Monday, November 7, 2011

Iran's Growing Influence in Iraq

The AP (in WaPo) explores the growing influence of Iranian "soft power" (without using that term) in Iraq, from Iranian yogurt on store shelves to Iran's supplying energy to Basra.  The report also notes, of course (it's become de rigeur in the US media)  Iranian support to anti-US Shii militias there.  (And it's refreshing to see a WINEP expert - Michael Knights - quoted as saying that Iran's influence in Iraq is "overblown."  WINEP's people tend to mirror the Likud's tone - that Iran is a horrible, terrible, existential threat that needs to be crushed.)

The report also provides some useful, and important, historical grounding by reference to the horrors of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, which killed hundreds of thousands on both sides.  Yet, mystifyingly (or am I being naive?), the report focuses exclusively on the impacts of Iranian shelling on Iraqis - including the very sad story of the Iraq bride killed during an Iranian bombardment of the northern city of Mandali.  

Nowhere is mentioned the fact that the war was launched by Saddam Hussein, who sent Iraqi forces into Khuzistan (the oil-bearing, predominantly Arab region of southwestern Iran) in hopes of overthrowing the then nascent Islamic Republic - and gaining control of a major portion of Iran's vast oil reserves.

Nor, of course, is it mentioned that the US supported Saddam throughout that war.

Truly mystifying (?) is Americans' complete inability to understand (a) the impact of all of this on Iranians' views of the United States' honor and trustworthiness, as well as (b) Iran's determination never to allow Iraq - and especially a Sunni-dominated Iraq - to emerge again as a threat.

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