October 06, 2005

I do not claim oracle

But it seems my Weekly Standard article (which was originally going to be named "General Zod" and kudos to those who get the reference) on Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani was oddly prescient, as a senior British official is now blaming Iran for the killing of the 8 British soldiers that the UK has lost in Iraq so far this year.

This issue has been building for several months now, ever since IRGC explosives started showing up in Iraq over the summer. That the British are now coming forward and publicly accusing the IRGC of orchestrating this turn of affairs is noteworthy, as the British have traditionally downplayed most US allegations of Iranian involvement in Iraq. They haven't denied it, but they certainly haven't been as eager to promote it as US officials.

As a result, when British officials start saying something like this, attention must be paid:

A senior British official said there was evidence the Iranians were now in contact with Sunni Muslim insurgents fighting the coalition forces in Iraq.

... Sunni Muslims linked to al Qaeda have been blamed for trying to ignite a civil war with the majority Shias. The official said he still believed it could suit Iranian interests to work with the Sunni insurgents.

"There is some evidence that the Iranians are in contact with Sunni groups," he said.

"If part of the aim was to tie down the coalition in Iraq, it would be entirely consistent with supporting those groups."

... A British Foreign Office spokesman said: "Iranian links to militant groups are unacceptable and undermine Iran's long-term interest in a secure, stable and democratic Iraq."

This is by no means surprising for those of us who have argued, much to the chagrin of many experts, that the Shi'ite/Sunni sectarian barriers are not a barrier towards cooperation between Iranian cooperation with al-Qaeda and its allies, particularly given bin Laden's explicitly anti-sectarian views on the matter of said cooperation. Or, to use the words of the 9/11 Commission report:

In June 1996, an enormous truck bomb detonated in the Khobar Towers residential complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that housed U.S. Air Force personnel. Nineteen Americans were killed, and 372 wounded ... While the evidence of Iranian involvement is strong, there are also signs that al Qaeda played some role, as yet unknown.

... In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support - even if only training - for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security.

... Intelligence indicates the persistence of contacts between Iranian security officials and senior al Qaeda figures after Bin Ladin's return to Afghanistan ... Khallad and other detainees have described the willingness of Iranian officials to facilitate the travel of al Qaeda members through Iran, on their way to and from Afghanistan.

The "Iranian security officials" in question are almost certainly members of the Revolutionary Guards, which is one of the reasons why I regard Brigadier General Suleimani's activities as being so important to understanding what is going on here. European court documents, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism officials (such as the French individual quoted in the AFP story linked above) have also provided a wealth of evidence on collaboration between al-Qaeda, Zarqawi, and Ansar al-Islam and the IRGC. Indeed, given Zarqawi's emergence as the #1 figure in the Sunni insurgency, who exactly does one think the "Sunni groups" referenced by the British official above are? Some will argue that there is no way that such a thing could be possible given Zarqawi's unambiguous bigotry towards Shi'ites and the commonly held view that the new Iraqi government is made up of little more than Iranian pawns. To which I reply: whatever Zarqawi's personal views on Shi'ites (and he has had to temper his public statements to a degree since openly pledging himself to bin Laden), his immediate superior Saif al-Adel is currently based inside Iran. As to why Brigadier General Suleimani would ever back someone like Zarqawi, al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted him as saying that the former man's actions served what he believed to be the interests of Iran. As long as he and is subordinates in the IRGC hold to that opinion, there doesn't seem to be much interest in the Iranian hierarchy of dissuading them of it.

Now before the predictable allegations start floating to the surface, let me be clear: the UK has no desire, let alone capability, to initiate military action, let alone a war, with Iran. Neither do American neoconservatives in my opinion, though I suspect that I'll get a healthy storm of rebuttals to that statement. So given that none of these statements serve anyone's political interest at this time, I would urge observers to deal with them on surface value rather than questioning whether or not they're part of some elaborate design. Bringing up the issue error with respect to WMDs is also a logical fallacy on two points: it does not follow that just because the US and UK were wrong on WMDs that they are wrong on this and in the case of the WMDs they were not being actively deployed against coalition forces at the time the claims were made.

