5 years, 9 months ago
The Captain stumbled across an analysis today that precisely mirrors his own concern, entitled US/Iraq: Tangled Web of Allegiances Leads Back to Tehran.
If politics makes strange bedfellows, then the relationship between Iran, the United States and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is the strangest ménage à trois in international relations today.
Violent Shia-on-Shia hostilities officially came to an end this week when a formal ceasefire was declared between government forces of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, but sporadic fighting still continues. And questions remain about the role that the U.S. is playing.
In testimony before Congress a month ago, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and the U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker characterised the conflict in Iraq as a “proxy war” to stem Iranian influence.
Declarations by both the U.S. and al-Maliki’s government about Iranian sponsorship of Sadrist activities are often used to paint Iran as a destabilising force in Iraq — the meddling neighbour encouraging unrest to boost its own influence. U.S.-backed Iraqi government excursions against Sadr are defended by citing unsubstantiated evidence of Iranian agents’ influence.
But this perspective has yet to be explained in terms of one of Iran’s closest allies in Iraq, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), who, as part of al-Maliki’s ruling coalition, also happen to be one of the U.S.’s closest partners.
The U.S. military says that it killed three militants in Baghdad’s Shia Sadr City slum on Sunday, alleging that the targets were splinter groups of the Mahdi Army who had spun out of Sadr’s control and were receiving training and weapons from Iran.
Last week, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it was clear that Tehran was supporting “militias that are operating outside the rule of law in Iraq”. Many fear that the rhetoric is part of an effort to ratchet up tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
But the constant barrage of criticism lobbed at Iran and the so-called “special groups” of Sadrists still fighting against the government and U.S. forces tends to overlook the fact that the coalition of parties ruling Iraq are largely indebted to Iran for their very existence and continue to be closely connected with the Islamic Republic.
There seems to be no solid explanation about the double standard of U.S. denunciation of Iranian influence and U.S. support and aid to one of the strongest benefactors and allies of that influence — the government coalition of al-Maliki.
“I’m not confident we know what the hell we’re doing when we’re making these actions,” Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Centre for American Progress, a Washington think tank, told IPS.
The two strongest parties in al-Maliki’s coalition, his own Dawa Party and ISCI, have both been based out of Iran and are both Shia religious parties …
ISCI and Iran, for example, support a Shia super-region in the south as part of a loosely federated Iraqi state. The homogenous super-region would likely facilitate Iranian influence. Both Sadr and the U.S. oppose the idea in favour of a strong central government.
The Captain says that the folks with the Multinational Force are far too smart not to have figured this out by now. It all comes down to a lack of political will. While spot on concerning the other allegiances (with Dawa and ISCI), the analysis above is far too complimentary of Sadr and his militia, and his criminal elements must be taken down. Ralph Peters agrees (or more correctly, the Captain agrees with Ralph Peters), in his commentary on Hezbollah.
Hezbollah, our mortal enemy, must be destroyed. But we – Israel, the United States, Europe – lack the will. And will is one thing Hezbollah and its backers in Iran and Syria don’t lack: They’ll kill anyone and destroy anything to win.
We won’t. We still think we can talk our way out of a hit job. Not only are we reluctant to kill those bent on killing us – we don’t even want to offend them.
Hezbollah’s shocking defeat of Israel in 2006 (when will Western leaders learn that you can’t measure out war in teaspoons?) highlighted the key military question of our time: How can humane, law-abiding states defeat merciless postnational organizations that obey only the “laws” of bloodthirsty gods?
The answer, as Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us, is that you have to gut the organization and kill the hardcore cadres. (Exactly how many al Qaeda members have we converted to secular humanism?).
Entranced by the military vogue of the season, we don’t even get our terminology right. Defeating Hezbollah has nothing to do with counterinsurgency warfare – the situation’s gone far beyond that. We’re facing a new form of “non-state state” built around a fanatical killing machine that rejects all of our constraints.
No one is going to win Hezbollah’s hearts and minds. Its fighters and their families have already shifted into full-speed fanaticism, and there’s no reverse gear. Hezbollah has to be destroyed.
As the more timid among us gasp for air and cry out “get thee to thy fainting couch!” the contrast between the Anbar campaign – about which the Captain should know just a little – and the balance of Operation Iraqi Freedom comes fully into the light once again. No quarter was given to recalcitrant fighters by the U.S. Marines, whether al Qaeda, Ansar al Sunna, or indigenous Sunnis. Al Qaeda was killed or captured, and the indigenous Sunnis were killed or battered to the point of exhaustion and surrender. Not coincidentally, they (they Sunnis who live in Anbar) are now our friends. This is the way it works.
Badr was co-opted into the ISF without so much as evidence that their loyalties lied with Iraq (and while they still received pension paychecks from Iran), and the Multinational Force has played patty cake with the Sadrists since 2003. Whether Hezbollah in Lebanon or ISCI or JAM in Iraq, they are all manifestations of the long arm of the Iranian regime. Ralph’s declarations that Hezbollah must be destroyed – and the Captain’s declarations that Iranian influence must be rooted out of Iraq – will probably go unheeded. It all comes down to a lack of political will. And upon this, in our estimation, rests the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.