Sunday, November 02, 2014

Hope Amidst the Ruins

The idea that overthrowing Saddam just threw Iraq into Iran's hands ignores that Iran's proxies don't represent Shias generally. Iran's successes have been enabled by our refusal to support the anti-Iran factions of Iraq to resist Iranian pressure.

This warning to new Iraqi militias is good to hear:

Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on Friday urged those fighting the Islamic State jihadist group to protect civilians in Sunni battlezones.

The aging Sistani has long been a force for healing and resisting Iranian influence. So this is good.

And it should be a lesson that it is not futile to help Iraq succeed as a democracy. There are forces in Iraq resisting sectarian division and violence. How much stronger would they be if we had remained in Iraq after 2011 and helped to nurture them?

But to the extent that the newly absorbed militias look to Iran for guidance, this urging will have a limited effect.

As we revive Iraq's ground forces with our re-intervention in Iraq, we should push Iraq to disband the problematic militias or push them to security in Shia areas where they can do less harm to efforts to re-Awaken Iraq's Sunni Arabs against the jihadis.

If we would resist Iran even as we fight ISIL in Iraq, we'd be better off. And Iraq would be better off, too.

UPDATE: Strategypage discusses the Iraqi militia issue and recent history:

When ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) suddenly became a major threat last June, by capturing Mosul and much of northwestern Iraq, the Shia dominated government did what they always said they would not do and allowed the Shia militias to reform, or at least be public about the fact that many never completely disbanded. Some of these Shia militia have since been accused of going back to their use of death squads against Sunni civilians. There has been some of that, but not as much as in 2006-8. That round of sectarian murders was only ended by the forcible disbanding of the Shia militias.

And luckily for Iraq, ISIL continues to be far more brutal to Sunni Arabs than the Shia militias have been so far:

Islamic State militants have killed 322 members of an Iraqi tribe in western Anbar province, including dozens of women and children whose bodies were dumped in a well, the government said in the first official confirmation of the scale of the massacre.

The systematic killings, which one tribal leader said were continuing on Sunday, marked some of the worst bloodshed in Iraq since the Sunni militants swept through the north in June with the aim of establishing medieval caliphate there and in Syria.

We continue to face enemies with comic book levels of obvious evil. Why we can't unite against these monsters rather than make excuses for them is beyond me.