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April 9th, And Where Are the Pro-U.S. Iraqis?

| 56 Comments | 9 TrackBacks

As Joe noted, today is the same day that the statue of Saddam Hussein came down in Firdus Square. In the wake of Sadr's uprising, some readers have asked where all of the allegedly pro-US Iraqis are right now and why they aren't opposing this Khomeini wannabe's efforts to take over their country.

The answer? They are. Per CNN:

"Tribal leaders in Kut -- apparently opposed to the violence incited by militant Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- fought with his milita and plan to hand the southern Iraqi city over to U.S. forces, a U.S.-led coalition source close to the situation said Friday.

The tribal leaders have seized al-Sadr's office in Kut and have called on U.S. troops to help them push his Mehdi Army fighters out of the city, the source said."

Now Kut is one of the 2 cities that was under Sadr's control at this same time yesterday after the Ukrainian contingent retreated back to their base outside of town after a clash with the Mahdi Army. In the absence of any discernable coalition support, these Shi'ite tribal leaders' decision to move against Sadr was an exceedingly dangerous move for them - as the Iraqi blogs make extremely clear, a lot of Iraqis are afraid of Sadr and he's currently holding Grand Ayatollah Sistani as his de facto prisoner in An Najaf. In the aftermath of the tribal action against Sadr, coalition forces have since retaken the city, likely with Iraqi help. So this whole notion that the Iraqi general population or even just the Iraqi Shi'ites are going to just roll over and accept Sadr as their new Maximum Leader would appear to be misleading at best.

One other item of note is that thus far the Mahdi Army has been unable to expand its sphere of influence in any discernible fashion outside of Sadr's traditional power base. All of the other major southern cities remain under coalition control for the most part without incident - an attempted Mahdi Army attack on the Polish/Bulgarian contingent in Karbala seems to have failed miserably. The inability of the Mahdi Army to spread to other Shi'ite areas is a clear demonstration of its own weakness and lack of support among the Iraqi Shi'ites outside of Sadr's traditional power base in Sadr City (reports suggest that the An Najaf contingent is being reinforced by and is at least partially composed of a combination IRGC and Hezbollah) - in short, this is not a viable or even widespread Shi'ite uprising in any sense of the term and is certainly nowhere near the apparent media perception that we're just minutes away from losing control of 1/3 of the country. With the loss of Kut, the only town still under Mahdi Army control is Kufa and I have my doubts that that'll be the case for much longer.

In closing, it is worth noting that Radio Farda is citing the Italian intelligence and media reports that Sadr is receiving in excess of $70,000,000 in funding from Iran to carry out this little uprising in addition to corroborating other reports about him being reinforced by the IRGC and Qods Force, the latter being an elite division of the Iranian military answerable only to Ayatollah Khamenei. If this is in fact true, then there is no way for anyone conclude that Sadr isn't being backed at the highest levels of the Iranian military-intelligence establishment or that Khamenei is at the absolute least providing tacit assistance to attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq.

UPDATE: MEMRI has a nice round-up of Iranian involvement inside Iraq, as well as a good look at just how isolated Sadr is in terms of his power base. We also have Rafsanjani (a name that should be familiar to anybody who knows anything about the Iranian hierarchy) coming out in support of Sadr's uprising.

9 TrackBacks

Tracked: April 9, 2004 10:08 PM
Still Fighting - April 8 from murdoc online
Excerpt: Around the Net: Reuters: Briton among 11 hostages seized in IraqArab television Al Jazeera showed the three Japanese, kneeling with their eyes bound with white cloth and surrounded by masked men holding rifles and also sitting on the floor without...
Tracked: April 9, 2004 10:55 PM
Iranian Proxy War from Michael J. Totten
Excerpt: It looks like Iran might be in a hot proxy war with the United States. Via Roger L. Simon comes this report at Project Free Iran by Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of Strategic Policy Consulting and Fox News analyst.For months, Iran...
Tracked: April 9, 2004 11:44 PM
Excerpt: The Clinton Administration should have known Osama bin Laden and members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad appeared in a Qatar TV tape on September 22, 2000 making specific threats to attack American ships. Osama bin Laden followed through on his promise...
Tracked: April 10, 2004 12:45 AM
Sadr MLP from Live from the Nuke Free Zone
Excerpt: Winds of Change has good articles about Sadr's background and Iraqi militias fighting back against Sadr and winning. Juan Cole also has lots of Sadr information filling up his front page, including a claim that Sadr has declared a ceasefire....
Tracked: April 10, 2004 12:48 PM
The Pro-US Iraqis from On The Third Hand
Excerpt: This from Winds of Change: As Joe noted, today is the same day that the statue of Saddam Hussein came
Tracked: April 10, 2004 4:12 PM
Al-Sadr et al. from Le blog de Polyscopique
Excerpt: You probably already have heard about the insurrection in Iraq led by the supporters of Muqtada Al-Sadr (if not, Debbye has rounded up some news on this) Of course, it is somewhat concerning to see that the Iraqi police could...
Tracked: April 10, 2004 6:31 PM
Passover Meditations from Israpundit
Excerpt: While Winds of Change.NET is best known for its global coverage and War on Terror analysis, this year has also featured daily Passover coverage and thoughts.
Tracked: April 12, 2004 4:45 AM
More Good News from Amateur Night
Excerpt: More good news out of Iraq today - coalition forces, with the assistance of local tribal leaders, have regained control of Kut. Winds of Change has a good roundup of the latest on Kut, on the flagging insurgency, and on
Tracked: April 17, 2004 10:06 PM
Sadr's Crimes from Live from the Nuke Free Zone
Excerpt: I gave Moqtada Sadr entirely too much credit in my earlier writings. It seems Sadr started out as a terrorist, threatening to kill Sistani and other Shiite leaders when he first returned to Iraq (no wonder Sistani doesn't support him!)....

