Nir Rosen on ME-Iraq-Iran

There is no better journalist in the English-speaking media world (and hasn’t been since 2003) on these issues than Nir Rosen.  No one who knows the region better, interacts with the people (as opposed to hand picked “experts” from the region vetted by the governments) and knows what is going on than this guy.

If you read and think deeply about this long post, it would be like scales falling from your eyes. Kudos to Steve Clemons who has Rosen on board to post regularly at The Washington Note.

There is a rant/digression towards the end on Palestine-Israel that is not his best stuff.  But the majority focuses on Iran and Iraq.

There is so much in this post, so I can only highlight a few central elements.

On the Iraq gov’t and the recent fighting in Basra (and a nice shot on ideologue Fred Kagan):

Why anybody even hires or publishes Kagan on the Middle East is a mystery, but there is nothing legitimate in the government of Iraq, it provides none of the services we would associate with a government, not even the pretense of a monopoly on violence, it was established under an illegitimate foreign military occupation and it is entirely unrepresentative of the majority of Sunnis and Shiites who are opposed to the American occupation and despise the Iraqi government.     (my emphasis)

Moreover the dominant parties in the government and in those units of the security forces that battled their political rivals in Basra and elsewhere are the ones closest to Iran. The leadership of the Iraqi government regularly consults Iranian officials and is closer to Iran than any other element in Iraq today. Moreover, the Americans have always blamed their failures in Iraq on outsiders, Baathists, al Qaeda, Iranians, because they refuse to admit that the Iraqi people don’t want them. So Iran is a convenient scapegoat to explain the strength of the Sadrists, a strength actually resulting from the fact that they are a genuinely popular mass movement. Blaming Iran also lets the Americans maintain the illusion that the Mahdi Army’s ceasefire is still in effect.

Then this–bullseye:

There is no proxy war in Iraq, because the US and Iran share the same proxy and the US installed that proxy and empowered it. Today, to the extent that we can talk about an Iraqi “state,” it is dominated by the Supreme Council and its Badr militia.

Yet again the two dominant partners in the Iraqi government are the Kurdish parties and the Dawa/Supreme Council.  All of those groups want autonomous zones, the Kurds in the north, the Shia in the South and are both pro-American and pro-Iranian.  And yet the US is trying to portray Iran as the new al-Qaeda in Iraq.  Never mind the old al-Qaeda in Iraq was never as big of a threat.  The issue has always been American occupation of the country and the fight between the Shia and Sunni.

The Badr Corps, as Rosen mentions, was a wing of The Iranians that fought on the side of Iran in the Iran-Iraq War.  When even the Shia in the South were fighting and dying in huge numbers for Iraq against Iran.  You think a group that fought against your country in the bloody decades long war many lived through are going to be considered legitimate–either by the mass of Shia Iraqi Arabs who are not particularly keen on Iranian imperialism nor the Sunni.

Why is it these American conservatives who are always preaching against the inefficiency of the top-down command and control state have backed the attempted creation of one in Iraq?  Why assume great state power omniscience on the part of Iran–say with the selling of weapons–and not recall their conservative wisdom of those who are closer to the scene of the action know better their own lives and that the gun market is in fact the only free market in the region one could argue–and is doing business to be sure.

The conclusion:

Most of those who fight the Americans in Iraq do so not at the bidding of a foreign power but out of genuine and sincere opposition to the American occupation. The Americans never grasped this and always assumed it was about the money, or al Qaeda, and now part of a silly Iranian conspiracy. After at first siding with Iraq’s Shiites much to the consternation of America’s so called “moderate” Sunni allies, the Americans are now targeting Shiites and perhaps even Shiite Iran as Bush prepares for once last war on his path to the “New Middle East.” But without the help of an acquiescent media supplicating to Bush administration and US military officials they might not be able to go to war once again.

Secretary of State Rice’s claim that the US seeks to protect Iraq, a country it has destroyed and whose civilians it continues to kill in Sadr City and elsewhere is laughable, but more dangerously, Rice added fuel to the already combustible sectarian divide in the region, informing Iraq’s neighbors that “what they need to do is confirm and work for Iraq’s Arab identity.”

As Rosen goes onto show “Arab” has come to mean Sunni–since the Sunni have throughout the Arab countries have never accepted Shia Arabs are real Arabs:  with the Shia in Lebanon, the Iraqi Shia Arabs particularly the Marsh Arabs of the South, nor in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia.  You name it.  So for the Sec of State to say we need Arab-identity is to say we need Sunni identity.  At this point it matters not whether she knows this and is simply a pure propagandist or she is just that ignorant.

The American policy has never been to accept that the insurgencies would be home grown and people don’t want to be occupied.  So they turned the Sunni insurgency, most of it, to their side against a common foe:  the Shia.  Now they want to take on the Mahdi Army because it is opposed to the US presence and won’t get the same deal as the Awakening Crowd–because they are, in the eyes of the US military, the Shia version of al-Qaeda.  The US has already made its “awakening-like” deal with the Badr Corps against the al-Qaeda like Mahdi Army.

But of course this analogy is the complete reversal of the actual situation.  Al-Qaeda in Iraq (or rather Salafi jihadists in Iraq whether homegrown of foreign) were never popular because their ideology is so intense and so premodern/regression/mythic in its outlook.  The Mahdi Army is in fact the power on the ground, the most popularly legitimate government in the country.  It is rather the Badr Corps as Iranian-puppets who are the al-Qaeda like parallel in this example (in terms of lack of legitimacy on the ground).  And yes somehow then Iran is the evil in the country when we are in fact supporting their main agent in the country.  Explain the logic of that to me again?

And if only the US media would make those simple points instead of having to have this manufactured–here is what the right says, here is the what the left says, let’s have one commentator from each side come on and act as if there is an actual debate here rather than simply a propaganda-military/administration mouthpiece under the guise of an “expert” at a think tank (so-called).  Fred Kagan, mastermind of the surge, did his studies on Russia.  Russia.

Update I:  And as a last note, a point Rosen doesn’t mention is that the reason the groups he cites that have legitimacy on the ground (Hezbollah, Sadrism) is grounded in the Islamic tradition of the ummah (the community) and zakat (one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the giving of money & time to the poor).  This point used to be one we said was a conservative insight–that culture trumps outside managerial experts–but US conservatives and their imperial misadventures are not limited government conservative types.  They are Wilsonian idealists turned Republicans.  Or I suppose, to quote Jonah Goldberg, liberal fascists.


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