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March 09, 2007

Iran's Meddling

Tony Karon wonders if we're going to go to war with Iran. Increasingly, I think not, if only because the administration doesn't have near the political capital to support such a venture. When Iraq was being debate, the fault line where support turned to opposition came part way through the Democratic coalition, the Republicans were united. Now, it's the opposite, with all Democrats and many Republicans against war with Iran. Congress right now is too full of presidential hopefuls and scared incumbents to allow an executive with approval ratings in the high-20 and low-30s to lead them into a disastrously unpopular conflict. So I'm becoming somewhat more sanguine on the unlikelihood of an attack.

That said, continued belligerence, radicalization, and even provocation as the administration tries to provoke Iran into something that looks like a war with us is entirely possible. And in thinking about that, Karon makes an important point:

[T]he idea that Iran is “meddling” in Iraq. What exactly is the U.S. doing there? Iran has far more legitimate interest in shaping the politics of its neighbor, whose last Sunni regime initiated a war that killed more than a million Iranians. Not only that, the overwhelming majority of Iraq’s democratically elected political leaders (both Shiites and Kurds) are on close terms with Iran and welcome its involvement in rebuilding their country. And the Iraqi government has not echoed the U.S. accusation about Iranian activity[...]

The distortion is clear in the language of this report from CNN on changes being considered in the Iraqi intelligence structure: Under the headline “Pro-Iran Agency May Take Over Iraq’s Intelligence,” it notes that the current Iraqi intelligence structure was created entirely by the U.S. and that the Iraqi government wants to bring it under its own authority. “But now, the future of the U.S.-controlled agency appears to be in jeopardy. A document from Iraq’s National Security Council lays out a blueprint for Iraq’s new intelligence community. Under that plan, all intelligence gathering would be consolidated under Iraq’s Iranian-friendly central government.” So, the democratically elected government of Iraq wants to exercise its sovereignty by putting its own intelligence service under its control (rather than that of a foreign power, i.e. the U.S.), and this is portrayed as some sort of Iranian power grab!

It is true, according to sources I've spoken to, that the last few months saw an uptick in Iranian involvement in the region. But the uptick wasn't against, or even about, us. It coincided with the accelerating deterioration of a state that is right on Iran's border. In the end, we can leave Iraq, and absent a very long plane ride or an even longer boat trip, they're not coming over here. Iran can't leave. And so the idea that they're going to stay uninvolved, or that their interference represents some sort of casus belli, is war mongering through illogic.

March 9, 2007 in Iran | Permalink

Comments

It's always valuable of you to point out that other countries have valid foreign policy concerns and methods.

However, I'm less sanguine than you on the prospects of staying out of war. Remember in earlier 2002, all Democrats and many Republicans were against war with Iraq too. The mere constant drumbeat of the presence of an enemy the public wouldn't otherwise think about increases political pressure to engage them violently. And then you get into verbal machinations like "support the troops".

Anyway, if the administration wanted to start a war with Iran, it doesn't seem that hard. Ratchet up complaints about Iran in Iraq, provoke them enough they respond, and then start with an initial air strike, swearing blind to the public that all military experts say an air and navy strike will be enough to accomplish whatever the goal is. When it's obviously not, and Iran responds appropriately, then the ground troops come in.

Posted by: Tony V | Mar 9, 2007 3:25:22 PM

Plus Iran supports the government of Iraq, which we also nominally support. I honestly think that Feith and the boys didn't realize that that Shia dominated government of Iraq was going to be tight with Iran. There was all this talk about Iraq's being able to defend itself. In any case, the US is happy to pretend not to noice Saudi Arabia's meddling--funding of Sunni insurgents. It seems increasingly clear that the Bush and team can abide the civil war, what they can't abide is one side winning. A Shia victory would mean a monstrously powerful Iran whereas a Sunni victory would mean a safe haven for AQ type radicals, so they're gonna foster a stalemate till someone comes up with a better idea--like bombing Iran. What amuses me is that the press still buys Bush's crap about fostering democracy--this is all geopolitics at this point; course it always was.

