Smart minds think... Perfect Storm


All at sea in the Middle East's perfect storm

Simon Tisdall
Friday February 24, 2006

Business Times - 16 Feb 2006

A perfect geo-political storm taking shape
The ingredients are Iraq, Iran, Hamas and cartoons deemed blasphemous by Muslims


From Peter Galbraith, "The Mess" The New York Review of Books, March 9, 2006

Today, Moqtada al-Sadr controls one of the largest factions within the victorious United Iraq Alliance (UIA), the coalition of Shiite religious parties that won the December 2005 national elections. Nor is he the only member of the Alliance likely to side with Iran if war comes. SCIRI—the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq—is Iraq's largest political party. It was founded in Tehran in 1982, and its name gives an accurate idea of its politics. The Iranians also created, trained, and apparently still fund SCIRI's military wing, the Badr Corps, which has over 12,000 troops. Iraq's interior minister, Bayan Jabr, is the former head of the Badr Corps, whose members he has helped place throughout Iraq's national police. Dawa, the third major element in the UIA, also has close relations with Iran.
With the US Army vastly overextended in Iraq and Iran's friends in power in Baghdad, the Iranians apparently feel confident that the United States will take no action to stop them if they try to make a nuclear weapon. This is only one little-noticed consequence of America's failure in Iraq. We invaded Iraq to protect ourselves against nonexistent WMDs and to promote democracy. Democracy in Iraq brought to power Iran's allies, who are in a position to ignite an uprising against American troops that would make the current problems with the Sunni insurgency seem insignificant. Iran, in effect, holds the US hostage in Iraq, and as a consequence we have no good military or nonmilitary options in dealing with the problem of Iran's nuclear facilities. Unlike the 1979 hostage crisis, we did this to ourselves.

From Leon Hadar, "U.S. Headed for Confrontation with Iran," January 4, 2006

Moreover, the Iranians are familiar with the argument made above, that the United States won't be able to "do an Iraq" in Iran, among other reasons because of the high military and economic costs for the United States involved in maintaining the occupation of Iraq. If anything, the Iranians could probably raise those costs for the Americans by encouraging their political and military allies in the majority Shi'ite community in Iraq, some of whom are now in power in Baghdad, to make life miserable for the occupiers through violence (the use of the Shi'ite militias) or by sabotaging moves toward political accommodation in Iraq.
As an Iran expert suggested to me: "All the Iranians need is to push their Shi'ite button, and Iraq would explode in the face of the Americans." Indeed, note the irony here. By ousting Saddam Hussein and his Arab-Sunni allies in Baghdad and by destroying Iraq's military power, the Americans have removed the major regional counterbalance to Iran's power in the Persian Gulf on which other Sunni-Arab regimes in the region, including Saudi Arabia, have counted as a way of containing the Shi'ite ayatollahs in Tehran, who seem to have adopted an even more radical style than before.
Compounding this sense of irony is the fact that democracy and free elections in Iraq – under U.S. occupation! – are bringing to power a Shi'ite political coalition with strong ties to anti-American Tehran (where another exercise in democracy led to the election of the Holocaust denier and anti-American Ahmadinejad).


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