How these British allegations more specifically connect back to Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani is reasonably simple. Suleimani is the head of Qods Force, the elite Iranian military unit charged with carrying out extra-territorial operations. He is also a special advisor to Rahbar (Supreme Leader) Khamenei on Iraq, which means that if the Revolutionary Guards want to do something in Iraq, he is the one who approves it and oversees its execution. That makes him the most direct person responsible for the deaths of British servicemen in Iraq and, lest we forget, one of these IRGC- charges killed 14 US marines back in August.

The Guardian adds some additional information:

The explosives initially used by Iraq insurgents after the March 2003 invasion were crude and British forces were, for the most part, able to shrug them off. The bombs they face now are of a different order. They were designed by Hizbullah, the Lebanese-based Shia guerrilla group that fought the Israeli army for almost two decades and eventually forced it out of southern Lebanon.

A senior British official said yesterday that the bombs were imported by Iran -which, along with Syria, provides financial and logistical support to Hizbullah - and then passed on to insurgents in Iraq.

The disclosure that Iran is supplying such sophisticated weaponry for use against British forces marks a new low in relations between the two countries. For the first two years after the invasion of Iraq, British officials repeatedly made a point of saying that Iran had not been interfering in southern Iraq.

Since the spring, the tone has changed. In August, a British official described as unacceptable the smuggling of weapons from Iran into Iraq after a cache was intercepted at the border.

It also notes the failure of the European approach with respect to Iran to date:

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna voted overwhelmingly last month to declare Iran in non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a first step towards possible punitive UN sanctions. Iran denounced the IAEA vote, calling it "illegal and illogical". Government spokesmen raised the prospect of reprisals, including withholding energy supplies to western European countries and withdrawal from the NPT.

Increasing the pressure on British forces in southern Iraq was not listed publicly among Tehran's possible reprisals. But that may have become an option now being exercised covertly, officials suggested. In other words, after the Vienna vote, the gloves are off.

"Iran's motives certainly don't seem that benign," the senior British official said. "If Iran wants to tie down the coalition in Iraq, then that's consistent with supplying insurgent groups."

Britain's decision to take a tougher line in public may also reflect a realisation that its policy of "critical engagement" with Iran, which was pioneered by the late Robin Cook and doggedly pursued by his successor as foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has run into a wall.

That belief was strengthened by the landslide triumph of Islamic hardliners in Iran's presidential election last June. The rise to power of their candidate, Mahmoud Amadinejad, a little known former mayor of Tehran, is the other key development that appears to have changed the Anglo-Iranian dynamic. His speech at the UN summit last month dismayed western governments because of what they called its "confrontational tone".

The deterioration of bilateral relations comes at a crucial juncture in Iraq; a referendum on its proposed constitution is due on October 15 and parliamentary elections are scheduled for December.

A couple of reality checks need to be added here, not the least of which being that the IRGC arms shipments appear to have predated the Vienna vote by more than a month and may well have been a contributing factor in its outcome, so blaming the vote on the IRGC's latest antics would seem to be a real-time exercise in alternate history. As to the fact that Iran doesn't appear to have benign motives, I don't see how anyone who has paid attention to the repeated and universally acknowledged Iranian interference in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as described by either side can come away with the idea that they harbor benign intentions.

Another major point is that Ahmadinejad was not simply appearing "confrontational," he appeared to be a flaming lunatic whose conspiracy-ridden speech stopped just short of overt advocacy of what Abdul Qadeer Khan was doing.

As noted by Yael Shahar:

The Islamic regime’s determination to continue supporting terrorism has forced the Iranian Foreign Ministry to strive, under extreme international pressure, to offset the damage caused by this policy to Tehran’s economic and political ties. In recent years, Iran has made considerable efforts to cast off its negative image as a state sponsoring terrorism. This has been motivated mainly by the desire for the economic advantages that can be had by altering its appearance vis-a-vis the West. Iran does not deny its adherence to Khomeini’s “Islamic revolutionary ideology”, which supports all radical Islamic movements worldwide. However the regime insists that Iranian support for these movements does not go beyond cultural, moral and humanitarian aid. Tehran strongly denies any military and/or financial assistance to these movements. Upon hearing these denials, it is well to bear in mind the principle of taqiyya (concealing the faith), a concept deeply embedded in the Shi’ite tradition, and according to which untruth can be used as a means of protection against the persecutors of the Shi’ite faithful.

