Who’s Afraid of the Shiite Wolf?

Posted by Cutler on May 11, 2007

The Sadrist MPs within the IraqiThe Sadrist MPs within the Iraqi Government are circulation legislation calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.  Sort of.

Not surprisingly, some anti-war critics are quick to hail it as “a hugely significant development.”

Juan Cole puts the breathless chatter about the withdrawal petition in some helpful context.

The Washington Post story by Joshua Partlow leads with a quote from a Sadrist MP that hardly seems like an audacious call to arms:

“We haven’t asked for the immediate withdrawal of multinational forces; we asked that we should build our security forces and make them qualified, and at that point there would be a withdrawal,” said Bahaa al-Araji, a member of parliament allied with the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters drafted the bill. “But no one can accept the occupation of his country.”

Am I the only one who thinks the Sadrist seem pretty tame?  Does Moqtada al-Sadr really give Cheney nightmares?

On the contrary, Right Zionists seem pretty pleased with their Shiite allies these days.  As I noted in a previous post, Reuel Marc Gerecht over at the American Enterprise Institute has been expecting Iraqi demands for US withdrawal and does not seem particularly fazed by them:

As a Shiite-led democracy grows, the calls for an American withdrawal will increase. Which is fine. Iraqi nationalism is vibrant among the Shiites, especially those who are religious. And democracy in Iraq, as elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East, is unlikely to be particularly affectionate toward the United States. Iraqi democracy is much more likely to free American soldiers to go home than is chaos in Mesopotamia.

So, that must mean that everyone is now on the same page about US withdrawal, right?


The folks who brought us this war–and intentionally brought Shiites to power in Iraq–have done what they wanted to do in Iraq.  They have opened Pandora’s Box and are now prepared to watch as Iraqi Shiite power change the balance of power in the region.

But there are some folks in Washington who remain quite worried about US withdrawal.

Who are they?

Surprise!  They include some of the most high-profile critics of that war–Right Arabist figures like General Anthony Zinni.  Why?  Not a sudden lack of moral courage.  The issue is geopolitical, not moral.  Zinni and the Right Arabists need US forces to stay in order to help close Pandora’s Box and contain Shiite regional power.

Zinni spoke about US military withdrawal during a recent appearance on CNN:

BLITZER: All right. So now the U.S. is there. What do you do now?…

ZINNI: Well, first of all, it’s the right man. Dave Petraeus is exceptional, and I think our ambassador there, Ryan Crocker, another exceptional individual. We have the right people on the ground.

I think what we haven’t done, though, is we haven’t talked about the broader strategic — or strategy that we need for the region. We need to reconstruct a collective security arrangement that’s been destroyed in the region. We need to think through how we would establish a containment strategy, setting the conditions for what our troops would do, what they wouldn’t do in here. Even if this current strategy works, either way we’re going to fall back in to some containment, but it’s foolish to believe we’re going to leave.

BLITZER: What would happen if, as a lot of Democrats want right now, by the end of next March, early April, combat forces are out of Iraq?

ZINNI: Well what can happen, this could become a base for extremists. We could have the sectarian violence spill over into the region. Iranian influence could grow, and their hegemonic designs could create a situation that’s worse.

BLITZER: So, what you’re saying, as bad as the situation is right now, there’s plenty of opportunity for it to get a whole lot worse?

ZINNI: Absolutely. Anyone that knows this region knows that.

BLITZER: So, realistically, general — and you’ve spent a long time studying that part of the world, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf area — how long do you believe U.S. combat forces are going have to be deployed to Iraq, at least for the time being? How long do you envisage they’ll going to be stuck there?

ZINNI: Well, I think you’re going to see a presence. Now, I can see that presence may be moving down, but I think for five to seven years you’re going to see a presence.

Now, much of that may be less on the combat troops, more on the advisers, security assistance down the road. Some of it will be troops in the adjoining countries where we have allies to help contain it. And look at the broader strategic requirements in the region.

Right Zionists are now and have always been sweet on the Shiites and hostile toward Sunni Arab regional domination.

Right Arabists are now and have always been sweet on Sunni Arab regional hegemony and totally hostile to Shiite power.

The US is in trouble in Iraq for a thousand reasons, but one of those reasons is that the US foreign policy establishment has been and continues to be working toward entirely different, mutually exclusive goals in Iraq.

It would be difficult, to be sure, to fight a war with one hand tied behind your back.  It has to quite a bit more difficult, if not impossible, to fight a war with one hand battling the other hand.

3 Comments to Who’s Afraid of the Shiite Wolf?

  • I’ve been reading this and like-minded blogs for some time and I still don’t see the Shiite-right Zionist conspiracy. Why would weakening America’s gulf allies be of any benefit to the U.S. or Israel? Why would strengthening Iran help them? A Shiite dominated Bahrain isn’t particularly useful, neither is a weakened and angered Saudi, which might in the future turn to Russia or China for support. An Iran with an uninterrupted land bridge to Lebanon and Hizbollah can’t be what the Right Zionists are rooting for.

    The only thing I can think of is that the R-Zers had planned to take out Iran or hoped maybe its government would magically collapse and be replaced by a pro U.S-Israeli govt. But if that last part of the plan doesn’t occur, I don’t see much upside from the Zionist POV. A Sunni-Shiite civil war on an international scale may be a fall back position. But by crippling Saudi they would give an opening to foreign powers while ruining the west’s oil supply. Did I mention the 5th fleet base in Sunni dominated Bahrain? Please tell me what I’m missing here.


  • Ziad– Thanks for these are extrZiad– Thanks for these are extremely important questions. It might be worth saying, from the start, that it is one thing to track what Right Zionists think and quite another thing to argue that their plans/fantasies will come to pass as they hope.

    For Right Zionists, so-called “eternal Iran” represents an indispensable ally that must be won; it is not an enemy to “take out.” The big question, however, has always been how to renew that old Israeli-US-Iranian alliance that collapsed with the advent of the Iranian revolution.

    To be sure, Right Zionists talk constantly about regime change in Iran.  As I note in a recent post, Richard Perle seems nearly apoplectic these days about what he perceives to be the Bush administration’s refusal to champion regime change in Iran.

    But as I have note in another recent post, Right Zionists like Michael Ledeen spent most of the 1980s (through the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991) trying to cultivate ties to the incumbent Iranian regime, notwithstanding its anti-Israeli and anti-US posture.

    The regional stakes (Bahrain, Lebanon, even the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) are part of the attraction for Right Zionists.  They want to end Sunni domination of all these areas and hand them to their new friends, the “moderate” Shiites led by Grand Ayatollah Sistani.  (See Cheney’s man, David Wurmser for the regional scenario.)

    And, last but not least, Right Zionists even have their favorite (cooperative) Saudis.  They do not want to cause trouble for their Saudis, but they do consider Saudi King Abdullah an enemy of Israel and the United States.

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