The first thing I do when I read
New evidence is emerging on the ground of an Iranian hand in growing violence within Iraq.
is check the byline. Is this a Judy Miller/Michael Gordon type, or is it someone whose reporting is at least based on fact? Seeing the names Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, I continue.
Seems someone’s pissed off as re: the 263 people recently killed in Najaf by a combination of US and Iraqi forces. The dead were from the Hawatim tribe, which opposes both the main Shia parties, SCIRI and Dawa. SCIRI and Dawa not only have control of most of the government of Iraq; they also have what you might cordial relationships with Iran.
All of which is not surprising in a civil-war situation. What makes this incident stand out is that it appears to be a clear instance of Iran playing chess with the US in Iraq. Since the US is playing poker, or perhaps football, rather than chess, it’s losing.
Apparently a confrontation between leaders of the Hawatim tribe and government troops led to the shooting of the tribe’s chief, at which point the rest of the tribe attacked the troops. The desperate troops called in American air support, and the result is being called a massacre.
The Iraqi government claims that the Hawatim are a “messianic cult”. It’s not clear what the Iraqi troops told the Americans when they called for help, but it’s locally believed that the attackers were identified to the Americans either as a messianic cult or as terrorists.
The predictable and predicted event of Iraqi troops using American air support to advance their own civil-war aims is bad enough. I consider that more of a blow to the prestige of the United States than most of the other incompetence this war has seen. Transparent manipulation looks bad on the resumé.
What’s worse is the dawning realization that Iran has manipulated the event to put US air power at the disposal of its trusted colleagues in the Iraqi government.
It’s hard to decide which is worse: to get caught in an obvious quagmire, or to be fooled in such a straightforward way. George W. Bush’s United States is seen to be a paper tiger as a military force, and clueless with regard to Great-Game strategy.
Everyone’s worried about the possibility of the US attacking Iran. It’s good to worry enough to contact your Congressfolks, and do what you can to make your voice heard. (You’ve bookmarked Congressional contact pages, right?)
It still looks to me like our best hope for preventing the war is the military’s recognition that it’s another impossible mission. The Joint Chiefs are said to have already forced the Cheney administration to take nuclear strikes off the list of options for disabling Iran’s nuclear program. If we can’t use nukes, a viable strike against Iran is hard to imagine. The chance of successfully hitting 400 sites, many of them serious underground bunkers, is minimal. Hitting a few of the sites wouldn’t help enough to justify the results. Invasion by ground forces is a physical impossibility: we have no ground force available. Thus the Decider can decide that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, and say so as often as he wants. What he can’t do is make it so.