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Pro-Iranian Versus Iranian-Style

If I may make an observation, it seems to me that an awful lot of commentary on Iraq is conflating the issue of whether the new regime will be "pro-Iranian" with the issue of whether it will want to establish a government like Iran's. These, however, are very different questions. Germany has a more pro-Iranian foreign policy than does the United States, but a less Iran-friendly policy than does Italy, and the difference here isn't that Italy is closer to being ruled by its local Shiite hierarchy than is Germany or the United States. One doesn't need to believe domestic political structures are irrelevant to international relations to see that they certainly underdetermine behavior on the world stage.

What's more, looking at Iran from the vantage point of the USA tends to skew one's view of what a "pro-Iranian" policy is. There is one country on earth -- Israel -- that has a more hostile relationship with Iran than does the United States. The odds are strongly in favor of the proposition that the new Iraq will be more pro-Iranian than American is, simply because every country is more pro-Iranian than America is. This is a far cry from saying that the new regime will be an Iranian puppet of some sort. Germany isn't controlled by Iran, it just doesn't have an America-style always-hostile, always-confrontational relationship with Teheran.

February 15, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

You mean... not everyone thinks the way we do?

(look of shock and dismay)

Say it ain't so. ;-)

Posted by: Matt (not MY) | Feb 15, 2005 2:57:33 PM

OK, but again, there are very specific people here (e.g. Hakim) who might fairly be viewed as Iranian puppets. Luckily, however, Ja'afari is the guy, and he seems more rooted in Iraqi society than in revolutionary Shi'ism per se.

Posted by: praktike | Feb 15, 2005 2:58:44 PM

Could you please e-mail this post to Robin Wright?

Posted by: Al | Feb 15, 2005 2:59:37 PM

And, the United States is far more an "Iranian-style" democracy than
Germany is, yet we remain very anti-Iran.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Feb 15, 2005 3:20:12 PM

Careful, Matthew, or your logic will violate the integrity of the commentators' irrationality. Wouldn't want to spoil their perfectly-good outrage.

Posted by: Matt G. | Feb 15, 2005 3:23:40 PM

But the point is that the there was one country that was more anti-Iranian than both Israel and the U.S. prior to the invasion of Iraq. . . And that country was Iraq. Now, after invading Iraq, spending $300 billion 1500 American lives, 15,000 plus wounded and countless Iraqi dead and wounded we are going to have a government in Iraq that is going to be much closer to Iran than we will be comfortable with and will be guaranteed to make our supposedly very good friends in the region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, The Emirates) very uncomfortable. Their response will be to crack down on their own restive shiite minorities aborting whatever meager efforts towards democratization they had started.

Posted by: Freder Frederson | Feb 15, 2005 3:23:48 PM

A more succinct Freder Frederson:

We will have an Iraq, post Saddam, that is more friendly to anti-American terrorists than we had when Saddam was in power.

Posted by: epistemology | Feb 15, 2005 3:41:12 PM

What are you talking about? Iran will liberated before this summer. You know why? Because it's too hot to liberate in summer time; we don't like to sweat while liberating.

Posted by: abb1 | Feb 15, 2005 3:50:11 PM

The US did its best to inflame the conflict between Iran and Iraq after the Shah was deposed. Now that the US has removed the most virulent anti-Iran faction from power, the US now needs Iran to help keep a lid on the insurgency by keeping those friendly to Iran (Kurds and Shia) out of the fight. When the bull finally leaves the China shop, it is not predictable which pieces will still be intact.

Posted by: bakho | Feb 15, 2005 4:11:36 PM

I said "Could you please e-mail this post to Robin Wright?"

Never mind. Looks like someone's already gotten through to her:

"The point of the article in The Washington Post was really to look at US policy
and contrast the early goals in 2003, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, with
what has happened since then politically in Iraq. In the article, as on the
show, I pointed out that Sistani and others have rejected the idea of
theocratic rule, or the Iranian model.

"I suspect the criticism stems from a bit of confusion about the point
I was trying to make; I fully accept the blame in perhaps not making it
well enough. The fact that the winning parties have had close relations
with Iran does not mean in any way that they favor rigid theocratic rule.
They don't -- or at least have said so repeatedly in recent weeks and
months. There's a big difference between having relations with Iran and
liking its sytem -- as we see even among our European allies, who have
diplomatic and extensive commercial relations with Iran but reject its
political system as undemocratic. I think the majority of Iraqis,
especially those who voted, share that view."

http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/05_02_13_corner-archive.asp#056268

Posted by: Al | Feb 15, 2005 4:27:38 PM

The issue is not simply whether they are friendly to Iran or not, but how this will affect concrete policies such as their attitudes towards Israel. Will they support the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example. Would they cooperate if sanctions were imposed on Iran, or permit the monitoring of Iranian nuclear activies from Iraqui soil? They can also reject clerical structurally rule but if they build Sharia law into the consitution this would not bode too well for individual democratic rights, particularly for women.

