Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, a national security consultant at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
The Washington Post published an editorial yesterday arguing that Iran is engaging in a region-wide proxy war against the United States and its Middle Eastern allies.
The editorial swallowed hook, line, and sinker the Bush administration’s argument that the United States and the Iraqi government are fighting a proxy war against Iranian-backed militants linked however vicariously to Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army:
Threaded through the reports of progress in Iraq by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker last week was the story of a larger failure: the inability of the United States and its allies to contain the growing aggressiveness of Iran. Since Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker last reported to Congress seven months ago, Iranian-backed militias and “special groups” in Iraq have evolved from a shadow force into the largest remaining threat to U.S. forces and the Iraqi government. It was Iranian-supplied rockets that slammed into the Green Zone in recent days and Iranian-trained militants who stiffened the resistance to Iraqi government forces trying to gain control over the southern city of Basra.
This is an inaccurate description of the political situation in Iraq. Iran has ties to every major Shi’a party in Iraq – including the very parties the administration has chosen to ally with. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), the biggest player in Iraq’s governing coalition, was founded in Iran, and its militia has been incorporated into Iraq’s security forces. As General Petraeus recently told CNN journalist Michael Ware, deep Iranian influence in the highest levels of the Iraqi government is “a reality.”
The fighting between the Iraqi government and Sadr’s Mahdi Army isn’t a proxy war between the United States and Iran, it’s a struggle for power between two Iranian clients. President Bush’s policy has essentially committed American blood and treasure to serve the interests of Iran’s proxies in the Iraqi government.
Despite these facts, the Washington Post editorial board continues to support “prolonged commitment” of American troops to Iraq. It has chastised progressive presidential candidates for refusing to “concede that the ‘surge’ of U.S. troops has worked.” However, the Post editorial board has failed to consider that an open-ended military commitment to the Iraqi government serves Iranian interests far more than American interests. Tehran gets the United States to protect its own clients in the Iraqi government, all while keeping American troops tied down and unable to threaten Iran.
Now the Post tells its readers the United States needs to counter Iran’s “growing menace” in the region. But the very Iraq policy the Post advocates in fact strengthens Iran’s regional position, enabling it to press its interests in Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq.