Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Take On Hersh: Duck

Seymore Hersh is reporting on an American tie with the recent fighting in Lebanon. The gist of his reporting is that the Bush administration has made a fundamental decision to back the Sunni side of a sectarian struggle in the Muslim world that America is fomenting. The current fighting in Lebanon is an unintended off shoot of that policy.

According to Hersh, the group that the Lebanese army is fighting right now were backed by America in last years Israeli/Hezbollah battle. The group is named Fatah al-Islam, and they are Sunni. They were considered a counterbalance to the Shiite Hezbollah. During last years fighting they were allied with the Lebanese government, but that obviously has changed.

Hersh however gives this particular angle much wider context. The Bush administration is fomenting sectarian strife between Shiite and Sunni in an attempt to stop the spreading influence of Syria and Iran, even if it means backing hardline Sunni extremist groups. Of course, the ultimate hardline Sunni extremist group is Al Qaeda.

This brings to mind the recent news from Iraq. I think we may be witnessing the initial stages of this strategy in the events in Iraq. The news has been abuzz with the dramatic change in environment in Anbar province. The local chiefs have decided to play ball with the coalition and attacks in the Sunni Triangle have fallen dramatically. Conversely we see bubbling unrest in Iraq's southern area with attacks on British coalition forces steadily increasing, and Iranian expertise in shaped charge explosives contributing to a growing casualty list for coalition forces around Baghdad.

If Hersh is accurate, and IF my reading of the situation in Iraq can be tied to Hersh's reporting (notice that is a huge if, I admittedly am not the font of Mideast wisdom here... can someone run this by Juan Cole?) then I expect there to be a substantial worsening of the situation around Baghdad and in the southern half of Iraq. In fact calling it a worsening security situation may be a serious understatement. If Americans are thrust into an all out knock down drag out insurgency from the Shiite in Iraq, we are in for a very bloody and tough slog.

I honestly do not think the American people would tolerate that situation very long. We were led to war in Iraq to rid the world of a supposed threat from WMD. That goal has long since been... accomplished, and morphed into several other goals. Having us in Iraq to help foment a civil war for control of the worlds most populous religion really was never part of the agreement.

If Hersh is right about this, I think it is beyond ironic considering the Bush administrations history. America was attacked by Sunni fundamentalists (Al Qaeda) on 09/11 and in response we deposed the Taliban from Afghanistan, who had ongoing tensions with Iran. The Taliban came close to starting out right wars with their neighbors to the west on a couple of occasions, once murdering several Iranian diplomats. Then President Bush, inexplicably, turned the attention of the nation from Afghanistan, allowing Osama Bin Laden to wander off into Pakistan, so Bush could lead us to invade Iraq. The history of hostilities between Iran and Iraq was all out war between Saddam and the Ayatollah with the resultant deaths of hundreds of thousands on both sides. So in response to 9/11 America relieved Iran of enemies on both their eastern and western frontiers. Iran could not have been dreaming of such success if they had been dictating the terms of American policy directly to the President as they saw fit.

Yet NOW the Bush administration discovers the looming threat of Shiite domination of the middle east, and is goading sectarian violence, even as we place additional forces into the Iraqi quagmire. In order to combat this we find ourselves allying with the same sect which is responsible for 9/11. The disastrous consequences of this Presidents positively wrong headed and ill conceived foreign policy could not be worsened if the President had actively tried to sabotage our international efforts.

Here's an idea! Expend half the effort we have spent on botching things up, and forge a working peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That would lead to a dramatic decline in the worlds unhappy experience with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.

Oh right... bringing the Palestinians to the table would be talking with people who don't see things like we do. We would be rewarding our enemies! Whatever was I thinking.

So... let me see if I've got this straight:

The enemy (Iraqi Sunnis) of my enemy's (Arab Sunnis allied with Al Qaeda), enemy's (Iranian Shiites), friend (Iraqi Shiites)...is my friend?

[BOOM!] My head just exploded.
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