Thursday, November 30, 2006

What one hand giveth....

Iran has offered to cooperate with the United States in Iraq, and hosted a conference with Iraqi and Syrian leaders to discuss ways to stabilize the country. Iran's president has also written a letter to the American people urging peace and cooperation.

Meanwhile, the other hand has been busy:

U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.

This goes along with previous reports that Shiite militiamen have traveled to Lebanon to receive training from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that recently fought a short war with Israel.

These actions are not necessarily contradictory, nor even evidence that Iran is lying or is acting in bad faith. Helping an adversary dig themselves into a hole before offering to help them out of it makes perfect sense; it increases your leverage and raises the price you can exact for your help.

What they do point out is the urgency with which we must address the problem. Through confrontation or cooperation or some combination, the Iranian role in fomenting instability in Iraq must be dealt with. Because their ability to stir trouble far exceeds our ability to tamp it down.

Our options are few. There's no real way to stop the flow of arms or training without widening the war to include Iran -- a prospect that enjoys roughly zero support here at home. Never mind that such a move would by no means be a sure thing; Iran has three times the population of Iraq, a military that hasn't been sapped by years of sanctions, and some truly rugged terrain to fight in.

Galling as it may be, I predict we eventually will have no choice but to play ball with Iran. Unless we simply leave, in which case Iran also wins, because it is in the best position to pick up the pieces and expand its influence in the region.

Either way, it looks like we'll be witness to an ultimate irony: that our invasion of Iraq ended up strengthening one of the regimes we identified as part of the "Axis of Evil" when this whole thing started. That may turn out to be the ultimate legacy of Bush's foreign policy.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like we've drawn much the same conclusions as to how this will play out. Reality bites sometimes, no?

12/02/2006 11:12 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

It would bite less if we had been dealing with it all along....

12/03/2006 10:42 PM  

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