As you can see below, I spent some of today looking at the issue of the sharp rise in the number of American helicopters shot out of the sky in the last two weeks in Iraq. And then I posted an excerpt from an AP article from December noting US intelligence reports that wealthy Saudis are shipping money and arms, including anti-aircraft missiles, to the Sunni insurgents who are still the primary force fighting US soldiers and marines in Iraq.
This suggests a series of questions, the most obvious of which is whether we’re in the process of being gamed much as we were in 2002 when we allied with Saudi Arabia (which had a lot to do with 9/11) against Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11) to defend ourselves against another 9/11. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how we were also allied with Pakistan (a highly unstable, quasi-Islamist regime with nuclear weapons and a big nuclear weapons program proliferator) to make sure secular Iraq didn’t get nuclear weapons it didn’t have to give to terrorists it wasn’t allied with. But I digress …
The point is that there’s a certain illogic in our thinking that Iran is the prime destablizer of Iraq when you consider that we are currently allying ourselves with the forces in Iraq that the Iranians would probably be happy to see run the place. I know it’s not quite that simple. SCIRI is more the mullahs’ choice, not the al Dawa folks which is where Maliki comes from. But then the last I heard we were angling to dump Maliki in favor of the SCIRI folks anyway. In any case, I won’t be a fool enough to try to disentangle the intricacies of Iraq’s sectarian and partisan divisions. But we do seem to be doing a decent job driving the Iraqi car in the direction of Iran on our own. And the ‘insurgency’ is still in the Sunni heartland, though now there is near open war between the Sunni ‘insurgents’ and the Shia para-militaries.
Still, when you consider that the political question in Iraq is whether the long-oppressed Shia will dominate the new Iraqi state in rough proportion to their numbers, the logical people to oppose such a settlement are Sunni co-religionists in places like Saudi Arabia.
But this gets to a deeper fallacy of the line of argument about neighboring countries ‘meddling’ in Iraq. Every shred of the failure that is Iraq bleeds over into the neighboring states, either as a threat or an opportunity, since they are all of the same fabric, or rather the same patchwork bleeding over national borders. The Sunnis with their coreligionists in Saudi Arabia; the Shia with theirs in Iran; the Kurds with theirs in southeastern Turkey whose affinity threatens to bring the Turks down into Iraq as well. The more we fail in Iraq, the more the threads we pull will pull into neighboring states. In other words, our inability to come to terms with and deal wtih what we have created in Iraq will almost inevitably lead to a widening gyre of escalation across Iraq’s frontiers. I take it that this is what the Iraq Study Group folks were talking about when they spoke of the bleak outlook in Iraq and the necessity of getting quickly to some regional negotiations rather than trying to fight our way out of this box.