Losing To Iran

Target IranThe Bush Administration is spiraling down into a major conflagration in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. To some extent, it is traveling on auto pilot. Left to its own momentum of inaction and massive overreaction, this Administration will almost certainly embark on a war with Iran.

It has been on this course for a long time.

Last Spring when Seymour Hersh first stirred up the pot, I wrote the following:

I recall quipping to a friend a few weeks ago that I thought the way out of Iraq for this Administration was through Iran. What I meant at the time was that since this Administration had haplessly shifted the center of gravity of Iraqi politics to Iran, without Iran having to fire a shot, that the only way to exit out of Iraq with "credibility" was to attack Iran. Iran then becomes a continuation of a larger war "on terror" and it can then not be said that Iraq was lost since it will only become an unfinished chapter in a larger war.

It is now becoming apparent that the way out of Iraq, for this Administration, is indeed through Iran.

The eternally confused cheerleader of the Iraq invasion, Kenneth Pollack, was quoted in the New York Times stating the obvious:

“The administration does have Iran on the brain, and I think they are exaggerating the amount of Iranian activities in Iraq,” Kenneth M. Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, said Sunday. “There’s a good chance that this is going to be counterproductive — that this is a way to get into a spiral with Iran that leads you into conflict. The likely response from the Iranians is that they are going to want to demonstrate to us that they are not going to be pushed around.”

Mr. Pollack is half right. The Administration does have Iran on the brain, but Iran is not likely to respond so easily to such provocations. I think the latter statement is a little bit of wishful thinking on Mr. Pollock’s part.

Last week, in a confusing and contradictory speech, Mr. Bush went squarely after Iran (and threw Turkey a much overlooked bone regarding the Kurds):

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge.

This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.

We will expand intelligence sharing, and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

Since then his loyal surrogates – Bob Gates, Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley and Dick Cheney – have spread out across the world beating the drums of war.

Mr. Cheney, emerging from his secure undisclosed location, found it easy to replace "q" with "n" in his doomsday messages:

“So the threat that Iran represents is growing,” he said, in words reminiscent of how he once built a case against Mr. Hussein. “It’s multidimensional, and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region.”

We can expect the bombs to start flying when the threat from Iran goes from "growing" to "grave and gathering".

This latest bravado is not only a signal by this Administration of defeat in Iraq; it is also a signal of defeat to Iran. The United States has been outmaneuvered by Iran, both in Iraq and on the nuclear issue. Having lost the war on the geo-political battlefield, the Bush Administration’s only option left is to lob missiles and drop bombs. The Bush Administration is out of its depth when it comes to foreign policy. Its only weapon, which it has so far failed to wield effectively, is the military option.

Mr. Bush’s plan to interdict Iranian agents inside Iraq is ill-conceived and naive. Iran’s power in Iraq does not come from supplying IEDs or other weapons to attack American troops. The Sunni Iraqi insurgents, those who make up the bulk of the force attacking American troops, are not supplied or supported by Iran. Most of Iran’s support structure in Iraq has been decades in the making. It is not limited to a few agents supplying arms to Shia militias. Iran has been, for decades, supporting Shia parties in Iraq. The most prominent of these are the SCIRI and the Dawa party – both of which hold the reigns of power in Iraq. They control many of the key ministries, including the Ministry of Interior. SCIRI’s Badr Brigade has become fully integrated into the Ministry of Interior and regularly carries out its death squad activities under official sanction. The SCIRI and the Dawa party were founded and trained by Iran in the 1980s. Most of the leaders of the two parties were exiled in Iran, if not Syria, for much of the last two decades – and a significant number of these leaders speak Persian as well as Arabic. When the SCIRI and Dawa party leaders speak of foreign interference in Iraq’s internal affairs, they are not talking about Iran, they are talking about the United States and the Sunni Arab countries.

Iran’s support does not end with the Shia. Iran has also been supporting elements within Iraqi Kurdistan since the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war. Iran’s roots in Iraq run deep and wide. It is fortified each year with millions of Iranian pilgrims who descend upon the Shia holy sites in Iraq. So, when Stephen Hadley asserts that the United States is resisting Iranian "hegemony" in the region, he is remarkably naive. Iran already has hegemony over much of Iraq, and the odds of the United States countering that hegemony are slim to none.

The irony is that when Mr. Bush talks about going after death squads in Iraq, he is talking about going after Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Iran would like nothing better. Although al-Sadr is Shia, he is also an Arab nationalist. He is against partitioning Iraq to form a southern homeland for the Shia. By going after al-Sadr, once again Mr. Bush would be doing Iran’s bidding. To add further to the mess of Mr. Bush’s policy, Mr. Bush’s latest best friend in Iraq is Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of SCIRI. al-Hakim also happens to be Tehran’s man in Iraq, and for an independent Shia homeland in the south. By eliminating al-Sadr’s influence and positioning SCIRI to take over the leadership in Iraq, Mr. Bush will have ensured Iranian dominance of Iraq.

