Iran: destroying Iraq . . . except when it’s not

Over the weekend, General Petraeus increased the belligerent rhetoric against Iran, claiming that Iran could be the biggest long term threat to Iraqi security. Iran, he explained, is getting weapons into Iraq, sending military and political officials into the country, and coordinating with militia groups.

This is pretty rich, coming from a military leader of a nation that . . . disburses an ungodly amount of weapons in Iraq (to the tune of $1.6 BILLION in contracts just last month), is occupying the nation and consistently meddling in military and political affairs, and is not only arming militia groups, but bragging that such programs to provide money and weapons to anti-government Sunni tribes are a huge success.

But leaving aside the hypocrisy, on the *very same day,* news came out that Iran had helped broker a peace deal between the two major Shia militias, the Badr Corps of SIIC (formerly SCIRI) and Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of SIIC, who is reportedly undergoing treatment for cancer in Iran, met with Sadr, a frequent rival for Shia following and control in Baghdad and oil-rich Basra province, to bury the hatchet. The plan reportedly has three primary elements: stopping the fighting between Iraqis, urging media to engender a spirit of friendship and forgiveness, and establishing commissions in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces to oversee the peace initiative. The agreement was “in the spirit of” Ramadan, the Muslim holy month in which gestures of forgiveness and mercy are often made.

Now, who knows how long this agreement will last, or if it will even make an impact from the outset. Fighting between Mahdi and Badr has been fierce at times, and Hakim and Sadr are certainly rivals. On the other hand, they’re also both Shia, both worked together in UIA (the umbrella Shia political party), and both cannot stray too far from Ayatollah Sistani, the highest-ranking Iraqi Shia cleric. There is at least equal incentive for the groups to cooperate as there is to fight. Further, if the “commissions” established in all 18 provinces have any substance, they might have the potential to become mini-governments in the absence of effective administration via the central government.

And again, they worked out the agreement in Iran. Not with U.S. officials (with whom Sadr refuses to deal), not with Saudi Arabia, not the UN. Iran. So when Petraeus says (quoting the CNN article, not the General directly) that, “sectarian fighting among militias fueled by Iran could be the biggest long-term challenge for Iraq,” well, exactly what sectarian fighting among militias is he referring to? Why are these statement always so vague, so imprecise? *Which* militias? *Where* is Iran fueling fighting? I’m open to being convinced, but the dichotomy of Petraeus accusing Iran of fueling sectarian infighting at precisely the same time two major militia groups are agreeing to a peace accord in Iran doesn’t bode well for his case.

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