fired. That would leave Israel with almost no option except to intervene for its own security. Been there. Done that.
And all the while, U.S. allies are quietly withdrawing their troops from Iraq. The British are leaving southern Iraq which, for all intents and purposes, is under the sway of Iran thanks to the fact that it is a stronghold of Shiite Muslims for whom Iran is not an enemy.
Ironically, the most stable nations in the area are Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates. Let's hope they stay that way.