... The only change that did occur in the Iranian terrorism scene in recent years has been essentially a tactical one. Iran has been careful to adjust its terror policy to international circumstances, in the realization that such activity does not play well to a Western audience. Iran does everything possible to ensure that its own actions are not perceived to be part of international terrorism. Iranian agents rarely take an active part in terror attacks; instead, missions are “out-sourced” to proxy organizations, such as the Hizballah, a regular contractor and central player in Iran’s terror strategy. Often terrorist groups active in the target country are trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and commissioned to carry out terrorist acts against common enemies.

Once this truism is understood, much of the rest of Iranian foreign policy falls into place rather nicely. With the reformists crushed and the IRGC ascendant, the rather thin veneer of plausible deniability that Khatami and the Iranian foreign ministry worked so hard to construct over the last several years is finally starting to drop and the results are far from pretty.

And after the manner of my mentor Michael Ledeen, faster, please.

Posted by at October 6, 2005 10:10 AM | TrackBack (2)
Comments

Very prescient and timely. I see no reason why you shouldn't go on the news discussing the specifics of Iranian involvement. All I'm hearing now is "Iranian involvement" without details in the mainstream media.

Posted by: Athena at October 6, 2005 11:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't see how anyone who has paid attention to the repeated and universally acknowledged Iranian interference in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as described by either side can come away with the idea that they harbor benign intentions.

benign, of course not. But neither can it be described as "aggression. Like most whack-job Ledeen followers, the author conveniently ignores the provocation for any potential Iranian involvement with the Iraqi insurgents.

Face it, Darling, the Bush administration and people like you are simply looking for a means to slaughter more Islamic people in the name of the permanent American empire. How much Islamic blood are you willing to spill in order to advance your fantasies?

In the Darling universe, he can kill and threaten with abandon, yet anyone who retaliates or reacts to those actions is acting agressively. Its an egomaniacally insane approach to foreign policy----and its why over 9,000 Americans and countless Iraqis have died in the last few years with nothing to show for it.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 6, 2005 12:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An interesting comment, considering that it is the Sunni Arab insurgency deliberately killing Shiite Muslims. If indeed it can be documented that Iraqi insurgents are getting help from Iran, a significant political weapon would be put into the hands of the coalition and the Iraqi government.

This is important, because the main vulnerability of America's enemies among the mullahs is not in Iraq. It is in Iran. The recent setbacks Dan describes in the form of Amadinejad's election and growing influence of the Rvolutionary Guards within the Iranian government I do not see as irreversible. Complicity of Iranian agents in slaughtering Shiite Iraqis, neglect of earthquake victims while billions are spent to acquire a nuclear arsenal and promote terrorism, and persistent corruption within the Iranian state can all be used to undermine support for the regime.

Posted by: JEB at October 6, 2005 03:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your argument conveniently ignores little things like Iran’s open support for the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Also, Zarqawi’s importance in the Iraqi insurgency is, by most credible accounts, being exaggerated by the US, and even if it isn’t, he is still not a likely candidate for Iranian support.

Listen; there are lots of legitimate reasons for the Iranians to support the Iraqi insurgency, and they have several means of doing so, including arming the Shiite militias so prevalent in southern Iraq. They certainly do not mind having the US Army bogged down and therefore reducing the threat of invasion. I can even believe they are offering support to some Sunni groups, but there are far more palatable groups for them to support than one which calls for their extermination and is actively engaged in killing their coreligionists in Iraq.

There are enough relatively legitimate reasons to worry about Iran that you could build a solid case against them without the logically suspect and hard to prove allegations about al Qaeda. Bringing bin Laden and his cohorts into the frame weakens your credibility and therefore your arguments. It all begins to sound like the unsubstantiated and disproved blather that got the US into Iraq.

Posted by: Northman at October 6, 2005 04:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Northman:

Not at all. As the 9/11 Commission report makes clear, the strongest Iranian overtures towards al-Qaeda occurred well after the infamous incident at Mazar-e-Sharif that is normally pointed out as being the low point in Iranian-Taliban relations. Yael Shahar also touches on this in his piece.

And much of the evidence for Iranian support for both Zarqawi or Ansar al-Islam is derived from European court documents. You can argue that these are untrue, lies, propaganda, or whatever if you like, yet it is worth noting that the same ICG report that was so skeptical concerning Iranian involvement in Iraq also noted that Kurdish allegations that the IRGC was protecting and assisting Ansar al-Islam had at least some merit.

