Madness in Iraq
The Bush Administration's decision to send more troops to Iraq is sheer madness. Polls show that the majority of the Iraqi people wants the U.S. to leave. Indeed, some American generals concede that the U.S. presence in Iraq is as much a factor in the country's bloody violence as the sectarian strife between the Shiites and the Sunnis.
Nevertheless, the Bush Administration insists on having American soldiers play referee in that country. Now it is compounding the Iraqi chaos with its "surge" in U.S. troops. The Administration boasts that it has "introduced democracy" to Iraq. It cites the recent elections and the creation of a parliament and constitution as signs of success. The most effective test of Iraqi democracy, however, would be an Iraqi parliamentary vote on whether U.S. troops should remain or depart.
The purpose of the so-called "surge" is to control the raging sectarian violence by merging more American soldiers with the Iraqi army and police force. The idea is that the combined force will be able to establish security by suppressing both the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias.
But there are basic problems. By all accounts, both the Iraqi army and police force are riddled with members of the Shiite militias. So loyalties, often based on tribal ties, are hard to determine, and U.S. troops are often unable to distinguish genuine friends from foes. The situation is complicated by the growing conflict between rival Shiite militias.
The Bush Administration argues that if the U.S. "cuts and runs," neighboring Iran, a nation hostile to U.S. interests, will take control of Iraq. But it's too late; Iran's powerful influence with the Shiites who now rule Iraq is already evident.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently visited Tehran to confer with his fellow Shiites. Another frequent Iraqi visitor to Iran is the radical Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, an anti-U.S. firebrand. Indeed, al-Sadr may have found refuge in Iran from American forces.
The Sadr link to Iran was recently confirmed by Sari al-Askari, a member of Sadr's bloc in parliament. Interestingly, al-Askari also functions as a a political adviser to Prime Minister al-Maliki. This is the convoluted political environment into which George W. Bush has wandered.
Meanwhile, it is becoming evident that the Sunni insurgents are being supported by elements in Saudi Arabia, a supposed American ally. There is no evidence that the Saudi government is officially involved in Iraq. But the Saudi government--like other Sunni nations such as Jordan, the Gulf States, and Egypt--is worried about a Shiite Iran takeover of Iraq and may be overlooking the unofficial aid to Iraq's Sunni insurgents.
In the past, left-wing critics of the Iraq war have charged that Israel instigated the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The toppling of Saddam Hussein was certainly a benefit to the Israelis. But it's hard to imagine such hard-nosed characters as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld heeding the advice of foreigners to go to war.
In fact, most Israeli strategists now believe that the chaotic situation in Iraq has harmed vital Israeli security interests. Iraq's western Anbar province has become increasingly dominated by militant jihadi Sunnis, including Al Qaeda. More important, the American occupation of Iraq has strengthened Israel's primary enemy, Iran.
According to Yossi Alpher, a veteran Israeli security official, and other authoritative Israel sources, Israel's former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in a friendly fashion, pointedly warned Bush not to go into Iraq without a viable exit strategy and not to occupy the country, even though Sharon conceded that Saddam Hussein was a menace who may have possessed atomic weapons.
Sharon told Bush, Alpher writes, "Please remember that you will conquer, occupy and leave, but we have to remain in this part of the world....Israel, he reminded the American President, does not wish to see its vital interests hurt by regional radicalization and the spillover of violence beyond Iraq's border."
In public, Sharon played the silent ally. He neither criticized nor supported the Iraq invasion. Israeli officials visiting Washington were instructed not to encourage the U.S. invasion plan so that Israel could not be blamed for its failure.
Perhaps if Sharon had made his criticism of the Iraq invasion public, citing the dangers posed to Israeli interests, he would have quickly disproved the hateful argument of the left-wing critics and their academic cohorts that Israel was responsible for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.