Posted by: david mizner | Mar 9, 2007 4:22:49 PM

the administration tries to provoke Iran into something that looks like a war with us

If we wanted to provoke a war it wouldn't be that hard.

then the ground troops come in.

From where, and to do what? We can't even manage Iraq. This is crazy talk.

Bush's crap about fostering democracy--this is all geopolitics at this point; course it always was

You speak as though there's some conflict there.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 9, 2007 4:34:31 PM

Now, it's the opposite, with all Democrats and many Republicans against war with Iran. Congress right now is too full of presidential hopefuls and scared incumbents to allow an executive with approval ratings in the high-20 and low-30s to lead them into a disastrously unpopular conflict.

On the contrary: the three Democratic Presidential hopefuls have all made noises about the need to get aggressive with Iran. They try getting some political points out of attacking Bush, but are pro-war themselves.

Posted by: Alon Levy | Mar 9, 2007 5:36:57 PM

Bush's crap about fostering democracy--this is all geopolitics at this point; course it always was

You speak as though there's some conflict there.

There's quite the conflict, don't you think? I don't think it's exactly that "Feith and the boys didn't realize that that Shia dominated government of Iraq was going to be tight with Iran." I think it's that they didn't really anticipate an Iraqi government that was actually representative of the people Iraq.

What most people seem to paper over is that to the extent that democracy has been established Iraq, it's been despite the wishes of the Bush administration. The Iraqis basically demanded elections while the administration fought them on it every step of the way. Of course, when they finally had to give in, they acted like it was their idea all along - and the idiots in Congress showed up at the State of the Union with purple fingers.

A real democracy in Iraq was always in direct conflict with the administration's geopolitical goals. I guarantee that the invasion of Iraq was not intended to provide a big regional ally for Iran.

Posted by: Jason | Mar 9, 2007 7:10:03 PM

"The Iraqis basically demanded elections"

Such a freedom loving people. Didn't they already had elections and Saddam won with 99.998% of the vote?

Posted by: mik | Mar 9, 2007 7:16:58 PM

Klein wrote:
"continued belligerence, radicalization, and even provocation as the administration tries to provoke Iran"

I thought lefties loooooove the UN. And Iran keeps giving finger to UN.

And whose fault it is? But of course, it is Bushitler fault.
No need for evidence, Klein word is good enough for me.

Posted by: mik | Mar 9, 2007 7:19:23 PM

I just suspect though that "Persian" Iran gets a racism/paternalism/imperialism pass on meddling in "Arab" Iraq that "Anglo" America would not for meddling in "Hispanic" Mexico.

Plus, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, and Syria all have similar grounds for intervention, can they play too? Given the number of folks who don't like each other and/or some faction in Iraq it seems like that is a recipe for at least proxy war.

Then there is the nice little bit of ethnic cleansing that is coming to a Sunni neighborhood too, once the Americans drive away (which will happen soon).

I'm in favor of getting out of Dodge as well (my brother in law is presently on his 2nd tour) but the Iranians are not just concerned neighbors and a frustrated force for good.

Posted by: Don | Mar 9, 2007 7:27:40 PM

I'm in favor of getting out of Dodge as well (my brother in law is presently on his 2nd tour) but the Iranians are not just concerned neighbors and a frustrated force for good.

Of course not - what nation is? As I understood it, the point of the post was that the U.S. isn't really in a position to be accusing anyone of "meddling" in Iraq - unless you accept the premise that Iraq is now "ours."


Such a freedom loving people. Didn't they already had elections and Saddam won with 99.998% of the vote?

Huh?

Posted by: Jason | Mar 9, 2007 10:23:37 PM

Don wrote: "Plus, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, and Syria all have similar grounds for intervention, can they play too? "

Aren't they already? Sure, it would be best if none of those countries (or the US) were interfering in Iraq, but you can't really pretend that everybody but Iran is staying home.

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Posted by: judy | Sep 27, 2007 8:20:20 AM

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