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IRAQ: A war for power against Iran?


U.S. officials and analysts are increasingly casting the Iraq conflict as a part and parcel of a broader regional battle against Iran — a "proxy war" between U.S.-backed forces and those supported by Tehran.

Just as we predicted, Iran's influence in Iraq was a major theme woven throughout the Senate testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the two top American officials in Iraq.

Petraeus accused the Quds Force, an elite unite of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard, and Lebanese Hezbollah of training, arming, financing and directing Shiite militias he called "special groups," who've been blamed for rocket attacks on the U.S.-protected Green Zone:

Unchecked, the special groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.

Crocker coined a nifty new term, saying that Iran and Syria were pursuing a strategy of "Lebanization" of Iraq by using Shiites to undermine the government and the U.S.-led security forces, just as they used Hezbollah in Lebanon:

They're using that same partnership in Iraq, in my view, although the weights are reversed, with Iran having the greater weight and Syria the lesser. But they are working in tandem together against us and against a stable Iraqi state.

Some analysts agreed. Even Michael Ware, CNN's animated Baghdad bureau chief, said live on television during the hearings that "America's competition for influence with Iran" was the "main issue of this war."

But does this world view raise more questions than it answers? A Los Angeles Times editorial pointed out that the U.S. invasion itself emboldened Iran and Al Qaeda in Iraq, and that Crocker and Petraeus were arguing that the Americans should stay in Iraq because forces unleashed by the invasion itself and describes the predicament Washington has gotten itself into.

They cited the very problems that Bush created by his decision to invade Iraq — an Al Qaeda presence and enhanced Iranian influence — as requiring an indefinite U.S. military effort. And they seemed more, not less, worried about Iranian attempts to destabilize Iraq...

Of course, the editorial continued, Washington and Tehran have been at odds for nearly three decades:

What's new is the relative military, political and economic weakness of the U.S. after five years in Iraq — and the wealth and assertiveness of Iran. Why should the Iranians negotiate with the Great Satan when they can sit back and let their proxies bleed him white?

Even if the U.S. is engaged in a proxy war with Iran over Iraq, veteran foreign correspondent and columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post says simply keeping 140,000 troops in Mesopotamia might not be the solution.

Fighting a war against Iran is a bad idea. But fighting a proxy war against it in Iraq, where many of our key allies are manipulated by Iranian networks of influence, may be even worse. The best argument for keeping American troops in Iraq is that it increases our leverage against Iran; but paradoxically, that's also a good argument for reducing U.S. troops to a level that's politically and militarily sustainable. It could give America greater freedom to maneuver in the tests with Iran that are ahead.

There may be another problem with staying in Iraq to fight a proxy war: what if it's not totally accurate, or not the main cause of the instability in the country?

The U.S. isn't the first country to be caught in Mesopotamia's web. The British, too, found themselves in trouble in Iraq some 80 years ago; and they, too, blamed foreign meddling for their predicament.

Here's an excerpt from David Fromkin’s 1989 book "A Peace to End all Peace," about the British attempts to control a rebellious Iraq during a troubled British occupation:

The British were confused as to the origins of the revolt. [British Army Col.] Arnold Wilson submitted a list of thirteen contributing factors, stressing, above all, the involvement of [King] Feisal's supporters and Kemal [Ataturk's] Turkey, perhaps supported he claimed, by American Standard Oil interests. An intelligence officer attached to the India Office produced a chart outlining a conspiracy, implicating Feisal but, even more so, the Turks, who (he asserted) continued to take orders via Moscow and Switzerland from Berlin.

And check out this passage from the book, and try replacing the names at the end with today's cast of international U.S. rivals, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar Assaad, Hezbollah, Muqtada Sadr, Al Qaeda:

…there was strikingly large body of opinion that held that what had occurred was by outsiders, and that the disorders throughout the east were somehow linked with one another. Certain names continued to recur in the course of British speculations as to the origins of the disorders: Enver Pasha, Mustapha Kamal, Feisal, Pan-Islam, the Germans, Standard Oil, the Jews, and the Bolsheviks.

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Iraqi men work to extinguish a blaze caused by a US rocket attack in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City on April 8. Credit: Ahmad Al-Rubaye /AFP/Getty Images

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, the war in Iraq and the confrontation between the West and Islam. You can subscribe by registering at the website here, logging in here and clicking on the World: Mideast newsletter box here.

