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Iraq Joins Iran’s Axis

Posted By P. David Hornik On September 21, 2012 @ 12:40 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 9 Comments

Back in 2004 King Abdullah of Jordan, a moderate Sunni, warned that the empowerment of Iraq’s Shiite majority in the Iraq War would mean creating a Shiite crescent—a belligerent, extremist continuum stretching all the way from Iran to Hizbullah-dominated Lebanon.

Eight years later, U.S. attempts to create a pluralist Iraqi democracy have instead yielded the dictatorial regime of Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Reuters now reports that “Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly military personnel and large quantities of weapons across Iraqi airspace to Syria to aid President Bashar al-Assad in his attempt to crush [the] 18-month uprising against his government….”

In other words, something very like a crescent now extends from Shiite Iran over Shiite-dominated Iraq down to Assad’s struggling, Shiite-offshoot, Alawite regime in Syria (next door, of course, to Shiite Hizbullah’s stamping grounds in Lebanon).

Iraq’s provision of its airspace for Iran’s military transfers to Syria is not a new problem. Reuters, though, says it has seen an intelligence report that says the planes are flying almost daily, the shipments are organized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “the extent of such shipments is far greater than has been publicly acknowledged, and much more systematic, thanks to an agreement between senior Iraqi and Iranian officials.”

The actual state of affairs, says the intelligence report, “flies in the face” of Iraqi officials’ declarations.

Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is unhappy about the situation and raised the idea of making some of the U.S. aid to Iraq conditional on Iraq’s cooperation on the Syrian issue.

As Kerry put it Wednesday in a Senate hearing: “It just seems completely inappropriate that we’re trying to help build democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country, and they’re working against our interest so overtly.”

“Inappropriate” if one keeps substituting baseless hopes about democracy for the ongoing reality of Middle Eastern sectarian politics and warfare.

That said, a few more things should be pointed out.

First, some blame President Obama for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq too early and enabling such outcomes as the current airlift to Syria. But, while keeping the U.S. forces there longer may have delayed the moment of truth, it is doubtful that doing so could have achieved any eventual outcome that would have justified sacrificing additional American lives.

Though Obama himself has wrought much harm in the Middle East, the seeds of an Iran-allied Iraq were planted well before his term, as already understood at the time by a knowledgeable, realistic Middle Easterner like Abdullah. In this cruel region, removing an evil like Saddam Hussein’s vicious Sunni regime can mean clearing the path for a possibly even greater geopolitical evil like Maliki’s Shiite regime.

Second, and by the same token, the growth and consolidation of the Shiite crescent does not necessarily mean Assad’s downfall is desirable. In the Syrian imbroglio—in something of a mirror image of the situation in Iraq ca. 2003-2004—the demise of Assad’s vicious Alawite regime could mean clearing the path for the Sunni radicals now increasingly prominent in the forces arrayed against him. The regime’s fall would also—while undoubtedly a blow to Iran’s alliance—weaken the alliance less now that it also includes Iraq.

Which leads, finally, to the fact that the only place where Iran’s axis can be dealt a decisive blow is Iran itself. With a nuclear-armed Shiite crescent now just over the horizon, any rational Western statecraft would not just be considering but planning that step.

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