As far as Zarqawi's role in the insurgency being exaggerated, that all depends on what you regard as credible. Cordesman, who I think as one of the most objective observers of the situation, argues that he is at the core of it at least as far as the suicide bombings are concerned. If you look at the fact that al-Qaeda in Iraq somehow seems to have all these videos of the suicide bombings they say that they're carrying out within real time of the attacks taking place, I think it stretches credulity to argue that they're involvement is exaggerated.

On the broader issue of al-Qaeda/Iran, if it was just me making that particular allegation ("unsubstantiated and disproved blather") you might have a point. There is a whole wealth of evidence available on this particular topic from both US and European sources here from some extremely credible figures, including the top French and Spanish counter-terrorism judges and the German BKA. If you want to argue that any of those sources are wrong or deliberately lying or whatever, that's fine, but you cannot simply dismiss it all off-hand without falling victim to the exact same analytical problems (ignoring any evidence contrary to a pre-set worldview) that many argue as having contributed to the more recent intelligence failure with respect to WMDs. Or to put it another way, what would it take to convince you on this score?

Posted by: Dan Darling at October 6, 2005 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka added

"In the Darling universe, he can kill and threaten with abandon, yet anyone who retaliates or reacts to those actions is acting agressively. Its an egomaniacally insane approach to foreign policy----and its why over 9,000 Americans and countless Iraqis have died in the last few years with nothing to show for it. "

So the 3,000 slaughtered on 9/11 are some of those who have been killed because the other side was "retaliating" and "reacting" to our actions ( surely part of the 9,000 in the last "few years" - even though the numbers - like you logic - don't add up even then )

Or more bluntly - we brought 9/11 ( and Bali and London and Madrid and Bali, etc etc etc ) on ourselves by OUR actions

Just revolting - even for you Luka - just sickening

Your craven desire for appeasement of the head choppers and mosque bombers knows no depths too low to go to Luka

Because in the Luka universe - its all OUR fault - and they are "retaliating" - therefor we need to change our ways

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at October 6, 2005 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Easiest point first. I'm aware that Zarqawi's group is behind most of the suicide bombings, as I said, mainly against Shiite civilians. How much he's behind the roadside bombings and ambushes that are killing US troops is far less clear. I'd even be willing to concede he's a major figure, but his group is far from the only one out there, and all I was saying is that some of the others, if not most, are not as ideologically opposed to Shiites and it would make more sense for the Iranians to support them. Basically close to the same effect against the US with far less danger to Iran down the road.

You basically implied the British could only be talking about Zarqawi when the talked of Sunni insurgency leaders. Its that kind of assumption that bothers me when faced with otherwise good writing on the Iranian situation. It's also what makes it sound like "unsubstantiated and unproved blather". Emphasis on sound. For me at least, some acknowledgement of other interpretations makes me take a person more seriously.

I'm also not dismissing anything. From a strategic standpoint, some contact between Iran and al Qaeda should be expected. Still, the ideological differences would have to make this a fairly uneasy relationship, and easily broken if the right pressure was applied. I'm merely questioning the extent of their involvement with each other.

Because al Qaeda, and Zarqawi in particular, have a real hate-on for Shiite Muslims, a long-term working alliance between them and Iran just doesn't smell right. As a result, it will take quite a lot to convince me on that particular point. I don't know what, exactly. Maybe a video from bin Laden or Zawahiri praising the leadership of Iran while not calling them godless heretics.

Okay, probably not that much, but I reserve the right to be skeptical for at least a little while longer. My main point holds, there are far easier ways to go after Iran. I mean, the UK story above is mainly to do with Iranian support for al Sadr's militia, as well as other Shiite militias, which has to be a far easier line of inquiry and has the advantage of being a logical avenue for the Iranians. If the goal is to go after Iran, use what they hand you instead of trying to stretch it into a storyline about al Qaeda. I mean, does it have to be al Qaeda for us to act? Isn't supporting Shiite militias against the British and American troops good enough?

Posted by: Northman at October 6, 2005 07:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Northman:

I think there's more agreement than not between us here so let me just hone in on those points.