Posted by: wheezer | Feb 15, 2005 4:38:43 PM


Will they support the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example.

Probably.

Would they cooperate if sanctions were imposed on Iran, or permit the monitoring of Iranian nuclear activies from Iraqui soil?

No way Jose.


They can also reject clerical structurally rule but if they build Sharia law into the consitution this would not bode too well for individual democratic rights, particularly for women.

It would be surprising if they didn't do that. It's almost certain there's going to be an Islamic court in the new constitution which could veto laws which they consider to the unIslamic just as Iran and Afghanistan - that's the government we help to install - has.

So we have helped to create the Iraqi version of the hated Iranian mullahs in Iran. And just as the Iranian mullahs have vetoed laws passed by the elected parliament - and the US has complained about it as "undemocratic", the Iraqi mullahs will do the same thing to the Iraqi parliament.

Posted by: Dan the Man | Feb 15, 2005 5:12:37 PM

Team America has forever ruined the term puppet in international discussions. I guess "stooge" or "catspaw" is still available...

Posted by: Wrye | Feb 15, 2005 5:45:12 PM

FYI:

he spiritual leader of al-Daawa was the legendary Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, a prodigy (then in his early twenties) who had been writing and lecturing on Islamic history and doctrinal matters since the age of ten. In two highly influential works, Falsafatuna (Our Philosophy, 1958) and Iqtisaduna (Our Economics, 1961), Sadr refuted the argument that Islam lacked solutions to modern problems and introduced an Islamic theory of political economy. Grand Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim and other senior clergymen also influenced the party, though the religious establishment was careful to avoid taking overtly political stances. The operational leader of the party was Sheikh Arif al-Basri. It is important to draw some distinction between Daawa as an ideological movement and as an activist organization. The movement was marked by its progressive and inclusive ideology, which inevitably rendered it vulnerable to schisms and differentiation. The activist organization, meanwhile, was renowned for its tight discipline and fierce courage. It was this fierce activism that secured al-Daawa's reputation as the Baathist regime's most serious enemy. There is some evidence that al-Daawa as an activist organization learnt its skills and techniques from the Fadayeean-e-Eslam, a small Iranian Shiite extremist group that carried out a string of prominent assassinations in the 1950s and 1960s.[1] The distinction between the movement and the activist party was consolidated over time, as al-Daawa deployed increasingly violent methods against the Baath and its supporters.

Sadr envisioned al-Daawa indoctrinating a generation of revolutionaries who would one day seize power and establish a state that would implement Islamic law. While arguing the case for an Islamic polity aligned to the clergy, however, Sadr did not sanction clerical control of the state - the ulama's role in the Islamic state would be to oversee legislation and ensure their conformity with Islamic norms. Although this agenda was squarely unacceptable to secular political groups, it left room for collaboration with non-Shiites. Indeed, al-Daawa coordinated closely with Sunni Islamist organizations and boasted a modest Sunni membership (around 10% in 1980, according to al-Daawa's own claims). Al-Daawa activists did not confine their activities to Iraq only, but secretly formed branches in the Persian Gulf states and Lebanon; where Shiite minorities (and majorities in the case of Bahrain and Lebanon) endured varying degrees of oppression.

Posted by: praktike | Feb 15, 2005 5:45:29 PM

"and majorities in the case of Bahrain and Lebanon"

Lebanon is majority Shia? I knew there was a large contingent and exile community, but not a majority.

Hmmmm

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Feb 15, 2005 6:02:51 PM

The issue is not simply whether they are friendly to Iran or not, but how this will affect concrete policies such as their attitudes towards Israel.

The policies toward Israel will undoubtedly be less hostile than Saddam's policies were (let's not forget his funding of the suicide bombings).

We see already that the Iraqi leaders are not interested at all in the Israeli-Palestinian question. These leaders, having the benefit of popular support, clearly do not need to take the anti-Israel steps needed by other leaders in the region who lack such popular support.

Will they support the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example.

Hezbollah supports the insurgents! You think the Iraqi government is going to support a group that supports the insurgents??? Hell, less than a week ago, 18 Hezbollah members were arrested by Iraqi authorities on terrorism charges.

