Monday, December 18, 2006

Iran's Shiite ministate

To round out Colin Powell's "civil war" judgement, consider this report. It's from the Washington Times, which requires a big grain of salt; and it cites an undistributed Saudi report, which requires a doubly big grain of salt. But it asserts some interesting and specific things:

1. Iran has established a ministate inside of Iraq and actively supporting it.

2. The Sunni insurgency has an estimated 77,000 fighters -- with millions of supporters.

3. Shiite militias have about 35,000 fighters -- with millions of supporters.

4. The Saudis view the conflict as between Sunni and Shiites (and between Iranian agents and the remnants of Saddam's secret police), and so are helping fund Sunni insurgents -- not so they can fight the United States, but so they can fight Shiites.

Again, take all this with a very large dose of skepticism. The Saudis are biased, the Times is biased and there's no way to independently verify their claims. But it makes interesting reading, if nothing else because it provides some specifics about insurgent strength and frames a different way of viewing what's happening in Iraq -- and an illustration of the lethal complexity of the conflict.

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