56 Comments

If the Italian reports are indeed true, and it turns out that Iran is behind all this, how will we hold them accountable for this? The leadership, that is, not the ordinary Iranians - a great number of them aren't too fond of the current leadership. I'm also concerned about the pilgrims coming in for the holiday.

Well, If it's the Iranians, we need to get the UN on this right away! The UN security council will issue letters of annoyance and rebuke (to the US off course). They'll fix it right up.

ha-ha-ha .... ha

Sorry, couldn't resist ;)

dan, when was the last demarche issued to the Iranians?

That term is familiar praktike, but I can't put my finger to it. Care to explain?

As for Lola, I think that a targeted leadership strike, as well as backing for the pro-democracy forces, would be a proper response.

A demarche is a maneuver in international affiars, in this case a diplomatic warning. I remember we explicitly told Iran not to fuck with Iraq.

If they are indeed doing so, obviously we need to follow up on that somehow. Something on the order of a proportionate response, a stepped up sponsorship of rebel groups, etc. I imagine our options are somewhat constrained at this point, however.

Dan, why would the Iranians be involved at this point? If they are involved on the scale you say - $70 million and some elite troops - isn't that a rather shocking miscalculation, after 2 1/2 years in which U.S. forces have repeatedly demonstrated exactly how strong and resolute they are? Does this mean the Iranian Ayatollahs are desparate?

Ed Morrissey has some interesting comments, too, at Captain's Quarters. Not on Iran's involvement, but on the idea that the hostage-taking signals desparation.

I honestly think the Iranians are counting on 'Elecion Year Paralysis' to keep the US from responding to their provications.

IMO they are going to keep trying to destablize Iraq, and hope for either a Kerry victory (Iraq Quagmire) or their having a nuke by Jan 30th.

Lola:

“If the Italian reports are indeed true, and it turns out that Iran is behind all this, how will we hold them accountable for this? The leadership, that is, not the ordinary Iranians - a great number of them aren't too fond of the current leadership.”

One way would be for the European governments currently trying to get their hands on Iranian business contracts to tell Khamenei or his new mouthpiece in Europe Rohani that European economic ties to Iran are going to come to an end if Iranian-backed groups keep taking pot-shots at their troops. Same thing goes for Japan, which is currently in talks regarding oil contracts inside Iran. Kicking out the European support for the mad mullahs would do wonders as far as kicking their support base out from underneath them goes. It’s probably best if the US does this by proxy for right now for a number of reasons.

“I'm also concerned about the pilgrims coming in for the holiday.”

Multiple reports and Iraqi bloggers are claiming that a good chunk of these “pilgrims” (like those killed with Sadr’s goon squad in Karbala) are IRGC, Qods Force, or VEVAK personnel in drag. The US probably wants to keep from moving against Sadr in An Najaf until after Arbain for a whole host of reasons and my guess would be that Sadr is banking on reinforcing his followers with Iranian imports in the meantime. I’m not sure exactly what he can hope to accomplish, as bottling up in An Najaf is very likely to end in the destruction of the Mahdi Army as an organized force before the end of the month. His best bet right now would be to disperse his forces into the countryside and hope to carry on some kind of insurgency - that’s basically what the Republican Guard and Saddam Fedayeen did when faced with a similar situation in Baghdad and they were able to carry for the better part of a year.

Praktike:

“dan, when was the last demarche issued to the Iranians?”

Rummy mentioned that the Iranians are meddling and that it’s “unhelpful” a couple of days ago. Given what all they appear to be involved in, methinks it might be a good time to ratchet up the rhetoric a notch or two given that the Iranians are now basically complicit in the killing of multiple US and foreign servicemen. That looks an awful lot like an act of war to me, it’s a good thing I’m not a politician …

“I remember we explicitly told Iran not to fuck with Iraq.”

Yesss … on multiple occasions. The problem is that the US warnings that have been issued to date are ultimately toothless given the logistical impossibility of taking on Iran combined with the EU desire to capitalize on economic ties with the Islamic Republic.

“If they are indeed doing so, obviously we need to follow up on that somehow. Something on the order of a proportionate response, a stepped up sponsorship of rebel groups, etc. I imagine our options are somewhat constrained at this point, however.”

We could always bomb the IRGC bases on the Iranian side of the border, a la Cambodia. But I doubt that’s a place that Bush really wants to go this close to the election and I don’t see Kerry as being too eager to call for such a course of action as well. Sponsorship of the MEK is still an option that’s open to us, but I really don’t see it as viable one given that the MEK is a fairly nasty terrorist group if not a cult on its own right as well as the fact that even if they succeed all we’d get is a People’s Republic in place of an Islamic Republic. As you said, our options are somewhat constrained.

Patrick Brown:

“Dan, why would the Iranians be involved at this point? If they are involved on the scale you say - $70 million and some elite troops - isn't that a rather shocking miscalculation, after 2 1/2 years in which U.S. forces have repeatedly demonstrated exactly how strong and resolute they are? Does this mean the Iranian Ayatollahs are desparate?”

No (though they do seek to prevent a free and democratic Iraq from rising up), or at least no more than they‘ve been since the “election” - it just means they have plausible deniability right now and they know that the US can’t (or won’t) attack them, nor will the Europeans. If we make an issue of it, they’re just say that the $70,000,000 was for reconstruction projects (it’s being funneled through charities). As for the IRGC and Qods Force, I doubt they’re going to have signed orders with Khamenei’s signature on it. They were simply in An Najaf as pilgrims and it’s just a tragedy that they got caught up in Sadr’s demagoging. Any US intelligence to the contrary won’t be believed abroad because of the WMD issue and the ayatollahs figure that this will allow them to escape any real consequences for their actions. After all, that’s pretty much what happened in Lebanon.

Seventy million bucks and a few hundred soldiers can do a lot more damage to the US in Najaf than they can in the hills outside Tehran...

Dan, thanks for your response, as always.

Perhaps a start would be a "name and shame" campaign within Iraq to expose Sadr's Iranian ties. Presumably, the bulk of Iraqi popular opinion is hostile to interference from the mullahs. If the Iraqis and especially the Shiites become convinced that Iran, not the United States, is their true enemy, then perhaps they will be more willing to come to their own defense.

Of course, this sort of thing must be done carefully so that it doesn't lead to unintended consequences.

Reading the latest news reports, it seems that Bush is taking notice of those pilgrims. So if they're publicly saying that they're concerned about the pilgrims, wouldn't that amount to a warning to the Iranians that we're at least aware of any tricks they may be trying to pull on us?

In the wake of Sadr's uprising, some readers have asked where all of the allegedly pro-US Iraqis are right now and why they aren't opposing this Khomeini wannabe's efforts to take over their country.

Dan, why do you equate anti-Sadr with pro-US? And do you think that these tribal leaders are democratic? They could easily be as fanatically Islamic as he, just of a different stripe.

It seems that at this point the anti-US elements and fanatically Islamic elements in the country are making common cause, as witness the cooperation being Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, their Wahabi supporters in Baghdad, and Sadr and his supporters. If there are elements in Iraq that are anti-US and are fanatically Islamic, but who are stupid enough to oppose the last best hope for stopping US plans, they are too stupid to worry about.

It seems that at this point the anti-US elements and fanatically Islamic elements in the country are making common cause, as witness the cooperation being Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, their Wahabi supporters in Baghdad, and Sadr and his supporters. If there are elements in Iraq that are anti-US and are fanatically Islamic, but who are stupid enough to oppose the last best hope for stopping US plans, they are too stupid to worry about.

Iran is at war with us whether or not we think we're at war with them. They will attack us over and over again in Iraq and elsewhere while the mullahs rule Iran.

Furthermore Israel will nuke Iran to keep Iran from nuking Israel unless we conquer Iran first.

We have run out of choices and we are running out of time. Iran's nutballs will keep escalating until either we invade them or Israel nukes them. One or the other of those will happen within two years.

I had thought until recently that it would be the former in the fall of 2005. I now think we will invade Iran much sooner than that.

Praktike:

“Perhaps a start would be a ‘name and shame’ campaign within Iraq to expose Sadr's Iranian ties. Presumably, the bulk of Iraqi popular opinion is hostile to interference from the mullahs.”

I suspect that most folks would take a dim view of a foreign power they fought a very bloody war with a little more than a decade ago meddling in their internal affairs. The problem is that it must be done in such a way that Sadr cannot simply dismiss it as US propaganda or hold it up as an example of pan-Shi’ite cooperation. Still, an interesting suggestion.

Lola:

“Reading the latest news reports, it seems that Bush is taking notice of those pilgrims. So if they're publicly saying that they're concerned about the pilgrims, wouldn't that amount to a warning to the Iranians that we're at least aware of any tricks they may be trying to pull on us?”

If we aren’t taking notice of these “pilgrims” than somebody definitely deserves to be sacked. OTOH, expecting Tehran to behave in a rational manner simply because we’re aware of their schemes is a dubious venture at best. Most foreign policy analysts would consider it an exceedingly dubious if not suicidal gambit at best, but it’s been public knowledge that Iran has been harboring most of the surviving al-Qaeda leadership ever since September 2002.

Diana:

“Dan, why do you equate anti-Sadr with pro-US? And do you think that these tribal leaders are democratic? They could easily be as fanatically Islamic as he, just of a different stripe.”

The fact that they drove Sadr out on their own accord after the Ukrainians ran speaks well of them IMO. That was an exceedingly dangerous move for them and one that benefited the US (to whom they returned control of the city to), not any Islamic extremists. The most likely situation is that they are tribes loyal to Grand Ayatollah Sistani who are got pissed when Sadr basically took their spiritual leader hostage in An Najaf.

Liberalhawk:

You the same hombre of mine from Rantburg? In any case …
“It seems that at this point the anti-US elements and fanatically Islamic elements in the country are making common cause, as witness the cooperation being Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, their Wahabi supporters in Baghdad, and Sadr and his supporters. If there are elements in Iraq that are anti-US and are fanatically Islamic, but who are stupid enough to oppose the last best hope for stopping US plans, they are too stupid to worry about.”

As I noted in my special analysis yesterday, both the Sunni (al-Qaeda) and the Shi’ite (Sadr) elements of the Iraqi insurgency have a great many ties to Iran that are reasonably transparent. This is one of the reasons why I don’t think that it’s unlikely to suspect that elements are being coordinated in some fashion.

i think letting the marines do what they do best is the best course the mahdi army now for those unaware what the title mahdi means the mahdi is the figure [in shiite mythology/prophecy]who will rebuild the caliphate and turn the world into 1 islamic land so my feelings are that better for all these fighters that are being killed by the coalition to be facing our armed forces in iraq than shoppers or commuters in nyc also note the green flag and the black flags used in the rally's imho they look exactly like ones used in the disputed territories by hamas,islamic jihad, and hezbollah
ok onto lighter subjects archeology is a hobby of mine and i just got an email on the wailing wall/herods wall on http://www.biblemysteries.com/
and it seems they even set up their blog now i dont agree with all of the theories found here but i find them interesting

Dan, you evaded my question.

