Here’s the money quote:
As Vali Nasr, author of “The Shia Revival,” points out: “Stability in the Middle East is now about U.S.-Iran relations, and it is fantasy to think that we can go back to the old days where the Cairo-Riyadh-Amman axis manages the region for us.” Iran will not allow a stable Iraq to emerge if its interests are not protected, and if the new balance of power in Iraq — one based on a Shiite-Kurdish majority — is not recognized.
Yes, the Saudis will go nuts, but look what they’ve been doing: in private the Saudis tell us we can’t leave Iraq and in public their king denounces our occupation there as “illegal.” Of course, we must protect the Saudis. But they and their Sunni allies in Iraq have to accept the new reality there, and stop treating the Shiites as a lower form of life. Then we can cut them the best deal possible. If not, they’re on their own. Our kids are not going to die to restore Sunni minority rule to Iraq.
At the same time, we have to open a dialogue with Hamas — not to embrace it, but to lay out a gradual pathway that will bring it into relations with Israel. As Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University’s Palestinian expert and author of “The Iron Cage,” points out: “If we let the Palestinian Authority be destroyed, and then we keep Hamas isolated” — even though it won a democratic election that we sponsored — “we will end up with the hard boys, the gangs you see today on the streets of Gaza, who respond to no authority at all.”
If I thought that isolating Iran and Hamas was working, I’d continue it. But it manifestly is not — any more than isolating Castro has worked. So either we find a way to draw them in or we’ll be fighting them — and the hard boys — in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan for a long, long time.
Friedman is pretty much on target with this piece, though he shelters Bush from the overwhelming fact that it is Bush’s incompetence that got us into this mess, and, as usual, he fails to pay much more than lip service to the Israel/Palestinian problem that has to be solved.