February 13, 2007

Iran Is A Distraction

But that doesn't mean they won't attack Tehran, right? Here's Joshua Micah Marshall:
With all the intensifying intel bamboozlement about Iranian arms transfers to Iraqi insurgents, the essential question is still being ignored. Let me stipulate to my extreme skepticism about the administration's new campaign of charges about Iranian arms transfers into Iraq -- for specifics see this post and Juan Cole's detailed discussion. But let's consider the matter as though the stream of allegations were true.

Would it matter? Or to be more precise, what would be the answer to these three questions: 1) Would it tell us anything we don't already know about the clerical regime in Iran? 2) Is the volume of arms sales a necessary or suffiicient cause of our predicament in Iraq? and 3) Would successful aggressive action against Iran materially improve our current situation in Iraq?

The answer to #1 seems clearly to be, no. We've announced publicly on numerous occasions that we're hostile to the Iranian regime. And we occupy the countries to the east and the west. So it's not surprising that the Iranians would try to make our work in Iraq more difficult. And the people most eager to expand the war into Iran -- especially those folks -- consider the Iranian regime a hostile, aggressive and threatening player in the region. So, on all counts, there are no surprises here.

Question #2 seems even easier to answer. No one believes that whatever small flow of Iranian roadside bomb parts there might be has caused the chaos in Iraq. It might have upped the kill rate for these nasty weapons by, say, 10%, thus throwing a bit more gas on the fire. But the fire is already raging out of control. If Iran is helping kill American soldiers that might be a grievance we note for payback at a point when we're not otherwise occupied. But on the key point, it's clear that Iranian help with IEDs wouldn't be causing the problem. It would at best be aggravating the problem.

The answer to question #3, of course, flows immediately the answer to #2. Since it's not causing the problem, ending it wouldn't solve the problem. It wouldn't even significantly help.

Assume the best possible outcome to the sort of action that the Vice President and his clique appear to be angling for. We attack Iran -- either in crossborder raids or aerial bombing campaigns. The Iranians are duly chastened and stop all assistance, financial and military, to paramilitaries in Iraq. And this accomplishes? For our situation in Iraq, not much. We go from the IEDs of early 2007 back to the old style IEDs of 2006. In other words, for the outside chance of a temporary and marginal degradation of the quality of the IEDs used in Iraq we run all the risks of digging ourselves deeper into the current quagmire , getting still more American soldiers killed and further stoking anti-American animus in the region with the likely outcome of solidifying the regime in Tehran for decades to come. And after all that fun is done with we're back to the same situation in Iraq that we can't figure out a way to resolve today.

Hawk or dove, who denies that Iraq, solving the situation in Iraq is the singular issue of American foreign policy today. And who can honestly say that tangling with Iran helps us achieve that end in any meaningful way? Iran is a distraction. More specifically, this new Iran bogey is an effort to distract us or find a scapegoat for the administration's failure in Iraq. And let's not forget that the underlying charge is likely another fraud.

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