Adopting a stance that benefits the US in this one limited sense doesn't mean they cannot be essentially hostile to the US in general.

If they are loyal to al-Sistani then by defintion they would be staunch Muslims who differ from the Sadrists only in their self-control but not in their Islamicism. The prognosis for creating a pro-American democracy is exceedingly dim. And if that doesn't happen then every American died in vain.

Diana,

Dan may have failed to answer you to your satisfaction, but I doubt he intentionally evaded you.

I( would ask you, Why must the democracy we establish in Iraq be pro-American? If it is a democracy that remains a democracy and does not make war against other nations except in defence, I would consider the deaths of the Coalition troops to have been honorably offered in a noble cause.

Secondly, the current French and German democratic regimes are rabidly anti-American and seem to be fully representative of their people in that regard. Do you consider every American who died in the ETO to have died in vain?

Diana:

It was not my intention to evade your question.

“Adopting a stance that benefits the US in this one limited sense doesn't mean they cannot be essentially hostile to the US in general.”

True. However, turning the city back over to coalition control would tend to be opposed to such a position.

“If they are loyal to al-Sistani then by defintion they would be staunch Muslims who differ from the Sadrists only in their self-control but not in their Islamicism.”

If by “Islamicism” you mean that they are Muslims then you are indeed correct - so are 97% of the Iraqi population, of those, 60-65% are Shi’ite Muslims. However, if by Islamicism you are referring to Islamism or political Islam, I would take issue with the contention that Ayatollah Sistani has any kind of a concerted agenda here. He has publicly repudiated the Khomeinist premise of velayet-e-faqih or rule by men of religion, explicitly ruling out an Iran-style theocracy for the future of Iraq. In addition, he has come out in support of rights for Iraq’s minority communities, so I would say that painting him and Sadr with the same brush is extremely misleading at best.

In addition, what evidence would you point to in order to label Sistani or his followers hostile to the US? Sistani was rescued by US forces during the war after years of imprisonment and issued a fatwa in support of the invasion. He views politics as a task beneath the dignity of a grand ayatollah, so he has been quite content to see to the spiritual needs of the Iraqi Shi’ites and has been consistent in his opposition to Sadr’s neo-Khomeinism at every turn. The only time he has gotten involved in politics to date has been with regard to process of holding elections, an involvement that was due in no small part to his experience back in October when Sadr tried to run him out of Karbala. Given that a number of his followers died in defense of him, I think his reaction in this regard is entirely understandable.

“The prognosis for creating a pro-American democracy is exceedingly dim.”

That, respectfully, speaks only to the limits of your own perception of just how much of an abject failure this little uprising has been. Sadr has control of far less territory than he did just 24 hours ago and his efforts to spread his rebellion appear to have fizzled. He may hold out until after Arbain, but I don’t see the Mahdi Army as a genuine force this time next month. Moreover, a defeat of Sadr and freeing Sistani from his de facto imprisonment in An Najaf should be more than enough to win a fair number of Shi’ites over to the US side, particularly if Sistani feels grateful for us vanquishing his rival. The defeat of Sadr will likewise help to discredit Khomeinism or active insurgency as a genuine option for the Shi’ite nationalist types and will likely convince even the ones who hate the US that there is far more to be risked operating outside the new Iraqi political system rather than within it. That’s fine, as far as I’m concerned, they can rake in anywhere between the 5-23% of the vote that their fellow travelers get in the elections of every other Islamic nation that holds them.

CNN seems to have changed the article since it was first posted here. It now says

Tribal leaders in Kut -- apparently opposed to the violence incited by the militant Shiite Muslim cleric -- also fought his militia, a U.S.-led coalition source close to the situation said Friday.

Which is a whold lot less than before. Wonder why they changed it?

I know we all agree that: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all others." but strategically, a fully functioning democracy is not necessary for success. Much, much more important than democracy is secularism. A quasi-democracy along the lines of Turkey would suffice and would represent a major advance in the WoT.

In Turkey, the army is the ultimate backstop against a "democratic" catastrophe, that is, "one man, one vote, one time". In Iraq, the US military occupying bases under long-term leases can fulfill the same role. As in Turkey, the army doesn't need to act; just the threat of such action suffices.

It's also important to note that the Kurds already get secular democracy pretty well and the Shia are, in the main, catching on. The Sunni and Islamist Shia are a small enough proportion of the population to be electorially insignificant. Because they are geographically scattered, their electoral influence can be further reduced by pushing for a federated system with weak central government.

At the very least, we should show them that they can't have their cake and eat it too.

I think its time to start targetting elements of Iran's nuclear infra-structure. We shouldn't even take credit, just do it and shrug our shoulders - just as they will respond to accusations of meddling in Iraq.

Richard and Dan,

There are so many issues in your answers that I can't confine them to one comment. I will respond on my blog later today.

Roll a tank division to the Iranian border and be prepared to invade if there is any more trouble.

Diana:

Regarding my contention that you painted Sadr and Sistani with the same brush, you stated that the followers of both men were Islamicists which I interpreted as believing in a brand of political Islam - something Sistani has entirely repudiated in his denunciation of velayet-e-faqih. If he wanted to be top dog in Iraq, he could easily have already done so by now by forming his own political party and pulling a "one man, one vote, one time" after June 30, but he considers politics to be beneath the dignity of the clergy and has indicated little if any interest in doing so. Heck, he doesn't even have his own private army ...

That is, to put it quite frank, the chief difference between Sistani and Sadr. The fact that Sistani’s website contains religious guidelines for how Muslims should behave in Western countries is immaterial - my own Catechism also lists a great deal of behavioral regulations. The primary difference is that Sistani’s guidelines are for his followers and that he’s not calling for them to be imposed on anyone else by force of arms in noted contrast to Sadr, who is quite happy to demolish towns he deems to be insufficiently Islamic.

Regarding the Sistani fatwa you cite, that is from 2002, is not? At the time in question, Sistani was under arrest by Saddam Hussein and was in all likelihood being tortured, a fact that Juan Cole completely ignores in his analysis of it in favored of castigating Ariel Sharon and American neoconservatives. Do you think that Sistani’s situation at the time might have had at least some small role in him issuing what he did?

As far as Sistani believing that a Palestinian state should eventually form, I myself have no hard objections to this, so long as when it does form that it’s a sane one. More to the point, even if Sistani is in favor of exterminating the Jewish population of Israel (got a fatwa on that one?), I have seen little if any evidence that he favors the killing of civilians, suicide bombings, or any of the other lovely tactics that have marked the Intifada thus far. Certainly his English website appears to be devoid of sanction of such things, in rather stark contrast to Hamas’s …

Also, I simply must respond to this gem:

“The willful blindness of the soi-disant experts on the Middle East to the emotional truths underlying this uprising is utterly galling.”

No more so than the folks on the anti-war side who want to bury their heads in the sand with regard to the Iranian connection to Sadr’s little insurrection in favor of railing against the evil neocons and their cabal the way that Cole and others do. So I guess there’s more than enough willful blindness to go around here ...

Hmmm...now I'm starting to wonder what's really afoot with the Iran connection. Clearly, some folks in Israeli intelligence want us to kick Iran's ass, and it's in their interest to blame Iran.

But all of the Iraqi bloggers seem to have at least second-hand knowledge that money and support are obviously flowing from Iran, and with all of the other circumstancial evidence, it seems like to deny that something is going on is to deny reality. Not to mention that of course Iran would be interested in seeing us fail, if only for spite.

The question, I think, becomes to what extent is it the Iranian regime versus elements within Iran that are to blame.

At this point, I think, Iraq is so fucked up that we really don't want to cause ourselves any new problems. If the evidence is for real (and not just agitprop) that it's really the mullahs to blame, aside from the "name and shame" campaign, perhaps some Nixonian "madman" negotiating tactics would be in order to get them to back down.

Diana:

Dan commented on your not-charming comment above, but I wanted to add my $0.02; I'm glad you saved the trashy ad-hominem attack for your own blog, because I would have definitely not been happy to see it here.

I haven't spent much time on your blog since I started blogging; but between that example and the one you wrote in this post:
I hate military stuff. And I hate military people. The arrogance! The arrogance! There's a stench of the secret initiate about them that I loathe. I took a trip to Egypt with a bunch of US military personnel and the only ones I could stand were two married civilian personnel, and even the guy was kind of a zombie -- his eyes were a total dead zone. Is that what happens when you join the US military?* Your soul gets taken over by a death cult and you become a member of a secret initiate society, cut off from the rest of humanity?
Yup, our peers, our sons and daughters; souls captured by a secret death cult - you know, the kind that blows up Passover dinners and flys jetliners into buildings.

Good job on the moral equivalence, there.

A.L.

A. L.

It's been a busy Saturday morning. Thanks for saving me from visiting Diana's blog.

To the WoC mediators:

These last few show the effective job y'all do. Maintaining a civil discourse level is such a rarity when it is combined with effective criticism of opposing points.

Bosso- Your raising your own armored division? I know Rumsfeld doesn't have any extras in his back pocket.

praktike,

This is touching, I mean really, really, touching:

"The question, I think, becomes to what extent is it the Iranian regime versus elements within Iran that are to blame."

You're so desperate you pretend to believe a game the mullahs started playing 25 years ago.

Even though they stopped playing it.

Do you expect us to take you seriously anymore on anything?

I believe Sadr's aunt is married to President Khatami of Iran.

Dan,

When did Sistani issue a fatwa in support of the US invasion, as opposed to a fatwa urging people not to resist?

Find me a URL that says he was tortured. He was under house arrest on and off, not "in prison." I have no knowledge of whether he was tortured but if you can find proof otherwise, I'd be happy to see it.

I don't know whether he was imprisoned during April 2002. If you believe that he wrote that because he was scared of Saddam, you are even more ignorant than I could have imagined.

The reason for my linking to his website was to point out that like all Islamists, he believes that Islam is a thoroughgoing philosophy and way of life, with no distinction between the secular and the sacred.

AL,

I wrote that post specifically in response to the current hoo-ha over "Ginmar."

Yeah, I can't stand military stuff. It does bad things to people, plants and animals.

BTW, where ARE the pro-US Iraqis? What about these militia-men we've been training? Why can't they fight off the Sadrists if the latter are so amateurish and if they are just a bunch of Iranian infiltrators? Don't you guys realize that your case falls apart by sheer lack of logic alone?

According to Zeyad, "And of course, I guess it is now painfully clear that the GC has no real power or control over the torn country. If sovereignty is going to be handed over to them on the 30th of June, then I expect a disaster coming."

Diana -

Thanks again for making my point about dirty hands and living in the West.

(my old post on this is here, but I'll also suggest the far-better play of the same title)

A.L.

You are evading the points I am making and dragging in extraneous issues. What I said about military stuff on my blog has nothing to do with my point about the nature of Iraq after June 30. You have no logic, no facts, so all you can do is drag this down to personalities.

To all, and especially Diana:
The best bio of Sistani I found was at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1761-2004Jan31_3.html

and this article specifically notes his imprisonment and some subsequent assassination attempts (by who would that be by in Baathist Iraq??)

Tom H:

Thanks for the condescension. You do realize that Khatami is not a mullah, right?

No, Diana, I didn't engage your arguments at all; I'm not participating in this thread.

I criticized you for making an ad-hominem attack on Dan ("As a survivor of grad school, I can recognize someone who knows how to shoot the jargon and how to put words in people's mouths that they never uttered. For example: I never "painted" Sistani and Sadr "with the same brush."

I assume a certain level of intelligence in the people I deal with."), and then pointed out some statements on your blog which paint a pretty clear picture of your worldview.

I own all the writings I've got up on the web; if you read my stuff you have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I believe, and I'm willing to argue about and around those issues.

I think deflecting and stamping your feet ("You have no logic, no facts, so all you can do is drag this down to personalities.") is a pretty cheap substitute for argument as well.

A.L.

AL,

You are losing it, bye-bye. I am making some points about the nature of the Iraqi insurgency (I say it's a popular uprising, Dan is saying it's not), and about the future of Iraq after June 30, you are making personal attacks. I pointed out on my blog that Dan was using jargon instead of logic and evidence, there's nothing personal about that.

Tom,

Thanks for the URL. I see nothing in there about Sistani having been tortured by Saddam and not much about his house arrest. It indicates that he probably would have been at large in April 2002.

I also notice this:

Yet his edicts reveal a profoundly traditionalist view of society. In declarations on the most minute elements of personal behavior, he has said that men and women should not mix socially, that music for entertainment is prohibited and that women should veil their hair.

It was also Sistani's supporters who wanted to scrap the civil personal status laws. I wonder what will happen after June 30th?

And have you all heard that Pachachi has denounced the "collective punishment" in Fallujah?

Diana, in case you didn't know, I'm one of the bloggers whose site this is, and I make it part of my role to try and shape the discussions.

In this specific case, I expressed displeasure with your ad-hominem attack, and pointed out what I thought were some features of your beliefs - as expressed on your blog which might enlighten our understanding of your position, along the lines of:

Dislikes militarism > dislikes this war > looks for evidence that the war is failing in order to convince us that the war should be ended sooner

Now, I may or may not have 'lost it' but whatever it is you're selling isn't going to go over better because you don't want to make arguments.

A.L.

Patrick,

It is my opinion contra Dan that the mullahs are indeed desperate.

If they intended to delay the handover an uprising much closer to 30 June would be in order.

They attacked while American troop stregnth in country is up due to rotations instead of waiting until the rotations were completed.

My guess - and I have zero evidence of this and no hints and no inkling of hints - is that the regular uprisings now taking place in Iranian towns and cities and documented here:

http://www.daneshjoo.org/smccdinews/article/publish/cat_index_30.shtml

Is being fomented by American agents and special forces. In fact it is the primary goal of the special forces to enlist local populations as force multipliers.

My best guess is that Iran is close to collapse and any severe shake will topple the regime. The tree now is being shaken continuously and the roots may pull out of the ground at any time. A few weeks ago I thought it might be as little as three to six weeks.

At this point I think it may take longer.

The thing to watch is whether we are going to send back our own agents in the throngs of returning pilgrims. My guess is yes.

The uprising and pilgrims of course are cover for Iran to send agents to Iraq. We are no doubt moving them in the other direction under cover of the same unrest.

Its nice to see a board trying to govern itself to keep the topics the point, and not the posters.

So... the one question I have when reading the references to Iran is why is it given an air of the Iranian connection really being the problem and not the people of Iraq. While Iranian support could certainly help the "insurgents", it can not create them.

Also, I think the idea of Sadr's "influence" is a little short sighted. Notice the 'I think' part.

What this insurgency is really showing to most is the lack of control of the situation and it gives many the idea of an alternative. History has proven that any alternative is often seen as better than the current situation, even when it will likely lead to a worse situation.

M.Simon,

The Shiite festival determined the timing. Iran's mullahs knew we wouldn't squash Sadr like a bug during that time so they set him off just before. That keeps the Sky Is Falling! headlines going for an additional 7-10 days.

IMO we'll have to be very lucky to capture Sadr alive. They don't want him talking.

Tom,

I'm in agreement about your point on the festival.

It still shows weakness in that they could not effectively attack when it would be more beneficial to their cause.

Bill D.,

The people of Iraq are not the problem because they are not rising up to join Sadr. Despite the year Sadr has had to build popular support.

Iran is the problem.

Fortunately with 90% of the Iranians opposing the government an occupation will not be required. It may prove that a major direct assault will not be needed either.

You will note that despite an insurgency taking control of a significant part of Afghanistan that we havent heard a lot from that quarter lately. This is a dog that didn't bark story. My guess is that Afghan operations have been moved to the Iran border.

A point to take into consideration is that the mullahs of Iran cannot announce any trouble from attacking Americans for fear of sparking an uprising. It is in the Iranian and American interest that this battle proceed silently for now.

The fact that Iran is an obvious target and yet we hear nothing is a sign of two possibilities:
1. America is fighting stupidly
2. Iran is in fear

#2 is a better bet.

AL:

I don't like militarism, indeed, I wonder what sane person does, but I am no pacifist. I fully supported the war in Afghanistan (still do), and supported the war in Iraq, as you well know, based on my belief that the Bush Admin had made the case that Saddam had WMDs. That was revealed to be a bald-faced lie.

Now, reasonable people can disagree about the rights and the wrongs of this invasion. It wasn't an easy decision. Even Juan Cole was tepidly in favor of the war, because Saddam was so very awful.

But NO rational, honest human being can deny that the Bush Admin has committed one major, heinous FUBAR after another, and has created this horrible situation that we face.

NO rational, honest human being can deny that this is a popular insurgency and that our efforts to create an indigenous fighting force have failed ignominiously. Blaming it on the Iranians is a cheap and pathetic dodge.

We may get rid of Sadr himself, and good riddance to him. But that will only clear the way for someone worse. The worst of the hotheads will go to someone more radical, and the more cool-headed will opt for Sistani. Who I believe is ultimately the more formidable enemy, because he really is an impressive intellect, and has racked up a lot of kavod (Hebrew for honor) in a society that pays attention to that sort of thing.

I tried, vainly, to focus attention on what happens after June 30, and what the strategic thinkers on this blog really mean by establishing a democracy in Iraq. I was pressed to give evidence of Sistani's attitudes towards issues that might put his followers, who will dominate the new Iraq, in opposition to US policy in the ME, and I did. But that wasn't good enough for Dan, who dismissed it with spurious excuses (Sistani wrote it under pressure of torture from Saddam...he was in jail...).

I am done. Attempting to continue trying to communicate with people who do not wish to be communicated with is futile.

Diana, I wanted to email you on your site, but you have no comments or email. Are you afraid of criticism or correction?

Nevermind, I was looking for a link, and therefore didn't check your intro. I apologize for the insinuation aforementioned.

Diana,

I understand your frustration and the historical record supports your fears.

After getting rid of the fascists in Germany, Italy, and Japan worse people came on the scene to destroy our attempts at democracy.

Uh, well I have a better example.

After installing authoritarians who rulled with an iron fist in South Korea and Taiwan those societies never progressed politically or economically.

Wait, I have got it.

After leaving communist despots to rule in North Korea because the alternative would be worse...

Say, what was my point?

Oh, yeah. Islamics can't rule themselves so we ought to go with the strongest thug no matter what his/her ultimate policy.

Oh, hell. This is just not coming out the way I planned.

What I really mean is that I support the goals of liberalism but Iraq is hopeless and we ought to either leave it to its own devices or just nuke it as an object lesson for both those who prefer democracy and those who prefer tyranny.

Well any way what I want to know is: Is Saddam still available for the job and how much will it take to own him?

There is a viable policy in there some where that comports with realpolitik and I promise you I will find it as soon as I can sort out my feelings. BTW the hell with ideals. They count for nothing when American boys and girls are dying.

============================================

I used to be a lefty peacenik. Does it show?

Diana,

There are Iraqis who believe that the current uprising shows that Sadr is a thug and Sistani has now power.

If that is the case (high probability) then you need to change your view before events leave your narrow view behind.

In tough situations I always go with sound military advice (which perhaps due to your distaste of the subject is not available to you) - Never take council with your fears - G. Patton.

BTW you ought to get over your distaste for things military. The political world we live in has been shaped to a large extent by the success and failure of military ventures.

Start with "Strategy" by B.H.L. Hart which covers the important battles of the last 2,500 years in an over view. Every war college worthy of the name still teaches this book whose genesis was 1925 and whose last revision was 1967.

Another very useful book on the nature and value of violence is "The Sovereign Individual" Moog (I think).

Also "The Bagavad Gita" Mascaro translation.

You might also look into the nature of the alpha male in any herd oriented animals.

Men (and some women) like to fight. It is our nature. The only choice we have is the cause. This factor is so overwhelming in the history of man that to believe in peace (at least for now) is not realistic. There will always be opposition to the alpha male. The only question is how tests of strength will be performed - by elections or by arms.

There are still many on the planet who prefer the test of arms. If we want peace we must change their minds. Peacefully if possible. By arms if not.

Diana,

There are Iraqis who believe that the current uprising shows that Sadr is a thug and Sistani has no power.

So what's good about this riot? As I said this is a very old dream that is strongly rooted to the conscience of the majority of the Shea'at. And with the freedom of speech and with the defeat of the Arab Sunni and with the support and motivation from Iran, this was bound to happen. It could've been worse if a leader with more brains and popularity than this clown carried it.

This riot should be and will be crushed sooner or later, because of the ignorance of the leadership and the lack of support of the majority of Iraqis including Shea'at which made those fanatics resort to terrorizing the people to show that they have the support of the Iraqis like their demand for a general strike which was associated with clear threats.

Another good outcome of this riot is that it showed that the influence of clerics including Sistani, is much smaller than they and their followers were claiming. I've heard it from most of the Shea'at that the whole Iraq supports Sistani and that the Americans don't dare to defy him! They really believed their illusions. Now it appears that the fatwa of Sistani didn't have any significant effect on the Americans' determination to end this riot, nor it convinced the fanatic Shea'at to stay calm. Even the GC paid no attention to him and showed readiness to use force if it is needed.

When this riot will be crushed, and it will be, Sistani and all the clerics will no longer seem as strong as they seemed before, and once they see the 'wholly' name Al-Sadir in handcuffs, they will think a million times before committing a similar stupidity in the future. Even some members of the GC with its religious, tribal and ethnic composition, proved to be short of meeting the challenge. This should clear the political field from these traditional representatives of the Iraqis and surly Iraqis in the future will be forced to search for alternatives once they realize how hypocrite, feeble and lacking their current leaderships are.

This will certainly not happen tomorrow, nor will it happen soon after crushing this riot, but certainly the results will make Iraqis aware of the fact that their leaders are actually not as smart and strong as they look, and that their religious, tribal and ethnic groups will not provide them with their needs. Once that happen they will start to reconsider their goals and their loyalty and the voice of reason, logic will certainly be more heard once the horns of ignorance get silenced or ignored by the majority.

from:

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/

This tells us edverything we need to know about Diana:
And I hate military people. The arrogance! The arrogance! There's a stench of the secret initiate about them that I loathe. I took a trip to Egypt with a bunch of US military personnel and the only ones I could stand were two married civilian personnel, and even the guy was kind of a zombie -- his eyes were a total dead zone. Is that what happens when you join the US military?* Your soul gets taken over by a death cult and you become a member of a secret initiate society, cut off from the rest of humanity?

