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Thursday, June 15, 2006


Whose Side Should Iran Be On?

posted by Tim Saler at Thursday, June 15, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
The new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, has declared his organization's intentions following the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Muhajir says simply: we will "defeat the crusaders and Shiites" in Iraq. The "crusaders," of course, are coalition forces. But it is the Shi'ite community, targeted by al-Qaeda terrorists, that poses the greatest potential for coalition gains not only in Iraq but in the entire region.

Read on...

It is no secret that al-Qaeda is almost exclusively a Sunni Muslim operation. Terrorist attacks in Iraq take place far more frequently within the so-called "Sunni Triangle" in the center of the country around Baghdad than anywhere else. Zarqawi, a Jordanian, and his successor Muhajir are both Sunni Muslims. Osama bin Laden is a Sunni Muslim as well.

The genuine conflict between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims is often overlooked, especially by those who want to frame the war in Iraq specifically and the global war on terror generally as being a war between Muslims and the Judeo-Christian West. It, of course, is not a war between Muslims and the West. It is not a war between Muslims and Jews, or Muslims and Christians either. It is a war between those who wish to live in peace and freedom versus those who wish to use violence against civilians in order to install a radical despotic regime across the planet. It is not a religious war, but rather a war in which the enemy has perverted a religion of peace into a defense for indefensible violence.

And so we arrive at the present, three years into a difficult war in Iraq and rapidly approaching a potential showdown with Iran. Much has been said about the need to win the war in Iraq and thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. Rarely has it been suggested, however, that both goals could be accomplished at once.

Consider: Iraq, when it had been governed by Sunni Muslims under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, fought a bloody and brutal war with its neighbor Iran during the 1980s. During that war, as a result of our poor relations with Iran following the rise of Ayatollah Khomenei and the Tehran hostage crisis of 1979-1981, the United States government gave support to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. This is the source of the oft-cited photograph and video of current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein.

Put mildly, Iraq and Iran have not gotten along terribly well. Under the new democratic regime in Iraq, Shi'ite Muslims from southern provinces have more power and authority than they ever had under Hussein's regime. They are not the ones who are using violence to attempt to stop the democratic process in Iraq, and it is because they know the democratic process benefits them. It has not been lost on commentators that Shi'ite Muslims in southern Iraq may feel a particular allegiance with Iran due to Iran's Shi'ite majority. This much, however, must be said: if the Sunni Muslim terrorists should be permitted to defeat coalition forces and the will of the Iraqi people to govern themselves freely and democratically, the Shi'ite population in Iraq will suffer immensely as a result.

But, perhaps more importantly from a geopolitical perspective, we go back to the days when Iraq and Iran squared off as well-armed representatives of the Sunni and Shi'ite branches of Islam. This time, however, Iran may be armed with nuclear weapons, and Iraq will be governed by the limitless brutality of al-Qaeda terrorists. If this should take place, one can say with absolute authority that the region in particular and the world as a whole have both become far, far more dangerous than they were just four years ago.

Let us ask the question then: does Iran want war with an Iraq governed by Sunni terrorists, or would it prefer to deal with an Iraq governed democratically with a major Shi'ite bloc largely in control? Both militarily and economically, the answer should be clear. Iran would prefer to have on its western borders an Iraq that is free, capitalist, and--put frankly--governed by Shi'ite democrats rather than Sunni terrorists.

So are we doing Iran a favor by staying the course and winning the war in Iraq? Possibly. But we can also use our new ally, a democratic Iraq, to pressure Iran into cooperating with us on the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

With the defeat of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the subsequent discovery of extraordinarily important al-Qaeda documents, and the resulting capture or defeat of over 100 terrorists in the past several days, we are closer than ever to being able to say with complete confidence that we have won the war in Iraq and that we may bring our soldiers home knowing that Iraq is peaceful, strong, and free. Then, and only then, can we begin to turn our full attention to other threats facing us in the near future.

At that time, Iran has a decision to make. It can either stare down the United States and its awesome military capability, or it can work with us, our European allies, and its neighbor Iraq to develop a compromise that will stop Iran's nuclear program dead in its tracks while also providing the country with the economic and physical security it seeks. But in either case, Iran should be rooting for us in Iraq, because if we are to fail then Iran must deal with a violent and radical Sunni regime on its western borders.



Leaving aside regional disputes that have existed for decades, centuries, millennia, what do you think "coalition forces" are over there for?
Helping people, or imperialism under the guise of helping people, helping weed out "terrorists" and defeat "terrorism"?


I believe coalition forces are in Iraq today because leaders, primarily in the United States but also in the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, and elsewhere, decided that Iraq was a suitable if not preferable battlefield for the "next stop" in the Global War on Terror.

By removing Saddam Hussein from power and replacing his dictatorial regime with a democratic one, the coalition forces could demonstrate that Western ideals are not incompatible with Islam, and that the West is not the enemy. If Iraq was successful as a democratic state, then it could serve as a model for other countries in the region if their citizenry should rise up and demand an internal regime change.

That's why I think we went to Iraq. I don't think it was the right decision, as I said here. But we're there. As for all the "official" reasons for why we're in Iraq, well, the evidence speaks for itself. If they were legitimate we wouldn't need a new one every six months, from weapons of mass destruction to the flypaper strategy to whatever else.



Rather than demonstrating that western ideals are compatible with Islam or that the west isn't the enemy, I believe that coalition forces were/are demonstrating something sinister. It's largely imperialism in my view.

I just see things in a little less a favorable light than alot of folk.


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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.