First of all, and I recognize that you may not be familiar with the other stuff I've written on these points, is that Zarqawi more or less leads more of a coalition than he does a traditional insurgent/guerrilla force. He certainly isn't in command of anything as formalized as say, what Mao had in China where there was a clear top-down structure. One of the groups that a key element of that coalition is Ansar al-Islam, which he was involved in before the war and is reported by all kinds of sources (Cordesman, ICG, Newsweek, etc.) to be receiving at least some kind of support from the IRGC.

So let's entertain, for the sake of argument, the idea that the British weren't talking about Zarqawi's coalition. Per Cordesman, the only other major factions of note are the Baathists, and the same argument that Iran wouldn't back Zarqawi because of his anti-Shi'ite views works in spades for them, especially given that they've actually killed Iranians on occasion.

You may also want to distinguish between a relationship between the Iranian government and al-Qaeda and a relationship between al-Qaeda and the IRGC (I don't because my argument is that the IRGC and its backers are where the real power lies, but we can debate that some other time if you're interested). The IRGC has a proven track record of backing all sorts of different groups without concern for their ideological purity, including the Kurdish Marxist PKK despite Iran's known concerns as far as its own Kurdish minority goes. Under such circumstances, support for Sunni Islamists, even those of al-Qaeda, is by no means out of the question.

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find instances of bin Laden or al-Zawahiri condemning the Iranian government. Indeed, both men have campaigned on explicitly anti-sectarian terms, something that they have also pressured Zarqawi to embrace since October 2004.

My main point holds, there are far easier ways to go after Iran. I mean, the UK story above is mainly to do with Iranian support for al Sadr's militia, as well as other Shiite militias, which has to be a far easier line of inquiry and has the advantage of being a logical avenue for the Iranians. If the goal is to go after Iran, use what they hand you instead of trying to stretch it into a storyline about al Qaeda. I mean, does it have to be al Qaeda for us to act? Isn't supporting Shiite militias against the British and American troops good enough?

Definitely, but I think the issue needs to be stretch further to encompass other information to expand on which Sunni groups the British are likely referring to in this instance and what the implications of that are.

Posted by: Dan Darling at October 6, 2005 11:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan

You're probably right about there being more agreement then not, and I thank you for the responses.

I do have some reservations calling Baathists as anti-Shiite as a radical Islamist like Zarqawi. But that's really a minor issue at this point.

Anyway, I've read little or none of your other work, and that may be the reason for my objections to this article. I basically saw you take a story where the Brits accused Iran of being behind the deaths of their soldiers, (Blair has now toned that down to being "inconclusive"), through their support of Shiite militias. You barely acknowledged the militias and instead focused on Zarqawi and al Qaeda.

I'm more concerned about the militias, mainly because I don't think enough people are focusing on them since their masters, SCIRI and Dawa, are too much part of the transitional government and the Bush Administration doesn't want to ruin their storyline about the flowering of democracy making America safer. The Badr Brigades were openly trained by IRGC and along with the Dawa party and al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, there's what, 30-40,000 trained fighters.

The main point to me is in regards to control, rather than support. Iran, it appears, has far greater control over the actions of those militias than they do over Zarqawi, and this was basically the British argument as well. If Iran wants to act, those militias can in one stroke double the insurgency the US and UK faces. That worries me.

Perhaps some of your other writings have examined this, but that's why I wondered at this post. Zarqawi is going to be fighting the US anyway, perhaps less effectively, but he'd be there with or without the Iranians. Stretch to include him in the discussion? No problem, but I felt you were focusing on him to the exclusion of other factors, some which I think may be more important when it comes to Iran's involvement in Iraq over the long term.

Anyway, enough said. As pointed out earlier I think our arguments more about a few specifics than anything else. I'll try and make a point to read more of what you've written on the subject and then see if I need bother in debate.

Posted by: Northman at October 7, 2005 01:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Northman:

Here again, I think we're more in agreement here than anything else. The Baathists were incredibly anti-Shi'ite, as a casual reading of their track record with regard to Shi'ism in Iraq is concerned. During the 1980s, this was precisely one of the main talking points among Westerners favoring Saddam Hussein because, as the argument went, it prevented the spread of Khomeinism to other parts of the Gulf.

I basically saw you take a story where the Brits accused Iran of being behind the deaths of their soldiers, (Blair has now toned that down to being "inconclusive"), through their support of Shiite militias. You barely acknowledged the militias and instead focused on Zarqawi and al Qaeda.