The political outlook in Iraq does not look good for Mr. Bush. The die was cast on this course when the first American bombs started falling on Iraq in 2003. There is now only one option for Mr. Bush to avoid defeat in Iraq – and that is to attack Iran. Mr. Bush and his coterie of advisors certainly knows their machinations in Iraq will not effectively counter Iranian "hegemony". So, they are going through the motions and getting ready to go for the jugular.

Mr. Cheney warned yesterday about Iran:

They are in a position where site astride the Straits of Hormuz, where over 20% of the world’s supply of oil transits every single day, over 18 million barrels a day.

There is really one solution to Mr. Cheney’s geographic quandary. That solution is to wipe Iran off the map so they no longer sit "astride the Straits of Hormuz".

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3 Responses to Losing To Iran

  1. Navin R. Johnson says:

    Mash: “The SCIRI and the Dawa party were founded and trained by Iran in the 1980s.”

    Here’s more on Al-Dawa….

    Keywords: Al Dawa, Islamic Fundamentalism, Sharia, Iran and Iraq, terrorism, US Embassy attack

    The party in power (Al Dawa) in Iraq has a long history with Iran and with terrorism.

    1) Large Turnout Reported For 1st Iraqi Vote Since ’58 The Washington Post, June 21, 1980

    In another development today, Al Dawa, a clandestine Iraqi fundamentalist Moslem organization, claimed responsibility for yesterday’s grenade attack on the British Embassy here in which three gunmen reportedly were killed.

    An Al Dawa spokesman told Agence France-Presse by phone that the attack was a “punitive operation against a center of British and American plotters.”

    2) Iraq Keeps a Tight Rein on Shiites While Bidding to Win Their Loyalty The Washington Post, November 30, 1982

    Membership in Dawa, which means “the call,” is punishable by execution. Dawa guerrillas were known for hurling grenades into crowds during religious ceremonies, and attacks claimed by the party were frequent until the middle of 1980.

    3) U.S. HAS LIST OF BOMB SUSPECTS, LEBANESE SAYS Detroit Free Press, October 29, 1983

    The source said the drivers of the two bomb-laden trucks were blessed before their mission by Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, leader of the Iranian-backed Dawa Party, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim splinter group.


    Secretary of State George Shultz said Tuesday that there “quite likely” was a link between the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kuwait and attacks on American facilities in Lebanon. He warned of possible retaliation.


    The sources said the investigators matched the prints on the fingers with those on file with Kuwaiti authorities and
    tentatively identified the assailant as Raed Mukbil, an Iraqi automobile mechanic who lived in Kuwait and was a member of Hezb Al Dawa, a fundamentalist Iraqi Shiite Moslem group based in Iran.

    The Miami Herald, December 19, 1983

    Kuwait Sunday announced the arrests of 10 Shiite Moslems with ties to Iran in the terrorist bombings that killed four people and wounded 66 last week at the U.S. Embassy and other targets.


    Hussein said fingerprints from the driver who died in the blast at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait identified him as Raad Akeel al Badran, an Iraqi mechanic who lived in Kuwait and belonged to the Dawa party.

    6) 10 Pro-Iranian Shiites Held in Kuwait Bombings, The Washington Post December 19, 1983

    Kuwait announced yesterday the arrest of 10 Shiite Moslems with ties to Iran in terrorist bombings that killed four people and wounded 66 last Monday at the U.S. Embassy and other targets.

    “All 10 have admitted involvement in the incidents as well as participating in planning the blasts,” Abdul Aziz Hussein, minister of state for Cabinet affairs, told reporters after a Cabinet session, United Press International reported.

    Hussein said the seven Iraqis and three Lebanese were members of the Al Dawa party, a radical Iraqi Shiite Moslem group with close ties to Iran.

    7) Beirut Bombers Seen Front for Iranian-Supported Shiite Faction, The Washington Post, January 4, 1984

    The terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing of the U.S. Marine compound and the French military headquarters here may be a front for an exiled Iraqi Shiite opposition party based in Iran, in the view of a number of Arab and western diplomatic sources.

    Authorities in Kuwait say their questioning of suspects in the recent bombing there of the U.S. and French embassies indicates a clear link between Islamic Jihad, a shadowy group that says it carried out the Beirut attacks, and Al Dawa Islamiyah, the main source of resistance to the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

    Al Dawa (The Call) has been outlawed in Iraq, where it wants to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state to replace the secular Baath Socialist government of Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni Moslem.

