Not all the arguments against invading Iraq were couched in idealistic terms. Many hard-bitten Foreign Office types argued that the intervention would "destabilise" the region. They now look vindicated. Precisely as the cynical Arabists predicted, neighbouring states have been "sucked in". America blames Syria for allowing insurgents to cross its border, while Iran stands accused of arming the Shia militia who have been harrying British forces in Basra.
Then again, stability isn't everything. The point about "sucking in" is that it works both ways. Some 300,000 Iraqis live in Syria, and perhaps 150,000 in Iran. For the second time in less than a year, the peoples of those two unhappy autocracies have had to watch the Iraqis who live among them queueing up to vote - a sight no doubt destabilising for the dictators, but stimulating for everybody else.
We have just been reminded of quite how beastly the Damascus and Teheran regimes are. Syria has been indicted for its murder of the popular Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, while Iran, as The Sunday Telegraph has revealed, is receiving clandestine shipments of missile technology from North Korea.
That is the problem with dictatorships: their domestic stability, so valued by FCO mandarins, is bought at the expense of international aggression. To borrow a metaphor from chaos theory, they drink order from their surroundings. They may be immobilist at home, but they are revolutionary abroad.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
The London Telegraph reminds us that instability can be a two-way street.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 9:31 AM