Would they cooperate if sanctions were imposed on Iran, or permit the monitoring of Iranian nuclear activies from Iraqui soil?

They are already allowing the overflights of Iran from Iraqi territory.

They can also reject clerical structurally rule but if they build Sharia law into the consitution this would not bode too well for individual democratic rights, particularly for women.

This is, of course, irrelevant to the question of their relationship with Iran.

Posted by: Al | Feb 15, 2005 6:17:35 PM

Alway a new disaster waiting in the wings. In the last few the impending disasters have been:

1. Insurgency 'spinning out of control' whole country soon to be engulfed.

2. Elections are impossible. Must be postponed. Bush a blockhead for being stubborn about the date.

3. Theocracy inevitable.

and now

4. Ok, maybe it won't be a theocracy, but it'll be very friendly with Iran and, therefore, work against U.S. interests (thereby making the whole thing a vast screw-up...but for a completely new reason).

What impending disaster is waiting in the wings if this one doesn't pan out?

OK, look, obviously there are a lot of things going on here:

1. The Iraqi shiites have been supported by Iran for years, but...
2. There is a rivalry over where the center of Shia Islam is going to reside, now that Najaf is not under Saddam's thumb, and...
3. The Iranian mullahs are intensely unpopular. The Iraqi clerics don't want to become objects of derision and hatred, and...
4. And the Kurds are not going to be too keen on Iranian puppetry, and...
5. For the foreseeable future, the U.S. is going to be a critical source of security and money, and...
6. Any deal for bringing the Sunni's into the government will work against Iranian puppetry.

How is it all going to shake out? Who knows for sure (nobody does), but the latest certain disaster in the making (Iraq to become Iranian client state) is no more solid than the previous predictions of doom.

Posted by: mw | Feb 15, 2005 6:58:00 PM

MattY: The odds are strongly in favor of the proposition that the new Iraq will be more pro-Iranian than American is

And also, of course, more pro-Iranian than Saddam's regime, for similar reasons.

Posted by: fling93 | Feb 15, 2005 7:27:25 PM

mw:

As opposed to Bush's predictions:

1. Mushroom cloud if we don't act immediately
2. US troops will be met with flowers and kisses
3. Capture of Saddam will quiet insurgency

It's an amazing job of PR that question becomes, not: Are there proven benefits to going to war, but: Hey, you can't prove the war made things worse. Unless you don't mind spending thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.

My contention from the beginning was that the new Iraq will be more amenable to anti-American terrorists than the old Iraq. We have solid evidence that that is true to this point.

Posted by: epistemology | Feb 15, 2005 7:30:02 PM

I like that "If I may make an observation ..."

Dude, it's your frickin blog!

Posted by: orin | Feb 15, 2005 9:52:40 PM

As opposed to Bush's predictions:

1. Mushroom cloud if we don't act immediately
2. US troops will be met with flowers and kisses
3. Capture of Saddam will quiet insurgency

I must've missed prediction #1 on Bush's part--got a source?

But I'm not claiming that the Bushies were accurate either. My point is that NOBODY has a strong record of making correct predictions about what was going to happen next in Iraq.

I have no problem with commentators raising the concern of Iraq being closely allied with (or dominated by) Iran--it is a possibility. But to declare confidently that this new disaster WILL happen is absurd (and seems to me less a sign of concern about what will happen in Iraq but than an attempt to find a new club to bash Bush with given that the effectiveness of the last one has been used up).

My contention from the beginning was that the new Iraq will be more amenable to anti-American terrorists than the old Iraq. We have solid evidence that that is true to this point.

From the beginning? I guess we'll have to take your word for that. If you mean as a matter of government policy--no way. However it shakes out, the new Iraqi government will not be flirting with Bin Laden and Al Queda as Saddam did (even though there was never any 'formal alliance'). If you mean that, because it will no longer be an iron-fisted police state, it may leave create more space for terrorist groups to operate--that is possible, but it is an unavoidable side effect of democracy. Western Europe, after all, has turned out to be highly 'amenable' to terrorists in that respect--not as intentional policy, of course, but amenable nevertheless (9/11 hijackers, Richard Reid--you know the list).


Posted by: mw | Feb 16, 2005 8:33:02 AM

Speaking of "pro-Iranian" -- interesting to see that Bush's Wild West foreign policy has succeeded in creating a real axis of opposition (if not "Evil") to the US between Syria and Iran.

Posted by: bragan | Feb 16, 2005 3:32:29 PM

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