Apparently the alternative to the Baker commission/TYR solution in Iraq – get the fuck out under a negotiated settlement with Iran – that the White House is floating is a “tilt to the Shia and Kurdish 80 per cent. I find it a little hard to work out how we are meant to tilt to them any more-after all, I’ve been saying since 2003 that our presence in Iraq is dependent on the continuance of a Shia-Kurdish alliance, and the Shia have the government of Iraq that is held up by British and American bayonets.
But anyway. In pursuit of this, apparently, urgent talks are underway with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI, presumably with a view to throwing the Dawa guys like Maliki and Jaafari overboard. The obvious flaw in this strategy should be, well, obvious. SCIRI is the closest Iraqi actor to Iran. If you want Iranian and Shia power extended, this is just the right way to go about it. I suppose there is an argument that it’s better to talk directly to SCIRI, who are strong, than to talk to Dawa and the Allawi fan club and through them to SCIRI, but the benefits are marginal at best.
Mark Kleiman, and many others, point out that the implication of tilting even further to the Shia is essentially that we are going to take sides in the religious war, which they argue will mean genocide. I’m not so sure. NOIA looks like it can look after itself, and it is being repeatedly made clear that it will have official Saudi support. But there is another concern, even before we get to the mind-buggering prospect of getting the Magic Kingdom involved.
If we align explicitly with the (pro-Iranian) SCIRI in its war with the NOIA, what happens with the Sadrists, who are at least as strong as SCIRI? Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement frequently denounces SCIRI as an Iranian Trojan horse, little better than the Americans, although they have until recently cooperated in government after a fashion. The Sadrists are nationalistic and violently opposed to a) occupation and b) Iran, and they have on occasion cooperated with NOIA in the past. If we tilt the table towards Tehran, we risk bringing the whole thing crashing down on us as the Mehdi Army is called out along the MSRs to help the “besieged Iraqi resistance” fight the “Iranian invaders, American occupiers and their collaborator scum in Baghdad”.
Indeed, if we really must continue to behave as if there was any hope of a non-terrible outcome, we would be much better off tilting towards Moqtada al-Sadr. What his price would be I dare not speculate, but it would certainly involve getting troops off the streets in short order, and an accommodation with NOIA in its stronghold regions. (You say that like it’s a bad thing.) This post of Phil Carter’s on the Sadr movement’s civil-operations activities would argue strongly for it. David Hackworth would have said he’s the G who’s out-G’ing the other G’s. (Phil’s ten lessons from Iraq are highly recommended as well.)
And finally, can we please, please, please not do anything that is likely to get the Saudis involved? They do have some things that could greatly strengthen the NOIA, specifically an endless supply of cash and an equally endless supply of deranged takfiri killers who they are desperate to see explode, well, somewhere else. They also have no shortage of arms. This was, of course, their 1980s strategy of shipping jihadis to other wars so as to prevent revolution at home – call it the Anywhere but Abqaiq Approach. Unfortunately, they were left with an underutilised maniac industry after the Afghan campaign, and rather lost control. Doing it again is likely to have similar consequences, but much closer to home.
After all, as Michael Ledeen puts it in this criminally irresponsible tirade, They know their people hate them, and they know that revolution could erupt if we supported it. He’s talking Iran and Syria. Perhaps. But somehow three little words show up nowhere – “Saudi”, “Arabia”, and “oil.” Listen to this, too. Once we do, we will find that we’ve got many political and economic weapons, most of them inside our enemies’ lands. Indeed, habibi, we call them debt, energy inefficiency and the exhaustion of the US Army’s infantry. If they are fools enough to…where was I? What, this isn’t the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps speaking?
Ledeen is intellectually dishonest, ignorant, mercenary, mendacious and more. But I ask of you – surely he knows that there are 2 US Navy carriers capable of operations, that practically all US Army and Marine manpower is committed to Iraq? So what is this madness, from an objective point of view? We know his old chum Manuchar Ghorbanifar is almost certainly an Iranian intelligence asset, and his mate Chalabi told them their ciphers were insecure. Has he never wondered if he’s being exploited?