Comments () | Archives (9)

If we bomb Iran, Iran will shut down the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is only about 35 miles across its narrowest point & is on the Iranian coast. About 40% of the worlds exported oil flows through The Strait of Hormuz. The oil shortage will cause oil prices to double or triple causing hyperinflation. The dollar is already hitting record lows against Euro & Pounds partly fueled by war deficit spending. China has shielded the U.S. from the inflationary effects of deficit by accumulating 1.4 trillion in currency reserves mostly in U.S. dollars. They own 400 billion in U.S. treasury reserves alone. China already threatened a dollar sell off to counter pressure from the U.S. congress. Attacking Iran would threaten China’s oil deals with that country, likely prompting a Chinese dollar sell off. Japan has almost a trillion dollars in currency reserves, imported 80% of their oil from Persian Gulf in 2006. They will need to start dumping their dollars to replace their oil supply. Bombing Iran will cause hyperinflation, a dollar sell off, a run to gold & the Euro, debt collapse & finally a 1929 type depression.

Are you in fact arguing that we'd be better off having left Saddam Hussein's training camps for thousands of jihadists up and running?

Enough with Hillary's barking she will be "ready from day 1"... Her campaign wasn't ready from day one, so why would anyone think her administration would be!

I serve in the military on active duty, and will promptly resign if she is elected. Ask anyone in the service who has worked in D.C. in any of the military VIP support roles and you will likely hear a similar response.

Willie; don't worry so much...!!! Do you think Mr. Mccain will be alive to see the end game after the 100 years? It seems to me that Macain and his cronies don't want to resolve the war while he is alive. I wonder why he wants to occupy the white house, maybe he wants to buy himself a piece of heaven in the land of the two river, the Garden of Eden through his occupation of both White House and Iraq.

The recent hearing in the Senate, once again reinforced my long standing belief that Iraq War will continue to be a great burden on the average American tax payer. With close to three trillion in expenditures, and over three hundred thousand Americans in Iraq, we will not be able to win this war. Operation Iraqi Liberation, or OIL, was the true name for this War. We went there for oil, and look at the the oil rpices today! We, according to our President, went to liberate the people. Are the people of Iraq liberated? Think about daily bombing, killing, and air strikes. Is it moral? As an American, I think that ethical concerns are very important to us all. Did we start this war with the ethics in mind? And have we made more friends, or enemies in the Middle East? We got to end this war, and we need to get all the countries in the region involved. Iran certainly is a key player despite the fact that the national mainstrem media is trying to push Iran aside.
Smart diplomacy requires out of the box thinking, and not having the FOX News and alike drumming up the war propaganda and using fear factor to convince the Americans of the perceived enemies.

It looks like the stage is set. We're going to war with Iran before the end of this week.

I have been watching the Iraq hearings and news programs regarding our invovlement there.

In the most simplistic terms, the Generals and Republican Point of View we need to be there until it is safe to leave Iraq in safe and self sustaining democracy.
We have no exit strategy but it will take up to 100 years or no time table just evaluate as we go on.
They are proposing proping up a government and rehashing the domino theory again.

The problem with that is that we need credible inteligence and eliminate Al Quaidi from Iraq. We can't do this as projected. Nor can we do this at all in the strategy used now.

On the other hand the Democrats and more specifically Barack Obama are saying we need to get out as wisely as we can and not as recklessly as we got in.

I think Obama has a more realistic approach.
Al Quaidi was not in Iraq prior to our invasion and the pretext was used to eliminate weapons of mass destruction which were never found. We rushed to war with manipulated intelligence and the excuse for being there changes as per whim or justification for flip flops.
Bush said he did not believe in Nation building but that is now he says we need to do.
We need to fight Al Quaida but Al Quaida was not in Iraq before our involvement. Obama had it right when he said we took our eye off the ball.
In simple analysis I learned a s a child the way to kill a snake or octopus (for argument sake) is to attack the head, not the tail or tenacles.
Therein lies the layout for defeat. The more we build the more a resupplied insurgency is there to destroy. We are attacking the tail.

We need a minimal presence in Iraq to support efforts by Iraqi citizens the effort to rebuild their nation without Al Quaida interference. We keep enough troops to offset Al Quadi while we go after the head and cut the resupply there in Iraq by building up our effort in Afghanistan.

Obama says we should have dialogue with Iran.

At least he has read and understands the UN resolutiom drafted by the US. to resolve all issues with dialogue. Or even better, he came to the obvious conclusion independently.

Wait while scratch my head in despair.

"Warmonger" Mc, Cain hates war??? He said he will be in Iraq, 100 YEARS , how much more time would he be there if he did like war? Republicans don't like wars, were no richness on those countries are involve (Oil, Mines, Diamonds ,ETc) if a region is poor and miserable and there is dead and desolation, they don't care about it, at all!! AND THEY PROCLAIM THEY ARE THE PARADIGM OF CHRISTIANITY!!! ( THE CONSIDER THEMSELVES THE BEST CHRISTIANS IN THIS WORLD. Christians should preserve life at any cost, And REPUBLICANS, are producing, KILLING FIELDS, all around the world, is that the only motive they do not want ABORTIONS they oNLY WANT TO PRESERVE LIFE!! TO HAVE A LOT OF A NEW GENERATIONS TO SEND TO THE KILLING FIELS!!


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