As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Yet Another Enemy In Iraq

So far in Iraq we've fought Saddam, the Fedayeen, the bitter-enders, the Mahdi Army, insurgents, Al Qaeda in Iraq, foreign fighters, and now we're apparently fighting Iran.

Last week's violence in Basra and Baghdad has convinced the Bush administration that actions by Iran, and not al-Qaeda, are the primary threat inside Iraq, and has sparked a broad reassessment of policy in the region, according to senior U.S. officials.

Evidence of an increase in Iranian weapons, training and direction for the Shiite militias that battled U.S. and Iraqi security forces in those two cities has fixed new U.S. attention on what Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday called Tehran's "malign" influence, the officials said.

The intensified focus on Iran coincides with diminished emphasis on al-Qaeda in Iraq as the leading justification for an ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq.

"Justification" being the operative word.

You know, if you're going to suddenly be fighting Iran in Iraq, you might want to tell the Iraqi government that we allegedly support, since, you know, Iran is their biggest backer and all.

In a week that we learned that General Petraeus made secret diplomatic trips to various Middle Eastern countries (hey, thanks for doing your job, Secretary of State Rice!), and in a time when we know that nobody has greater sway over all sides of the intra-Shiite conflict in Iraq than Iran, who brokered the cease-fire in Basra, shouldn't the real answer be a surge of regional diplomacy including Iran? I mean, isn't that obvious?

But we're not doing that, of course. We're using Iran as an impetus to stay in Iraq, and supporting the political rub-out of Sadrist forces by lumping them in with Iran, despite the error of that belief. And it really looks to be taking place because we want to stay in Iraq forever.

We oppose Sadr because Sadr opposes the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Indeed, at times he opposes it through violent means that lead to the death of our troops. But "killing people who oppose the U.S. military presence in Iraq" isn't a reasonable rationale for the U.S. military presence in Iraq. This is what's led Joe Klein to speculate that the anti-Sadr tilt is driven by our quest for permanent military bases. Sadr is an opponent of what we're doing in Iraq, but he doesn't have some larger conflict with the United States -- he's not plotting an invasion of Delaware, he's willing to sell oil on an open market, etc. -- and while his credentials as a liberal democrat are highly suspect, so are those of the people we work with in Iraq (and Saudi Arab, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, etc.) all the time. That's not to say we should partner-up with Sadr or wish him particularly well in his adventures, but it's just to reiterate the point that we could easily afford to adopt a posture of indifference to Iraq's internal political disputes and just go home.

The fact that we're speedily negotiating security agreements with the Iraqi government also leads you directly to this conclusion. The goal is permanent bases and a nice presence to move along the safe dispensation of oil to multinational corporations. That's why we've gone back to an "open-ended commitment" in the country, and would certainly have the same in a John McCain Presidency. As Eugene Robinson said in the aftermath of the Petraeus hearings, the nation's only recourse is at the ballot box. But that doesn't mean Senate Democrats shouldn't be vigilant, stopping this SOFA agreement and dissuading a late attack on Iran as the mission creep moves eastward.

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