Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Will the Arming of Sunni Militias in Iraq Pressure Iran?

Daniel Graeber has an interesting article in UPI (h/t) on the long term consequences of arming Sunni militias in Iraq.

But as the Sons of Iraq increasingly shed blood for the country, they are growing increasingly disenfranchised with the political rewards. Iraqis, including the Awakening Councils, want peace and stability, but as in any form of participatory government, they also want power. In Diyala province recently, members of the Sons of Iraq abandoned their checkpoints in protest of the Iraqi central government’s choice for police chief, who happened to be Shiite. That’s just one minor example of the swelling tide of political discontent emerging from the Awakening Councils, as many simply see no purpose in continuing the fight as the Awakening came with few rewards. Adding to the complexity is the tenuous cease-fire by the fighters loyal to the Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who many of the Sawha forces fear.

I had Graeber's way of thinking until last week. Then I had a realization: what if the danger of arming the Sunnis was intentional? Why would anyone in their right mind do that, you may (rightfully) ask. Well, who is the United State's number one rival in the Middle East right now? Shiite Iran. Emphasis on the whole Shiite part.

Armed Sunni militias would make Iran's goal of puppeteering Iraq much, much harder for obvious reasons.

Not only that, but Iran really, really, really does not want to see the Sunnis rise up again in Iraq. The Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s resulted in the deaths of up to a million of the youngest and brightest Iranian men. Now, I'm not suggesting that Iraq would enter another conflict with Iraq, but this is still scary stuff for Iran.

Was this the Bush Administration’s intention? I have no way to know. All I know is that this is one of the consequences that we are going to have to deal with in the coming years.

Of course, there are still the many dangerous consequences Graeber mentions. For example, he and I both noticed the frightening similarities between our arming of Sunni militias now and our arming of the Afghani mujahedin during the Cold War.