Not Saussure

August 26, 2006

Unintended Consequences

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 11:59 pm

The new Chatham House report, Iran, Its Neighbours and the Regional Crises, makes it clear they think America is winning the war on terror, only not for the people President Bush particularly wanted to help. The report opens with the blunt assessment,

There is little doubt that Iran has been the chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East. The United States, with Coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran’s regional rival governments – the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in April 2003 – but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures.

And, it seems, there’s not a great deal the USA can do about it — and God help us if they do:

If the US were to attack Iran, then it would do so knowing that its forces in Iraq would be at an even greater risk than they currently are. Any US attack against Iran would expose the US presence in Iraq to retaliatory destabilizing interventions by Tehran. Such interventions could take a variety of forms, but would most likely be focused upon increasing the activity of Shi’a militias in Iraq and facilitating increases in general insurgent attacks against the Multi-National Force (MNF). Such a development would place the British contingent of the MNF, based in Basra, in a desperately perilous situation. US policy-makers would also need to consider the threat to the American national interest resulting from a disruption of Iranian oil exports of 2.7mnb/d.

Washington’s biggest security headache, as it considers whether to embark upon an assault against the Islamic Republic, is neither Iran’s ability to fight in the airspace, nor even in the streets of its border towns (if the US were indeed to surprise most analysts and attempt a land invasion). The greatest threat to the US is Iran’s ability to further destabilize the already chaotic public spaces of Iraq.

In short,

The great problem facing the US is that Iran has superseded it as the most influential power in Iraq. This influence has a variety of forms but all can be turned against the US presence in Iraq with relative ease, and almost certainly would heighten US casualties to the point where a continued presence might not be tenable. Sources in Iraq are already warning that the major cities (including Basra and Baghdad) have witnessed a rise in the activities of Iranian paramilitary units and the recent bout of violence and instability in Basra is now considered to be a small display of what would happen if Iran itself was targeted.

The Iraqis, or one Iraqi at least, could have told them this back in May; then Riverbend was warning

The big question is- what will the US do about Iran? There are the hints of the possibility of bombings, etc. While I hate the Iranian government, the people don’t deserve the chaos and damage of air strikes and war. I don’t really worry about that though, because if you live in Iraq- you know America’s hands are tied. Just as soon as Washington makes a move against Tehran, American troops inside Iraq will come under attack. It’s that simple- Washington has big guns and planes… But Iran has 150,000 American hostages.

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