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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

It has to be what the Bushies are trying to do...

Draw Iran into war, that is, by waging brutal war in one of Shiite Islam's holiest cities. The battle in Najaf certainly has their attention:
As discussions continued, the supreme leader of neighboring Iran warned that American combat operations in Najaf constitute "one of the darkest crimes of humanity."

"The United States is slaughtering the people of one of the holiest Islamic cities and the Muslim world and the Iraqi nation will not stand by," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an address broadcast on Iranian state television, according to the official government news agency.

Najaf is home to the shrine of Imam Ali, which the militias have turned into a firing base off limits to U.S. forces. The site holds the remains of the most revered figure to Shiite Muslims, who constitute a majority in both Iraq and Iran, a theocracy where Khamenei holds ultimate power.

"These crimes are a dark blemish which will never be wiped from the face of America. They commit these crimes and shamelessly talk of democracy," the ayatollah said. "Shame has no place in their vocabulary."
As I suggested yesterday, starting a war with Iran seems to be the most likely explanation for this assault on Najaf. Possibly it's just macho won't-back-downism, although US forces have backed down repeatedly in Fallujah and elsewhere. And while I've never believed that the Bushies ever had a real interest in a democratic Iraq, or even in just improving the general welfare of Iraqis compared to the Saddam era, this assault is a clear sign to anyone who is following what's happening in Iraq that the Bushies are abandoning even the pretension of bringing peace, stability and democracy to Iraq. Because that can't happen without the support of the Shiite majority. Many Shiites apparently supported the original invasion because it was ridding them of the hated Saddam. But with this assault on Najaf, there can be almost no Shiites left in Iraq who have anything but contempt and hatred for the American occupiers.

And the Bushies are dumb, but I don't think they're so dumb as not to realize all this. They know that whatever chance they may ever have had for a democratic Iraq (at least American-imposed) is now dead and buried in the cemetery-turned-battleground in Najaf. They want to provoke Iran into coming to the support of Najaf, and Iraqi Shiites generally, so they can then start their war on Iran.

I can even see how it's going to play out, and it will be much like the 1991 Gulf War. If the Bushies get what they really hope for, Iranian troops will cross the border and head for Najaf, maybe committing a few atrocities against American troops along the way (that's where Karl Rove gets really excited). More likely, lots of Iranian guerilla forces will sneak in and carry out hit and run attacks. In either case, Bush will demand that Iran withdraw from Iraq, and then bomb the crap out of Iran's infrastructure, especially their nuclear facilities (back to the stone ages). The Bushies won't invade Iran, because they have no answer to the old taunt "Oh yeah? You and what army?" But the Navy will take over the Persian Gulf, bombarding Iranian ports and blockading all commerce. Bush will of course claim that Iran's "attack" against the "sovereign" nation of Iraq was completely unprovoked, and therefore anything and everything he does to Iran is justified. And John Kerry will support him, not wanting to lose those swing voters.