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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Neocon Heads Should Be Exploding

Like many of you, no doubt, I’ve read a lot of back-and-forth over the last few days about “who won and who lost” in the recent Maliki-Sadr conflict in Iraq. Dick Polman of the Philly Inquirer has a good if not impartial summary of the debate in his blog today, and I agree with his assessment that it’s hard to say Maliki “won” since he started the dispute and then abandoned it before any sort of victory.
But this argument seems to miss a much bigger point that’s getting lost: the generally accepted fact that Maliki’s own party and government had to go to the Iranians–and not just any Iranians, but the Qods Force militia of Iran”s Revolutionary Guards–to get consent for a cease-fire that would be binding on Muqtada al-Sadr, who is himself living in Iran. Given the longstanding Iranian sponsorship of Maliki’s Dawa Party and its close ally, the Islamic Supreme Counsel of Iraq, it’s kind of hard to avoid the impression that Iran, not the U.S., is the Big Dog in Iraq, and indispensible to any sort of tenuous peace and security. I mean, really, if “our side” has to crawl to Qom to get Sadr’s chain yanked, how can any sane person promote a policy that simultaneously aims at pacifying Iraq while threatening Iran with war? Neocon heads should be exploding over this chain of events.
I’ve only seen one conservative reaction to this particular aspect of the current crisis, and it’s truly interesting. The Tank blog on the National Review site has a post by Steve Schippert that claims the government/Dawa/ISCI mission to Qom is a sign that Maliki’s standing up to Iran, and was dictating terms to Sadr through the Iranians.
That does indeed seem to be the only way to square this particular circle and avoid an explosion of heads, but it’s not terribly compelling on the face of it. The Iranians have relationships with all sorts of Iraqi Shi’a that go back a long time, involving large subsidies, safe havens, military and ideological training, religious identity, and a common hostility towards Sunnis, Israelis, and yes, Americans. The best evidence, reinforced strongly by this latest series of events, is that a stable Iraq requires Iranian support, and that if everything goes the way war supporters want, the best-case scenario is an Islamist regime in Baghdad aligned with Tehran, or at least very friendly towards Iran. How to reconcile that with neocon enthusiasm for war with Iran is a puzzle beyond my ability to solve.

2 comments on “Neocon Heads Should Be Exploding

  1. OzJohnnie on

    Why is the fact that Iran has significant and many paths of influence in Iraq a ‘head exploding’ realisation? We already knew this.
    And why would the fact that Iran has significant influence in Iraq, threatening our goals there, in addition to nuclear ambitions, threatening our goals everywhere, be a head-splitting conundrum for foreign policy hawks? If our goal is to be the big dog, then it only makes sense to go after the big dog and take them down.
    Were I looking to give Democrat Strategy on this issue, the thought process has to be ‘how to get ahead of the neo-cons?’ and not ‘how to demonstrate the neo-cons are idiots.’ The NC’s have hit on a pulse of the American culture that keeps the NC’s going: Americans hate to lose. Losing Vietnam was a bad thing to the overwhelming majority of Americans. So your question should be: How to win Iraq, and beat Iran, aggressively but without military conflict with Iran? That is the circle that must be squared.
    The answer lies in soft power aggression. I’m not talking diplomatic talks – the Iranians run circles around that stuff. It’s embarrassing. I’m talking soft power, but aggressive, projection of liberty: Radio Free Arabia, Peace Corp Arabia, CIA liberty subversion, whatever.
    Square that circle: beating Iran without firing a bullet and the Dems have a winning strategy. Argue that we should lose (or not fight) to Iran – that’s an electoral loser. Argue that Iran is too strong for us and it’s hopeless – that’s an electoral loser.
    The fact is that Iran must be confronted and must be defeated. And if the Dems leave all the initiative on achieving that goal to conservative foreign policy hawks, then the Dems will lose on this issue every time.

  2. Joe Corso on

    You miss the subtle cunning of the Maliki – and neocon – strategy, a strategy well described by Woody Allen as “I punched him in the fist with my nose and kicked him in the knee with my groin.


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