written by Michael Roston
….Evan Kohlmann, who produces the “terrorist communique clearinghouse”, spoke to Salon’s Kevin Berger in an interview published this morning.

The failure of the US after the bombing of the Samarra mosque to try to control the rise of Shi’a militias caused them to go “on a rampage,” and cemented the power of the insurgent groups among the Sunni population of the country, he argued.

February 26, 2007 Weekly Commentary from A Truly Frightening Development
….Once again, Seymour Hersh has uncovered a remarkable and frightening story about the shadowy netherworld of U.S. military and intelligence operations.

It’s not about war with Iran. It is about something almost equally dangerous – a strategic realignment of the United States against Shi’a groups throughout the region, which involves working closely in concert with Saudi Arabia to help numerous extremist Sunni groups. According to Hersh, Secretary of State Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the division between “moderates” and “extremists” in the Middle East pits Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah on the other – a not very subtly coded way of dividing between Sunni and Shi’a (the Syrian Alawites are an offshoot of Shi’ism and, though a minority, have been in political control for over four decades).

Apparently, with Saudi Arabia’s help, the United States is helping extremist Sunni groups in Lebanon, including some with al-Qaeda-type ideologies and quite possibly affiliations in order to undermine Hezbollah and in Syria is considering flirting with the Muslim Brotherhood, the grandfather of modern Sunni extremism, which was brutally crushed in 1982 by Hafez al-Assad but has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Iraq is a more complicated case and the picture is murkier. The ill-considered shift to a colonial occupation followed by the ill-considered shift to nominal sovereignty has left the United States fundamentally dependent on cooperation with the Shi’a organizations that form the ruling coalition in the government. In recent weeks, the United States has managed to severely antagonize both the Sadrists and their main Shiite allies, Abdulaziz al-Hakim’s Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, but things will remain in a state of partial belligerence and partial cooperation.It is a mistake to take the view of reality held by Hersh’s typical sources – dissidents and mavericks within the U.S. “national security” establishment – as reality, but, on the other hand, there are times when there is no other way to get information about clandestine U.S. operations.So take this with a grain of salt, but it does appear very credible and it makes at least some sense of the administration’s current stance in Iraq – although that “sense” conceals a vast stupidity verging on insanity.

It is particularly funny to consider the past month’s muddled and garbled claims regarding Iran by the Bush administration in light of this “redirection” that Hersh writes of. Somehow, Iran was the source of “explosively formed penetrators” that are killing U.S. soldiers, even though if Iran is giving weapons to anyone in Iraq it is to the Badr organization associated with SCIRI, which doesn’t fight U.S. soldiers. Somehow, in the fevered imaginations of Bush administration officials, Iran was arming its deadly enemies, the Salafi extremist (i.e., Sunni) groups fighting the United States in Western Iraq, Baghdad, and a few other areas, and also creating mass carnage among Shi’a civilians with spectacular suicide bombings.

Well, Iran is probably not crazy enough to be deliberately aggrandizing groups that are its own sworn enemies and the enemies of Iran’s allies in Iraq. The only country crazy enough, it seems, to repeatedly fund and arm groups that are virulently opposed to it is the United States. In the 1980’s, this happened in Afghanistan. Working closely with the Saudis, the United States helped to create tens of thousands of extremist militants, spread across the Arab world, many of whom were caught up in a jihadist ideology and were extremely anti-American; among the Afghans, they also gave the most funding to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction, the most ideologically anti-American of all (he is currently an ally of the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan).20 years later, apparently the United States is doing exactly the same thing all over again, assured that this time there will be no untoward consequences like the creation of al-Qaeda, because the Saudis have assured them that they “can control it.”

Although I remain inclined to believe a serious military attack on Iran is not in the cards, this clandestine lunacy based still on the profound American ignorance of the people and societies of the region bids fair to further polarize and destabilize a very troubled region, lead to much loss of life, and increase the longstanding legacy of hostility toward the United States. A fitting strategy for a group that has been characterized as the “Mayberry Machiavellis.”


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