Blair has indeed toned things down quite a bit from the anonymous UK official, though the line echoed in the AP story makes me wonder whether the first guy was being candid but that Blair modified it and is trying for a more diplomatic line on this one. I spent the most time on the issue of Zarqawi and al-Qaeda because I felt that it was the most controversial issue, though I did indeed acknowledge the role of the militias in my Weekly Standard article where I wrote:

According to a report in Time, as early as September 2002 Ali Khamenei placed General Suleimani in charge of organizing various Iraqi groups as part of an Iranian plan to dominate the country following Saddam's removal. Among these targeted groups were the Badr Brigades military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI is now a key member of the Iraqi ruling coalition), the Mujahideen for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (MIRI), Thar-Allah, and Iran's favorite proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah. Yet it was not until April 2004 and the beginning of Muqtada al-Sadr's failed uprising that Qods Force would truly make its presence in Iraq felt.

So I thought that the role of Iranian support for the Iraqi militias had been addressed and was generally accepted, which is why I wanted to spend my time arguing for the more controversial issue.

I'm more concerned about the militias, mainly because I don't think enough people are focusing on them since their masters, SCIRI and Dawa, are too much part of the transitional government and the Bush Administration doesn't want to ruin their storyline about the flowering of democracy making America safer. The Badr Brigades were openly trained by IRGC and along with the Dawa party and al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, there's what, 30-40,000 trained fighters.

I'm a little bit leery about throwing Dawaa in with SCIRI because the former seem far less amicable towards Tehran than their counterparts per Cordesman, and were particularly miffed at being forced to accept Khomeinism as a condition for the price of their asylum in Iran during the Iraq-Iran War. As for the Mahdi Army, I don't have any hard figures but during the height of the 2004 fighting they never had more than 10,000 fighters under arms.

The main point to me is in regards to control, rather than support. Iran, it appears, has far greater control over the actions of those militias than they do over Zarqawi, and this was basically the British argument as well. If Iran wants to act, those militias can in one stroke double the insurgency the US and UK faces. That worries me.

Definitely and that's some of the problems that the US and UK are dealing with. Iran (or the IRGC if you prefer), at least in my view, has been aiding elements of the insurgency for some time now. That, however, is by no means the extent of their reach, and both sides know it. The issue then becomes how we handle it and I think that this is the primary dilemma for US and UK policy-makers right now.

Posted by: Dan Darling at October 7, 2005 05:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Iranian ambassador to London, interviewed on Channel 4 News last night, talked of the deaths as occurring in 'spring or early summer'. That's curious, since The Times (that's the London Times to you Americans) yesterday described the attacks as taking place between July and September.

The dates could be significant, in view of the election of the new President in Iran.

Posted by: DavidP at October 7, 2005 03:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Per the exchange between Dan and Northman, it is worth observing that there are and have always been Iraqi Shiites, including the most senior clerics, who are hostile to the idea of an Iraq dominated by Iran. Their position is steadily being undermined by the continued insurgency.

Sistani in particular has by word and deed consistently resisted the pull toward making Sunni Arabs the Shiites' declared enemy, but each suicide bombing and assassination makes his job harder and his position less attractive to ordinary Shiites. Since everyone knows the Americans will not be in Iraq forever and the Sunni Arab insurgents already have financial and armed support from neighboring Arab countries if not from their governments, it is easy to visualize Iraq's Shiites being driven to accept more and more Iranian help and influence over time.

This may not be the intent of Iranian policy. In fact, I am skeptical that we can talk realistically about this without using the plural. I'm just saying that the insurgency's efforts to intensify the sectarian divide in Iraq can have but one outcome as far as Iran's position in that country is concerned.

Posted by: JEB at October 7, 2005 06:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think we are all confusing perception and reality. We are there to do a job then get the hell out. What is gonna happen after we reach peak oil (if we haven't already).These areas will decide the balance of power on a global scale.

Just to go off on a tangent for a bit:

a friend of mine in California has a company that is a mixture between eBAY and Friendster called DOMEAFAVORBUDDY.COM they are giving away an Ipod Nano and other Mp3 players. FREE. Spread the word - especially in the military/overseas. The company offer is designed that the more people that sign up, the more free prizes they give away. You can register at http://www.domeafavorbuddy.com

Posted by: actionman at October 20, 2005 12:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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