The Shi’ites are killing one another all over Iraq, most notably in Basra. Jules Crittendon, as always, has a fine roundup of the (mis)coverage from the MSM, delivers all the right insults (I particularly enjoyed watching the back of his hand slap the unctious Tony Cordesman) and asks all the right questions. What kicked this off? Who’s fighting whom? Who’s gonna win? Is it good for us or bad for us?
The best way to understand these events is to take one little step back, and note that our people are being rocketed in Baghdad, and that the rockets are made and delivered by the mullahs. Likewise, the Mahdi Army groups in the south get lots of Iranian arms, money and other assistance, as do the terrorists now cornered in and around Mosul. Coalition forces have found large caches of weapons (RPGs, mortars, land mines, advanced IEDs) of recent Iranian manufacture all over Iraq in recent days, suggesting, to me at least, that Iran is throwing its dice in a desperate effort to reverse the strategic catastrophe in Iraq. In other words, the mullahs know they are losing. Their great dream of driving America out of Iraq, which seemed to be about be fulfilled just a year and a half ago, has now turned into the nightmare of humiliation and defeat for the Islamic Republic. And now–again as Jules stresses–the Maliki Government is attacking the remnants of the Mahdi Army in Basra, that same government the mullahs thought they had under control.
A lot of the coverage revolves around the colorful figure of Moqtada al Sadr, as if he were calling some of the shots in Baghdad and Basra, but those stories are anachronistic. Mookie is no longer a major player in these events. The mullahs gave up on him several months ago, split his “army” of thugs into many pieces, and command the warlords who lead them. So, while some of the killers in Basra are what we would call common criminals, the more or less organized Mahdi crowd are carrying out Tehran’s design.
Let’s take another step backward. At the outset of the war, Khamenei and his ilk fully expected to gain the support of most Iraqi Shi’ites, and to create little regional islamic republics, starting in Basra. They spent an enormous amount of money, buying local properties, opening stores and offices (I heard of one with a sign on the door: “Iranian Military Intelligence”), bribing local officials and businessmen. Today, on the most reliable accounts, most Iraqi Shi’ites (and Sunnis, for that matter) despise the Iranian regime, blame it for most of the violence, and are fighting Iranians and their proxies throughout the land. When Ahmadi-Nezhad came to Baghdad, the country’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Sistani, declined to meet him, even as thousands of Iraqis demonstrated in the streets against Iran. Sistani could probably have shut down the demonstrations…
Then there is the question of Maliki and his government, in which Iran has invested so many resources. As some clever person once said, you can’t really buy anyone in the Middle East, at best you can rent him for a while. Any Iraqi leader must take out insurance with Tehran, because the mullahs can kill a lot of people in Iraq. But al Qaeda is now on the verge of extinction there, and there is a bottom-up war against the militias from Sunni and Shi’ite alike. Democracy works its magic, even in the Middle East, and Maliki wants to keep his job. Right now, that requires him to fight the Iranian-sponsored militias. There must be a lot of teeth gnashing in Tehran these days, and lots of colorful curses aimed at Baghdad.
So Iran is hoping to make its pass, but the roll of the dice in Basra looks more like snake eyes coming up. Read the accounts by Nibras Kazimi, who, unlike the journalists in bureaux in Washington, New York and Baghdad, talks directly to many people on the ground, and, again unlike the MSM reporters, actually knows what Basra looks like. And please pay no account to Gareth Porter, accurately described by Jules as a water carrier for the mullahs.
If the Iraqi Government wins this, there will be consequences all around. First, it will curl the toes of the mullahs, because of all the possible outcomes in Iraq, the worst for them is a duly elected government that can fight effectively. Second, as Nibras says, it will greatly solidify Maliki’s position in Baghdad. Third, it will send a double message throughout the region: it isn’t easy to defeat America, and countries that work with America can defeat even the fiercest enemy.
Of course, the militias may win, or Maliki may be pressured to call off the assault before victory is achieved, or accidents may happen that produce an unhappy outcome. But for the moment, at least, things look promising. And it just shows you, once again, that we live in a fundamentally unpredictable world. Who would have expected this, even a few weeks ago?
UPDATE: Thanks to Free Republic for posting this.