Thursday, February 8, 2007

More Middle East news

Gareth Porter has recently published a couple of new articles on the Iraq War and on what's looking more and more like the road to war with Iran. The two are fast merging, because a US attack on Iran would be an expansion of the current war. In The Blame Game American Prospect Online 02/02/07, he looks at some of the war propaganda now being cooked up by some of the same fine folks who gave us the WMDs in Iraq.

One claim that has gotten a lot of coverage is this one:

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, made the most spectacular claim of Iranian culpability in arming the militias so far when he declared in an interview with USA Today on Wednesday, “We have weapons that we know through serial numbers…that trace back to Iran.” He referred specifically to RPG-29s - armor-piercing rocket-propelled grenades - and truck-mounted Katyusha rockets captured in Iraq.
As Porter points out, there is a bit of a problem with that claim. More like a gaping hole, actually:

That statement represents a serious leap in logic, because the place in which a weapon was manufactured does not tell us who actually supplied them to Iraqi Shiites. (The United States, for example, has been supplying Iraqi forces with Russian-made RPG-7s.) But in making the claim, Odierno made a major stumble: Iran has never been known to manufacture the RPG-29, so the military could not have captured one with an Iranian serial number. The RPG-29 has always been a Russian-made weapon. The Iranian arms industry has focused on its own version of the Russian-made RPG-7 - an older and much simpler anti-armor weapon than the RPG-29 - and it has sought overseas markets for it. But there has never been any evidence of Iran designing and manufacturing any version of the RPG-29 - probably because it would be too difficult [for] Iranian arms factories to match the quality of the Russian export. (my emphasis)
Oops, they're doing it again! Unfortunately, the US went to war in Iraq on claims that were not better-founded than that one.

How Neocon Shiite Strategy Led to Sectarian War Inter Press Service 02/06/07, he explains one of many ways in which the crackpot neoconservatives made a thorough mess in Iraq. He writes:

The supreme irony of President George W. Bush's campaign to blame Iran for the sectarian civil war in Iraq, as well as attacks on U.S. forces, is that the Shiite militias who started to drive the Sunnis out of the Baghdad area in 2004 and thus precipitated the present sectarian crisis did so with the support of both Iran and the neoconservative U.S. war planners.

The U.S. policy decisions that led to the sectarian war can be traced back to the conviction of a group of right-wing zealots with close ties to Israel's Likud Party that overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq would not destabilise the region, because Iraqi Shiites would be allies of the United States and Israel against Iran.
It's worth repeating over and over that the strategy the US has pursued in the Iraq War has strengthened Iran by removing it's most threatening enemy, Iraq, and putting pro-Iranian Shi'a groups in Iraq. Porter cites an analysis by neocon David Wurmser who took a leap of faith from the fact that Iraqi Shi'a generally don't accept the exact same idea of clerical rule that is dominant among Iran's ruling group.

As Porter recounts:

But the political realities in Iraq were nothing like Wurmser and his allies imagined them. They had not counted on the Sunnis mounting an effective resistance instead of rolling over. Nor had they anticipated that Shiite clerics of Iraq would demand national elections and throw their support behind the militant Shiite parties, SCIRI and Dawa, which had returned from exile in Iran in the wake of the U.S. overthrow of Hussein.

SCIRI and Dawa were not what the hardliners had in mind when they thought about Shiite power in Iraq. Their paramilitary formations had been created, trained and nurtured by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and their views on international politics were not known to be distinguishable from those of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This is also a reminder that just plain dumb decisions often play a big role in politics. Intevening in Iraq in a way that would strenthen Iran, and now turning around and trying to blame Iran for the problems in Iraq, is a self-contradictory policy. In fact, Iran supported the American-sponsored elections in Iraq, and they also were supportive of the US intervention in Afghanistan. Saddam's regime was a secular Sunni regime and the Taliban government a fundamentalist Sunni regime, both hostile to Iran.

Iran wasn't cooperating in those things out of the goodness of their hearts. It was very much in their national (and Shi'a-sectarian) interest to do so.

Porter summarizes how the US has found ourselves supporting the Shi'a in Iraq in their sectarian civil war while possibly building up for a war with Shi'a Iran:

The war planners in the Bush administration had also decided that the militant Shiites would get their election in January 2005, which meant that a Shiite government would be formed later that year. With those decisions, the descent of Iraq into sectarian civil war became unavoidable.

Throughout 2004 and the first half of 2005, the Shiite militias took advantage of the supportive policy of the United States to consolidate their power in Baghdad and began terrorising Sunni communities. After the government formed under the Dawa Party's Ibrahim Jaffari, the Shiite Badr Brigade moved into the Ministry of Interior, which became a vehicle for state terror. Despite media coverage of Shiite death squads operating freely in the capital, the Bush administration refused to admit that there was any problem with Shiite militias.

Only in October 2005, after what must have been a fierce internal struggle in Washington, did the U.S. Embassy began to oppose the Shiite effort to force Sunnis out of the capital. By then it was far too late. The genie of sectarian civil war could not be put back in the bottle.
Cheney, Bush - y'all are doing a heckuva job in foreign policy!

No comments: