There’s still a lot of argument about whether the US pushed Maliki’s government into this or tried to stop them from attacking. I hear from sources in Iraq that US officers advising Maliki warned him that his “army” (basically Badr Brigade vets wearing Iraqi National uniform) weren’t good enough to take on Sadr’s militia on their home ground, but woke up to find the armored columns already moving south to Basra and east into Sadr City. They should have stayed in bed, as the saying goes, because if they’d had another nap—say an hour or so—they’d have seen the same columns breaking all speed limits coming back to base, stomped to within an inch of their lives.
And now for the odd item out: what’s Mosul got to do with it? There are two things going on. At a tactical level, it’s simple: Mosul and Al Qaeda in Iraq is a target that the Iraqi Army might actually be able to handle. They need a morale-building fight against a softer opponent after getting their asses kicked in Basra and Sadr City, and the Sunni jihadi nutcases are an easy target. There aren’t many of them, they’re foreign imports with no neighborhood base (they’ve alienated just about every Sunni Iraqi alive), and they’re more interested in dying than fighting. A counter-insurgency officer’s dream opponent.
There was a story last week that showed why the Iraqi Army would rather fight Al Q than keep battering its head against the Sadrists in East Baghdad. This Iraqi officer was whining, “The Shia in this neighborhood PROMISED us that they’d let us patrol in our vehicles and tell us where the IEDs were buried, they PROMISED, and then within ten meters of leaving our base three IEDs went off under us! It’s not fair!”
That’s what happens when you fight people who have the neighborhood behind them, and that’s why it’s way, way easier to go to Mosul to track down some nerd-gang of Saudi dweebs who took up Jihad 1A because they flunked Engineering or they’re scared of girls or something. Dying solves a lot of problems for people like that.
But if you really consider the Mosul operation on another level, that’s where it gets a little more interesting. It’s part of a pattern of what Cheney, that strategic genius (“Shit, Iran is RIGHT NEXT to Iraq? Why didn’t you tell me? No wonder we’re having all these problems!”) expected to happen: he figured that the Shiite’s military energy would wear itself out in a civil war against Al Qaeda Sunnis, both in Lebanon and in Iraq, rather than making problems for their pro-American governments and us. That was the Cheney Plan, except it didn’t happen. Al Qaeda just doesn’t have the support in the ‘hood to take on these neighborhood militias, either in Iraq or in Lebanon. But there was a funny little footnote: Al Q has officially declared war on Hezbollah in Lebanon and “ordered its operatives to defend the Sunni community in Lebanon” according to this story:
The trouble with being a James-Bond-y international conspiracy like Al Q is that there’s no way on earth you can compete militarily with local, broad-based militias like Hezbollah. Commuting from the Shia slums to West Beirut is one thing, but the notion that Al Q’s International Brigade can all fly into Lebanon undetected and assemble to march on the Hezzies is too far-fetched and idiotic even for a Bond flick. The notion they’d beat Hezbollah if they could manage to mobilize a force against it is even more ridiculous. The Hezzies even scare the IDF, and the IDF has wet dreams about facing Al Q. The rankings are pretty clear, and getting clearer, and they add up to something simple: in Iraq and in Lebanon, two countries the Western powers have operated on like they were diabetics with Medicaid, the net result of all the slicing and cutting is victory, hands down, for Shiite militias that didn’t even figure in the big plans. They just weren’t supposed to be part of the equation, and now they’re on top.
And that’s assuming it’s all being decided by Washington. Suppose we entertain, as they say, another idea: suppose it’s true that the Lebanese Hezzies are just “puppets” of Iran the way Cheney keeps saying they are. Well, if that’s true, then…lessee here: Cheney woofs on and on about attacking Iran and just coincidentally these Iranian puppets just casually take over Lebanon, one of the few supposedly pro-Western Arab states. And they do it without even breaking a sweat. Like saying, “Hello Meester Cheney, joost a leetle reminder, we know zee game about a t’ousand times better dan yoooo, sir!”
There are two possibilities: Cheney is an Iranian mole, and he’s laughing his head off chewing pistachios, kicking back on his prayer mat in front of the flatscreen, something I’ve been arguing for awhile now—or he’s the stupidest human being ever to step out of his league—which would be Wyoming, Little League. Girls’ Softball to be exact.
Gary Brecher’s book The War Nerd has just been published by Soft Skull Press.
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