Thursday, January 20, 2005

Do We Need a Pliant Iran?

According to Seymour Hersh America is thinking of bombing Iran, and our very own Spectator argues that Israel may do it on her own anyways.

The issue is not so much whether Iran is a direct threat to us (she isn't, and Andrew Gilligan disposes of the case rather easily so I won't repeat the argument) but what it has to do with us. After all if America wants to make the Middle East into a stable chain of democracies (oh the old ones are the best) or Israel wants to keep as the only nuclear powered democracy in the Middle East is none of our business.

Indeed it isn't. Or it wouldn't be if we didn't have a whole chunk of our army in southern Iraq.

It's very hard for us to realise how much we owe to the placid behaviour of the Shias. We have very few troops to spread over a large area and population with the added bonus that few of the occupiers and occupied can communicate. Whereas the Americans are seeing what a sullen population can do, we are getting on very easily.

The reason, I suspect, is less to do with the British Army's greater experience of occupation and more to do with the fact that Shias want to take over the country and they see the continued occupation and the elections as a useful tool to do this. So despite some strained relationships (including British troops doing an Abu it's all been fairly quiet.

Now if our allies were then to bomb the biggest (indeed the only) Shia power out there, where would that leave us. First the top dog among the Shias, Sistani has friendly relations with Iran, and there are more direct links than that between the two Shia sides. Even Al Sadr will help Iran.

Not only will Iran have a reason to make the occupation of the Shia areas impossible, but it most certainly has the means to do so. What would happen if it is not just Al Sadr's lot calling to get rid of us and fighting our troops? Remember - it's these guys, and not the Sunnis, who first bought suicide bombing to the Arab world.

Of course we could threaten the Americans with a withdrawal from Iraq if they decided to make our life hell by bombing Iran, but what's the chances of that?


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