Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Coming War with Iran (in Iraq)

The clash between U.S. forces and Shia militias in Baghdad overnight is one of several skirmishes in recent days that probably mark the beginning of a widening confrontation between Coalition forces and Iranian backed militias. The worst so far have actually been in Basra, and the British press has covered them extensively. As The London Sunday Times wrote this morning, British troops "find themselves caught between insurgents bent on mayhem and local militias desperate to grab power." The coming vote on the constitution next month and national elections due in December have heightened the violence not only among those who oppose the process (largely Sunni Arabs), but among those participating in it who want to control it (various Shia factions).

The Times' narrative of how two British SAS men were captured, then freed last week, and what followed, is a riveting read that goes well beyond the paper's front-page report that the SAS men were involved in a secret war against Iranian agents:

Focus: Playing with fire
British troops are famed for winning hearts and minds but last week Basra erupted. Ali Rifat, Michael Smith and Richard Woods on an SAS mission that went horribly wrong

I was struck by this especially graphic passage:

'Not far away [in a stinking Basra hospital] lay another young victim, 13-year-old Raed Kareem, who was also in the vicinity when Iraqi demonstrators clashed with British troops trying to rescue the SAS men.
A bullet, which he blames on the British, hit him in the stomach, ripping through his liver and bowel.
“I was never politically motivated nor belonged to any of the militias or parties,” said Kareem. “But now I pray to Allah to cure me in order for me to take revenge on those detesters of everything Arab and Muslim.”
Money or compensation from the British are not what he wants. “I just want them to leave my country,” he said.'

And I found this analysis as succinct as it is indisputable:

'Gareth Stansfield, an expert in Middle East politics at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and Exeter University, believes the Iranians are already the real winners from the Iraq war.
“Iraq has been delivered to Iran on a plate by the coalition,” he said. “It sits there as a powerful neighbour, with very complex and strong links in the south . . . and politically with the Kurds in the north.
“I would go so far as to say that the pre-eminent foreign force in Iraq is not the US, it is Iran. It has succeeded in its geopolitical aim — Iraq will never threaten them again — and it has tied up the US in a swamp of insurgencies.”'


We've been warning in Newsweek since 2002 that Iraq is much more friendly turf for Iran than it is for the United States, and if we occupied Iraq, we'd pay the price. We also warned in 2002 that the country could well come apart, pulling its neighbors into a regional war. A particularaly apocalyptic piece for Newsweek International called "Storm Clouds" (issue date Sept. 16, 2002, but no live link on the Web that I can find) began:

'When western diplomats in the Middle East talk among themselves, many compare the present moment to August 1914. Then, Europe was stumbling toward a cataclysm. So reckless was the rhetoric that a single terrorist act, an assassination in Sarajevo, would unleash the first world war. "There is a moment," says a U.S. State Department veteran, "when people are going about their daily lives, thinking things are bad but they'll get by. And then, from the morning to the afternoon, everything has changed and nothing will ever be the same." Ten years from now, the summer of 2002 may well be remembered as just such a moment for the Muslim world. Here's how the story will read:

The U.S. war on Iraq was short. The dictator Saddam Hussein fell more quickly than expected. The aftermath was far worse. After the United States pulled out, Iraq quickly splintered along ethnic and religious lines: Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south, a Sunni majority in between. Saudi Arabia followed, as the oil-rich east and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the west broke away from the reign of Riyadh in the center. The fall of the House of Saud was disastrous, ending decades of quiet partnership between Riyadh and Washington that had assured the world of a steady flow of affordable oil. The Middle East went topsy-turvy. Pro-American regimes were left at odds with their people, undermined by radicals preaching a new Pan-Islamic nationalism. By 2010 Al Qaeda was a name out of ancient history, but the new radical groups operating out of Africa, Europe and even the United States had U.S. policymakers nostalgic for Osama bin Laden...."

So much for prophecy. - CD
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