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Iran: the elephant in Iraq’s living room

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –President Obama’s speech on the end of combat operations in Iraq was a strange muddle of domestic policy, blaming our recession on borrowing for the war (although according to the Congressional Budget Office, seven years of the Iraq war cost less than one year of the Obama Administration’s stimulus package) and equating the end of combat operations with providing the resources to turn our attention to economic recovery (as if we couldn’t attend to the economy until we “finished” the war, which isn’t finished in any event).
 
But the real wonder is how it was possible for the President of the United States to give a whole speech about Iraq without mentioning Iran. While the United States is “turning the page” and leaving Iraq to the Iraqis, the Iranians are heavily invested in the violence that continues to plague the country. While the President lauds the Iraqis for their courage and their choice to engage in politics (well deserved praise), the shooting war continues, funded and abetted by Iran. President Obama acknowledged:

“Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders.”

The Iraqis might have no interest in “endless destruction,” but Iran has no interest in an independent, democratic, pro-Western Iraq. The Iraqis may be able to “resolve their differences and police their streets,” but with Iran continuing to fund unreconciled militias, what hope has the Iraqi police/military of getting ahead of the mullahs? “Only Iraqis can build a democracy,” but can they build it under military attack from their neighbor Iran?
 
The President referred to “extremists,” but those extremists have a patron. Iran. And if Iran is the elephant in Iraq, it is the elephant in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and surrounding Israel as well.
 
The issue of American arms for a Lebanese armed force that shares with Iran’s agent Hezbollah has been discussed in prior JINSA Reports. The recent announcement of a Syria-Hezbollah military cooperation agreement, alongside the increased Syrian role in the Lebanese body politic, brings Iran right into Lebanon, north of Israel. 
 
Iran is the elephant in the Israel-Palestinian “peace” talks. Iran provides funds and ideological support to Hamas, while Hamas and Fatah are engaged in a civil war that has moved from Gaza (where Fatah supporters have been pushed underground by brutal attacks) to the West Bank, where Hamas supporters are increasingly visible – including in yesterday’s murder of four Israelis. It should be impossible for the Administration to propose a “two state solution” while the Hamas government wages war on both Israel and Fatah.
 
In each case, violence is treated as disembodied and unsupported. But in fact, in each case, trying to deal only with the closest manifestation of the violence – Israel’s Security Fence; the Iraqi army and police trying to disband militias; UNIFIL in Lebanon; the Israel-Egypt embargo of Gaza; or missile defenses against Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran – ignores the relative ease with which Iran is able to resupply and rearm its protégés.
 
Without an understanding of where the elephant is, and how to tame it or remove it, what success the United States has had in Iraq is likely to be short-lived. That failure will make a mockery of the sacrifices of both Americans and Iraqis in pursuit of consensual government for the Iraqi people.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

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