Sunday, April 15, 2007

Iraq Forever

Oh my gawd... what a mess:

The modest initial gains made by the US-led security "surge" in Baghdad face a devastating new threat as thousands of Iraqi Shias are reported to be receiving military training in Iran.
Although the vast majority of American casualties have been inflicted by Sunni insurgents, the US military views the Mahdi Army as the most dangerous faction in Iraq's sectarian war. It has frequently battled against British and US forces in Iraq, most recently in Diwaniyah, and has also been blamed for carrying out death squad killings of Sunnis and political assassinations. In recent months hundreds of its members have been arrested.These moves have prompted many Sadrists to believe they are on the brink of an all-out confrontation with the US Army. Peter Harling, an Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group who is considered a leading authority on al-Sadr, said he had his own information that Mahdi Army fighters were now being trained in Iran. This "in no way implied" the operation was sponsored by the Iranian authorities, he added, although he suggested they were aware of it and chose to turn a blind eye.

The US has sought to portray the Sadr movement as an Iranian proxy, but the Sadrists are fervent nationalists who have also refused to tolerate Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs. Mr Harling noted "more lenient overtones" recently, however. "That suggests that either the Mahdi Army is in greater need of Iranian support or relations have actually improved."
Within the Mahdi Army, suggestions of military ties with Iran are controversial, with many members insisting Iraqis are standing alone against foreigners.

"Our enemies try to say our leaders are hiding in Iran or that we depend on Iran or Hizbollah for support," said Mohammed Rabie Almejblie, a 26-year-old Sadrist militant in Wasit, southern Iraq. "But the Mahdi Army is a grassroots Iraqi movement that believes in the liberation from occupation forces. Solving these problems is for the Iraqis themselves."

If there's no plan B, we're going to be there for a long, long time.


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