Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Primary Threat

Despite the focus on al Qaeda in Iraq, our real primary enemy standing in the way of victory continues to be the Iranian-sponsored Shia gunmen and their Iranian sponsors. The Syrians who are tagging along on Ahmadinejad's leash are insignificant compared to Iran.

Not that it is fair to say,as some war opponents do, that al Qaeda isn't a major target or is some sort of fake reason for the surge to trick the American people. These jihadis provide the primary justification for Shia death squads. So we target al Qaeda in Iraq to reduce the motivation of our primary threat. Plus, in a Shia-dominated state, it is not wise to emphasize a war on majority thugs even when those thugs don't command anywhere close to majority support.

Further, the jihadis are responsible for lots of killing. So while the jihadis can't take over Iraq, they are mass murderers. That is not an insubstantial reason for taking them on.

But we are hitting the Shia thugs in this surge:

The military said the raid targeted fighters from breakaway factions of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army who smuggle arms from Iran and facilitate the travel of Iraqi militants to Iran for training.

"The individuals detained and the terrorists killed during the raid are believed to be members of a cell of a special groups terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq into Iran for terrorist training," the military said.

The statement said the main suspect in the raid was a liaison between Iraqi fighters and Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training the militants. Tehran has denied allegations that it is supporting the violence in Iraq.

The military account of the raid said U.S. and Iraqi ground forces came under sporadic small-arms fire as they targeted a group of buildings in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite district in eastern Baghdad. The raiders killed two armed men believed to be lookouts, then detained 12 rogue militia fighters, the military said.

Attack helicopters and warplanes then struck after spotting a vehicle and a large group of armed men on foot who were trying to attack the ground forces. An estimated 30 militants were killed in the air attack, according to the statement.

Unfortunately, unless we can stop the Iranians from supporting the Shia thugs, we will find that we will move into yet another phase of the war where Shias replace the dying Sunni Arab Baathists, nationalists, and jihadis as the main enemy in the field. This is progress, in that we keep knocking back the primary threats, but it does mean the war will go on.

I've argued for at least 2-1/2 years that the minority of Iranian-backed Shias are the primary threat to victory even as the other Sunni Arab elements continued to fight and kill. The actual battlefield transition seems to be taking place as Sunni Arabs begin to quit and switch sides (Baathists and tribal nationalists) or are killed (jihadis).

Of course, this could be a threat that Iraqis could fight. Iraqi Shias could emphasize their Arab heritage to oppose Shia Persians, while Sunni Arabs and Kurds would have religion and ethnicity to inspire them to fight Tehran's minions.

It is a complicated battlefield.