Back in 2004 King Abdullah of Jordan, a moderate Sunni, warned that the empowerment of Iraq’s Shiite majority in the Iraq War would mean creating a Shiite crescent—a belligerent, extremist continuum stretching all the way from Iran to Hizbullah-dominated Lebanon.
Eight years later, U.S. attempts to create a pluralist Iraqi democracy have instead yielded the dictatorial regime of Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Reuters now reports that “Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly military personnel and large quantities of weapons across Iraqi airspace to Syria to aid President Bashar al-Assad in his attempt to crush [the] 18-month uprising against his government….”
In other words, something very like a crescent now extends from Shiite Iran over Shiite-dominated Iraq down to Assad’s struggling, Shiite-offshoot, Alawite regime in Syria (next door, of course, to Shiite Hizbullah’s stamping grounds in Lebanon).
Iraq’s provision of its airspace for Iran’s military transfers to Syria is not a new problem. Reuters, though, says it has seen an intelligence report that says the planes are flying almost daily, the shipments are organized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “the extent of such shipments is far greater than has been publicly acknowledged, and much more systematic, thanks to an agreement between senior Iraqi and Iranian officials.”
The actual state of affairs, says the intelligence report, “flies in the face” of Iraqi officials’ declarations.
Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is unhappy about the situation and raised the idea of making some of the U.S. aid to Iraq conditional on Iraq’s cooperation on the Syrian issue.
As Kerry put it Wednesday in a Senate hearing: “It just seems completely inappropriate that we’re trying to help build democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country, and they’re working against our interest so overtly.”
“Inappropriate” if one keeps substituting baseless hopes about democracy for the ongoing reality of Middle Eastern sectarian politics and warfare.
That said, a few more things should be pointed out.
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