February 7, 2007


Shi'ite power a law unto itself (Gareth Porter, 2/08/07, Asia Times)

The idea that Iraqi Shi'ites could be used to advance US power interests in the Middle East was part of a broader right-wing strategy for joint US-Israeli "rollback" of Israel's enemies. In 1996, a task force at the right-wing Israeli think-tank the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, under Richard Perle, advised then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that such a strategy should begin by taking control of Iraq and putting a pro-Israeli regime in power there.

Three years later, the former director of that think-tank, David Wurmser, who had migrated to the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), spelled out how the United States could use Iraqi Shi'ites to support that strategy in Tyranny's Ally. Wurmser sought to refute the realist argument that overthrowing Saddam would destroy the balance of power between Sunni-controlled Iraq and Shi'ite Iran on which regional stability depended.

Wurmser proposed replacing the existing "dual containment" policy toward Iran and Iraq with what he called "dual rollback". He did not deny that taking down Saddam's regime would "generate upheaval in Iraq", but he welcomed that prospect, which would "offer the oppressed, majority Shi'ites of that country an opportunity to enhance their power and prestige".

Whereas the "realists" had assumed that the Iraqi Shi'ites would be "Iran's fifth column", Wurmser argued that the Iraqi Shi'ite clerics would "present a challenge to Iran's influence and revolution". He cited their rejection of the central concept of the Iranian revolution of ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini - the "rule of the jurisprudent" - justifying clerical rule.

From that fact, Wurmser leaped to the conclusion that Iraqi Shi'ites would be an ally of the United States in promoting a "regional rollback of Shi'ite fundamentalism". Wurmser even suggested that Iraqi Shi'ites could help pry Lebanese Shi'ites, with whom they had enjoyed close ties historically, away from the influence of Hezbollah and Iran.

It's working so far.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 7, 2007 8:07 AM
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