    It draws its strength from the large Shiite population in southern Iraq. Thousands of its most militant members were expelled to Iran in 1980 before the outbreak of the Iranian-Iraqi war and joined Al Dawa there. But it also has a large following in Lebanon among Iraqi exiles and sympathetic Lebanese Shiites.

    While Al Dawa operates out of Tehran, it is not clear whether its activities abroad are under direct Iranian control or merely have Iran’s tacit acceptance.

    8) Baalbek Seen As Staging Area For Terrorism, The Washington Post, January 9, 1984

    Al Dawa, according to Arab and western sources, is believed to have had a role in the Oct. 23 suicide bomb attacks on the U.S. Marine and French military compounds in Beirut.

    9) Message From Iran Triggered Bombing Spree In Kuwait, The Washington Post, February 3, 1984

    Al Dawa, for example, is no household name in the United States.

    But it is a name important to this story.

    It leads us back to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the ruling figure in Iran; to Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the militant Lebanese Shiite leader who has been implicated–despite his denials–in the Marine and French bombings in Beirut; to Hussein Musawi, Fadlallah’s strong-arm lieutenant; to the Hakim brothers in Iran and their connections to the Middle East terrorism industry.

  2. Navin R. Johnson says:

    An `oldie’ but a goodie….

    Iraq: Bush’s Islamic Republic
    By Peter W. Galbraith
    NYRB, Volume 52, Number 13 · August 11, 2005

    When President Bush spoke to the nation on June 28, he did not mention Iran’s rising influence with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. He did not point out that the two leading parties in the Shiite coalition are pursuing an Islamic state in which the rights of women and religious minorities will be sharply curtailed, and that this kind of regime is already being put into place in parts of Iraq controlled by these parties.


    Instead, President Bush depicted the struggle in Iraq as a battle between the freedom-loving Iraqi people and terrorists. Without the sacrifices of the American servicemen and -women, and the largesse of the US taxpayer, the terrorists could win. As Bush put it, “The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11—if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi.”


    Real power in Shiite Iraq rests, however, with two religious parties: Abdel Aziz al-Hakim’s Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa (“Call,” in English) of Iraq’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. Of the two, SCIRI is the more pro-Iranian. Both parties have military wings, and SCIRI’s Badr Corps has grown significantly from the five thousand fighters that harassed Saddam’s regime from Iran in the decades before the war; it now works closely with Iraq’s Shiite interior minister, until recently the corps’ commander, to provide security and fight Sunni Arab insurgents.

    SCIRI and Dawa want Iraq to be an Islamic state. They propose to make Islam the principal source of law, which most immediately would affect the status of women. For Muslim women, religious law—rather than Iraq’s relatively progressive civil code—would govern personal status, including matters relating to marriage, divorce, property, and child custody. A Dawa draft for the Iraqi constitution would limit religious freedom for non-Muslims, and apparently deny such freedom altogether to peoples not “of the book,” such as the Yezidis (a significant minority in Kurdistan), Zoroastrians, and Bahais.

    This program is not just theoretical. Since Saddam’s fall, Shiite religious parties have had de facto control over Iraq’s southern cities. There Iranian-style religious police enforce a conservative Islamic code, including dress codes and bans on alcohol and other non-Islamic behavior. In most cases, the religious authorities govern—and legislate—without authority from Baghdad, and certainly without any reference to the freedoms incorporated in Iraq’s American-written interim constitution—the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL).

    Dawa and SCIRI are not just promoting an Iranian-style political system —they are also directly promoting Iran- ian interests. Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the SCIRI leader, has advocated paying Iran billions in reparations for damage done in the Iran–Iraq war, even as the Bush administration has been working to win forgiveness for Iraq’s Saddam-era debt. Iraq’s Shiite oil minister is promoting construction of an export pipeline for petroleum from Basra to the Iranian port city of Abadan, creating an economic and strategic link between the two historic adversaries that would have been unthinkable until now. Iraq’s Shiite government has acknowledged Iraq’s responsibility for starting the Iran–Iraq war, and apologized. It is an acknowledgment probably justified by the historical record, but one that has infuriated Iraq’s Sunni Arabs.

  3. Mash says:

    Navin, excellent citations. I’ve been beating this drum for a while now. I am surprised this is not a bigger issue in the MSM. I still find it incredible that Bush actually invited al-Hakim to the White House. Hakim’s Badr Brigade leader, Bayan Jabr, turned the Iraqi interior ministry into a state sanctioned death squad by 2005 – long before the bombing of the mosque in Samarra.

    You would think it would be news that we put terrorist organizations in power in Iraq.

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