Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It’s No Use Blaming Iran for a Lost War

 

It is scarcely surprising that the Iranian government believes that the United States is behind the kidnapping of one of its diplomats in Baghdad on Sunday. The Iranians say he was seized by 30 uniformed men from an Iraqi army commando battalion that often works with the US military services in Iraq.

The US had already shown its contempt for any diplomatic immunity protecting Iranians in Iraq by arresting five officials in a long-established Iranian office in the Kurdish city of Arbil last month. The White House had earlier authorised US forces to kill or capture Iranians deemed to be a threat.

It is striking how swiftly Washington is seeking to escalate its confrontation with Iran. Its rhetoric has returned to the strident tone so often heard when the US was accusing Saddam Hussein in 2002 and 2003 of hiding weapons of mass destruction that threatened the world.

No serious observer of Iraq since the US invasion believes for a moment that Iran has sustained the Sunni insurgency or played an essential role in the rise of the Shia militias.

It was obvious that when Saddam fell Iran would benefit. He was, after all, the arch enemy of Tehran, and the Iranians were delighted to see him go.

A second inevitable consequence of the end of Saddam’s predominantly Sunni regime was that the Iraqi Shia, 60 per cent of the population, would take power in Baghdad. Foreseeing and wishing to avoid just such an outcome, President George Bush senior refused to send the US Army to Baghdad after his victory in Kuwait in 1991.

What does Mr Bush hope to achieve by confronting and possibly even going to war with Iran? Within Iraq it is a policy of great foolishness, because it will be seen as being anti-Shia as well as anti-Iranian. The Iraqi Shia are suspicious that the US is planning to rob them of power. Since last year, for the first time, a majority of the Shia support armed attacks on US-led forces.

There are some benefits for Washington in escalating the conflict with Iran. The Bush administration has specialised in creating demons responsible for all the ills of Iraq. First there was Saddam Hussein and then Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Both were killed last year, but the war has continued to escalate.

Iran is now being promoted as the new demon. It is supposedly behind the provision of roadside bombs that have killed so many US and British troops – though the technology involved in these simple but deadly devices could generally be found in a garden shed.

Iraq has long been short of everything except weapons. Every Iraqi family possessed arms even under Saddam Hussein. In the early 1990s he introduced a buy-back programme by which he would pay for heavy weapons handed in. One tribe in south-east Iraq turned up with three tanks which they offered to sell to the government if the price was right. Deeming the official offer too low, they returned the tanks to their tribal arsenal.

It will be very difficult for the US to pursue an anti-Iranian policy in Iraq and the Middle East while supporting a pro-Iranian Shia government in Baghdad. Strangely, the only powerful party that is as vociferously anti-Iranian as Mr Bush is the Baath party. It has for long justified its opposition to the takeover of government by the Shia majority by pretending they are Iranian pawns.

In the Middle East as a whole, the new US anti-Iranian policy has more to recommend it from an American point of view. There is plenty of anti-Iranian and anti-Shia sentiment around. Sunni Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan were embarrassed by the success of the Shia Hizbollah in the war in Lebanon last summer, compared to their own supine incompetence. Little wonder they are happy to join the US in whipping up feeling against the Shia and the Iranians.

Mr Bush is acting rather like cynical Tory politicians at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries who played “the Orange Card” over Ulster. Claiming to be safeguarding the empire, they stirred anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry to their own political advantage. Mr Bush may reap similar benefits by playing the anti-Shia and anti- Iranian card.

One expert on Iraq asked me in perplexity: “Even if Bush does launch a war against Iran, where does he think it will get him? He will still be stuck in Iraq and the Iranians are not going to surrender. He will just have widened the war.”

The answer to this question is probably that the anti-Iranian tilt of the Bush administration has more to do with American than Iraqi politics. A fresh demon is being presented to the US voter. Iran is portrayed as the hidden hand behind US failure in both Iraq and in Lebanon. The US media, gullible over WMD, is showing itself equally gullible over this exaggerated Iranian threat.

The Bush administration has always shown itself more interested in holding power in Washington than in Baghdad. Whatever its failures on the battlefield, the Republicans were able to retain the presidency and both Houses of Congress in 2004. Confrontation with Iran, diverting attention from the fiasco in Iraq, may be their best chance of holding the White House in 2008.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

.

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail