Whoever David Gardner is, I don’t think I’ve ever read him before. Judging by this Financial Times column, I probably should start:
It turns out those Kalashnikovs went missing on his previous watch, as trainer-in-chief of the still barely existent Iraqi army. Gen Petraeus, a student of counterinsurgency with a PhD from Princeton and a gift for PR, had been lionised for his command of the 101st Airborne division in 2003-04, and especially his “hearts and minds” campaign in the north. After his withdrawal, however, two-thirds of Mosul’s security forces defected to the insurgency and the rest went down like fairground ducks. His forces appear not to have noticed, moreover, that Saudi-inspired jihadis had established a bridgehead in Mosul before the war had even started.
But US commanders seem to have no trouble detecting the hand of Tehran everywhere. This largely evidence-free blaming of serial setbacks on Iranian forces is a bad case of denial. First, the insurgency is overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni, built around a new generation of jihadis created by the US invasion. Second, to the extent foreign fighters are involved these have come mostly from US-allied and Sunni Saudi Arabia, not Shia Iran. Third, the lethal roadside bombs with shaped charges that US officials have coated with a spurious veneer of sophistication to prove Iranian provenance are mostly made by Iraqi army-trained engineers – from high explosive looted from those unsecured arms dumps.
Shia Iran has backed a lot of horses in Iraq. If it wished to bring what remains of the country down around US ears it could. It has not done so. The plain fact is that Tehran’s main clients in Iraq are the same as Washington’s: Mr Maliki’s Da’wa and the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq led by Abdelaziz al-Hakim. Iran has bet less on the unpredictable Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army, which has, in any case, largely stood aside during the present troop surge.
Well-said. One worries, however, that the relentless blaming of things on Iran is more than a bad case of denial. Justin Logan, for example, notes Max Boot saying of Syria and Iran “Why we’re not at war with them is a little bit of a mystery.” Boot, obtained a position as a Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations on the strength of his work for the legendarily rigorous Wall Street Journal editorial page, so he must be a person we should take very seriously.
DoD photo by Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca, U.S. Air Force.