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Friday, April 11, 2008

Iraq War?

Amir Taheri writes that Iran recently attacked Iraq in an effort to take Basra:
A GAMBLE that proved too costly.

That's how analysts in Tehran describe events last month in Basra. Iran's state-run media have de facto confirmed that this was no spontaneous "uprising." Rather, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) tried to seize control of Iraq's second-largest city using local Shiite militias as a Trojan horse.

[ . . . ]

In last month's operation, Quds commanders used the name and insignia of the Mahdi Army, a militia originally created by the maverick cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, as a cover for the Special Groups.

Initially, Quds commanders appeared to have won their bet. Their Special Groups and Mahdi Army allies easily seized control of key areas of Basra when more than 500 Iraqi security personnel abandoned their positions and disappeared into the woodwork.

Soon, however, the tide turned. Maliki proved that he had the courage to lead the new Iraqi Security Force (ISF) into battle, even if that meant confronting Iran. The ISF showed that it had the capacity and the will to fight.

Only a year ago, the ISF had been unable to provide three brigades (some 9,000 men) to help the US-led "surge" restore security in Baghdad. This time, the ISF had no difficulty deploying 15 brigades (30,000 men) for the battle of Basra.

Led by Gen. Mohan al-Freiji, the Iraqi force sent to Basra was the largest that the ISF had put together since its creation five years ago. This was the first time that the ISF was in charge of a major operation from start to finish and was fighting a large, well-armed adversary without US advisers.

During the Basra battles, the ISF did call on British and US forces to provide some firepower, especially via air strikes against enemy positions. But, in another first, the ISF used its own aircraft to transport troops and materiel and relied on its own communication system.

[ . . . ]

After more than a week of fighting, the Iraqis forced the Quds commanders to call for a cease-fire through Sadr. The Iraqi commander agreed - provided that the Quds force directly guaranteed it. To highlight Iran's role in the episode, he insisted that the Quds force dispatch a senior commander to finalize the accord.

The Iran-backed side lost more than 600 men, with more than 1,000 injured. The ISF lost 88 dead and 122 wounded.

Some analysts suggest this was the first war between new Iraq and the Islamic Republic. If so, the Iraqis won.
I think this is note worthy.

In the spirit of policy analysis and cutting through the "fog," does this suggest a useful recasting of public debate about our Iraq policy?

Here in the United States it seems to me we continue to talk about the circumstances in Iraq as the "Iraq War." I would like to suggest this is not an accurate description for our present "operations" in Iraq.

I think our war with Iraq ended a few years ago with the fall of Saddam Hussein's government. Iraq was then governed for some time by a "provisional government." Since that time, a duly constituted government has emerged to govern Iraq.

I suggest that we should think of the violence in Iraq since the creation of the present government of Iraq as violence, perhaps war, against the government of Iraq, not as part of a continuing American war against Iraq. Nor does it seem to me accurately described as a war against the United States. As such, it would seem that the American forces in Iraq are now, and have been, employed in the service of helping the duly constituted government of Iraq provide security and order for the country by demonstrating that the government of Iraq has the greatest capacity for violence.

I'm also thinking that it would be good policy for the United States, and probably also for Iraq, to formally negotiate a treaty between the United States government and the Iraq government. Such a treaty should probably make explicit that the Iraq government has asked the United States government to help it provide security within as well as security with respect to external threats from, for example, such sources as the government of Iran?

What do you think? Does what I've suggested here cut to a bottom line? Would policy discussions and policy decisions in the United States be improved if we began to think of Iraq in this way?

I would like part of our discussion in class on Tuesday to consider these questions.

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