Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Our New Ardennes

The situation in British-run Basra and the surrounding region is getting a little hot:

THE violence that erupted on the streets of Basra yesterday was the result of a simmering struggle between British forces and the increasingly powerful Shia Muslim militias active in southern Iraq.

Attention has been focused on the Sunni Muslim insurgency against US-led forces further north, yet the British have been facing a sharp rise in attacks from an increasingly sophisticated and deadly foe.

There are strong suspicions that the bloodshed is being orchestrated with weapons and encouragement from Iran.

One, why is Muqtada al Sadr still alive? As the article notes:

Al-Sadr’s supporters are known to dominate the local police and can mobilise gunmen or mass protests at short notice, as they did regularly during an uprising last year that swept across southern Iraq.

I ask that a lot, I know, but I really would like to know.

Two, is this just a row over Britain's stance on the nuclear issue? Really, the Iranians must know that the international community will never do anything substantive about Iran's nuclear ambitions. The UN may be nervous about John Bolton's finger wagging at them over theft and child abuse, but the UN will never manage to do even that to Iran over terrorism and nuclear bombs. And if anyone is counting on the EU Three to lead the vaunted international community, cue the happy music and note this:

Iran gained a reprieve in the standoff over its nuclear program Wednesday, with diplomats saying the European Union had decided to postpone its push to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

Who would have thought the EU would give Iran a reprieve? Completely out of left field. Stunning, really.

But Iran pushing the international community around is old news. I factor that in. But what about a worry outside the box? I worry that the Iranians are preparing to intervene fully in Iraq as it becomes apparent that the Sunni jihadis are only solidifying support for the government and as it becomes apparent that Syria will not be able to sustain the Baathists in their fight against the Iraq government. I think Iran is fighting to win and winning will require a more direct Iranian effort.

And I worry that intervention might not just be to support the idiot Sadr. What if the Iranians go for broke and invade Iraq with conventional forces?

And while I think a Tehran-engineered pretend revolt could be instigated in Iraq as I outlined, I wouldn't rule out a conventional military offensive by Iran. If I was ordered to go conventional, I'd send Iranian forces into southern Iraq to capture Basra. Held by a handful of British battalions and odds and sods of allied troops, these forces would be incapable of calling in US air power like US Army or Marines would. Our allies might fold quickly under these circumstances. Then announce a puppet regime under al-Sadr to make it look like a Shia revolt. Then I'd set up blocking positions to the west of Basra to block US forces from coming down from the north easily. And I'd turn south as soon as possible to hit the American and Coalition support troops in Kuwait.

If done right, hundreds if not thousands of Americans could be killed, delivering a shock to our public that we might not endure. Add in a major effort to block the Strait of Hormuz to stop reinforcements from coming to the rescue and we would have a major defeat on our hands.

I don't want to be paranoid, but when Iran's mullahs last saw a threat from Iraq to their power, they went after that threat hammer and tongs for nearly eight years.

And if Iran thinks we are coming anyway, why not try to strike first? Think of it as a Persian Battle of the Bulge. The British are holding a lot of ground with very few troops and if they have to fight off an invasion, they will be hard pressed to hold.

If Iran's mullahs perceive a democratic Iraq to be a threat to their rule, they will do what it takes. Given their thinking, can you really tell me that they think they couldn't succeed at less than the 400,000+ dead they suffered against Iraq in the 1980s? Will the mullahs believe we can endure the shock and casualties of a surprise offensive that is willing to suffer heavy Iranian casualties to kill 10,000 non-Iraqi Coalition troops?

The Eastern Front--especially in the British-protected south--is one we need to watch. It is always a mistake to think your enemies are not fighting to win. If they don't think they can win, why are they fighting?