Klein on Basra

Joe Klein, one of the few commentators in the US press who actually follows Iraq, with some helpful commentary on the current fighting in Basra (southern port city, 2nd largest in Iraq):

And now, the question: How will the U.S. media portray this? As the Iraqi Army cleaning up a renegade militia in Basra? Probably. But the Iraqi Army in Basra is mostly composed of another renegade militia–the Badr Corps, an organization founded by Iran and answerable to ISCI–the Shi’ite faction led by the Hakim family, Sadr’s great rival. There are no heroes here. The Sadr movement is populist, nationalist, anti-Iranian, in favor of a strong central government…but it’s also anti-American and oriented toward a stricter Islamic state than the current Maliki government is. The Hakim family’s movement is both pro-American and pro-Iranian. It is federalist, rather than nationalist, in favor of a weak central government with a strong Shi’istan in the south (which would be heavily influenced by Iran)…

We’ll see how this turns out…but wasn’t it just yesterday that Fred Kagan was saying, at the American Enterprise Institute, that the Iraqi civil war was over? And didn’t John McCain just say that he didn’t care what anybody thought, we were “succeeding” in Iraq? Unfortunately, Iraq is a majority Shi’ite country–and the two major Shi’ite factions seem poised to tear each other apart.

Well he’s no doubt right on the press prediction and the lunacy from Bros. Kagan and McCain. 

Unless of course Kagan meant the Sunni-Shia civil war was over.  Which might sound half-logical until you realize that car bombs are still going off in Shia neighborhoods (which is a Sunni form of attack), the Sunni are still fighting other Sunni, now Shia on Shia, and Sunni on Shia (and vice versa) will promptly begin once again after the US begins a drawdown.  Maybe when that occurs the Mahdi Army and the Badrs will re-join to fight the common enemy. 

Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 4:52 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Iraq will never be stable and secure until the regime in Iran is destroyed.

  2. vince,

    well…that’s certainly one point of view.

    Iran is a major (the major) reconstruction force in the South of Iraq and has so far not messed with the Kurds.

    If the US had let the Iranians help them in the initial phases of Iraq (a la Afghanistan) they would be playing a more constructive role (by the US standards) then they currently are.

    If the US would have taken the deal the Reformers floated in 2003, we would have normalized relations by now.

    The Iranians told the US let us get some glory in the overthrow of Saddam or will we leave you holding the bag and may take some shots at you. So you can disagree with that policy, but the US was clearly warned.

    Also the nation of Iraq exists only on paper. What was a unified country is currently a series of city-states controlled by different warlords (see Basra).

    The key issue is not Iran but a country made up of groups who will not be together except under a tyrant.

    And now that the US has destroyed the Iraqi state completely (2 wars plus sanctions), and this enormous void has been created and power has shifted to the local level, Iran certainly is involved and has come to filll in the gap–they have more soft power than the US could ever dream of in Iraq.

    If the President of Iran can weeks ahead pronounce he is coming to Iraq, and walk freely in the streets, whereas the US president has to make surprise trips under armed guards in the Green Zone, it is clear who has won the hearts and minds.

    Even if the current regime in Iran is overthrown, the Iranians are a regional power and will not let a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad be overthrown or be replaced with an anti-Iranian one.

    Nothing the US can do will stop that no matter who is running the show in Tehran because it is in their national interest to do so–and in the Shia Iraqis interest to work with them. No other calculations matter.


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