Eric Martin rounds up some evidence that “should make US policymakers wonder whether, yet again, we are backing the less popular local elements simply because they tell us what we want to hear.” That seems wrong to me. The would-be imperial power has to back the “less popular local elements.” The key thing is to find groups that are strong enough to hold on to power with external support, but too weak to come to be in a position to kick the ladder of external support away.
Yes, it seems stupid for American soldiers to be risking their lives for the sake of Iranian-backed Islamist parties’ struggle against a nationalist Islamist party, but that’s the perverse logic of the situation. If ISCI had more popularity and legitimacy, they wouldn’t need us. And if they didn’t need us, we wouldn’t want them, just as we don’t really want anything to do with the self-confident Sadrists. The only problem is ginning up domestic political support in the United States for the gambit. Hence we hear a lot about Iranian support for Sadrist elements or even al-Qaeda, and very little about Iranian support for their primary allies in Iraq — allies who just happen to be our allies too.