Is this the last PC target of ridicule? US service men and women?

My, things seem to have gotten somewhat lively while I was away …

Praktike:

“Hmmm...now I'm starting to wonder what's really afoot with the Iran connection. Clearly, some folks in Israeli intelligence want us to kick Iran's ass, and it's in their interest to blame Iran.”

Yesss … it was in the interests of the Northern Alliance to play up the Taliban’s connection to al-Qaeda or for the Karimov regime to play up the IMU’s ties to bin Laden. That didn’t change the fact that Brigade 055 was incorporated into the Taliban order of battle or that IMU supremo Juman Namangani was in charge of the Taliban troops in Taloqan.

“But all of the Iraqi bloggers seem to have at least second-hand knowledge that money and support are obviously flowing from Iran, and with all of the other circumstancial evidence, it seems like to deny that something is going on is to deny reality. Not to mention that of course Iran would be interested in seeing us fail, if only for spite.”

I think it goes further than that. Grand Ayatollah Sistani, pooh-poohing aside, rejects velayet-e-faqih, which poses a direct threat to the theological underpinnings of the Islamic Republic. As such, the Iranians have good reason to ensure that we fail in Iraq for reasons of their own survival.

“The question, I think, becomes to what extent is it the Iranian regime versus elements within Iran that are to blame.”

I think you’re constructing a false dilemma here. While some of the reformists within the Iranian government may well be entirely sincere in their desire for Iran to become a civilized nation, those elements that really matter as far as controlling the actual machinery of state like VEVAK, the Pasdaran, the IRGC, Qods Force, et al, are the ones who are going to be involved in all of this crap in Iraq. Whether or not they constitute the Iranian regime is essentially a diplomatic question, but from a real-world perspective I think the issue that needs to be asked is whether or not the existence of rather impotent moderate elements of the government constitute enough of a substance to differentiate between them and the true character of the regime. I’ll be up-front and say that I don’t think that they do.

Diana:

“When did Sistani issue a fatwa in support of the US invasion, as opposed to a fatwa urging people not to resist?”

You are assuming that the two are opposed to one another. He told the people not to hinder the progress of US troops, which translates in my mind to supporting our objectives.

http://www.rantburg.com/poparticle.asp?HC=&D=4/3/2003&ID=12393

“Find me a URL that says he was tortured. He was under house arrest on and off, not "in prison." I have no knowledge of whether he was tortured but if you can find proof otherwise, I'd be happy to see it.”

To begin with, I said “in all likelihood” that he was tortured based on my own understanding of how the Iraqi regime dealt with its Shi’ite opponents. Sistani’s being a holy man wouldn’t have saved him from such treatment either - Saddam regularly had Shi’ite clerics tortured and executed, even the high-ranking variety, so such a thing would hardly be out of character for the Iraqi regime.

“I don't know whether he was imprisoned during April 2002. If you believe that he wrote that because he was scared of Saddam, you are even more ignorant than I could have imagined.”

I try. Check the Rantburg-archived article I linked to above. It notes that while he was still under Saddam Hussein’s care a fatwa came from him just one week before he was freed urging all Iraqis to band together to resist any invasion - in rather stark contrast to the one that he issued afterwards. So I would say that there is certainly a precedent for these types of things.

“The reason for my linking to his website was to point out that like all Islamists, he believes that Islam is a thoroughgoing philosophy and way of life, with no distinction between the secular and the sacred.”

From a religious behavioral perspective you’re probably right, but that doesn’t exactly make him unique among the world’s religious leaders. The problem forms when he starts trying to enforce those behavioral rules on people who don’t want to follow them.

“BTW, where ARE the pro-US Iraqis? What about these militia-men we've been training? Why can't they fight off the Sadrists if the latter are so amateurish and if they are just a bunch of Iranian infiltrators? Don't you guys realize that your case falls apart by sheer lack of logic alone?”

Be careful, you’re may start a fire with that many straw men lying around. As this blog notes, Iraqi tribal leaders in al-Kut fought the Mahdi Army and helped the US to run them out of town. Nor is it my contention that the Mahdi Army is entirely peopled by Iranians, but rather that they are Iranian-backed and have not had any formal training, relegating them basically to the category of street thugs. And a large number of street thugs have this nasty way of intimidating people.

“And have you all heard that Pachachi has denounced the ‘collective punishment’ in Fallujah?”

Yessss … nor is he alone in this regard. That bombing that hit the wall of the mosque compound raised a lot of hell in the Arab world and the IGC is leaning on Bremer to defuse it, hence the unilateral end to offensive operations in Fallujah for the time being.

Bill D:

“So... the one question I have when reading the references to Iran is why is it given an air of the Iranian connection really being the problem and not the people of Iraq. While Iranian support could certainly help the ‘insurgents,’ it can not create them.
Also, I think the idea of Sadr's ‘influence’ is a little short sighted. Notice the 'I think' part.”

Sadr was around and according to the indictment killed a Shi’ite religious leader before he became a major player inside Iraq. His decision to form the Mahdi Army came only immediately following his trip to Iran and his primary base of support is in the Sadr City area of Baghdad rather than throughout the whole of the country. Sadr probably would have been a problem entirely apart from any Iranian support, but not this quickly.

Tom Holsinger:

Agreed completely about the timing of this in conjunction with upcoming holiday. It also gives the Iranian leadership time to reinforce Sadr by sending in more Hezbollah, IRGC, VEVAK, and Qods Force personnel under the guise of pilgrims.

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