Victory is when Winning is So Easy It Feels Like Murder

The Jihad is now against the Shias, not the Americans,” The Guardian, 13 January 2007,,,1989397,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1 (from Digg).

In spite of his trecherous, appeasing incompetence over the last three years, even George W. Bush couldn’t screw up the Iraq War too badly.

Our Victorious Ally

Our enemies are scattered, dispirited, confused, and surrounded:

Rami was explaining how the insurgency had changed since the first heady days after the US invasion. “I used to attack the Americans when that was the jihad. Now there is no jihad. Go around and see in Adhamiya [the notorious Sunni insurgent area] – all the commanders are sitting sipping coffee; it’s only the young kids that are fighting now, and they are not fighting Americans any more, they are just killing Shia. There are kids carrying two guns each and they roam the streets looking for their prey. They will kill for anything, for a gun, for a car and all can be dressed up as jihad.”

Now all we need to do is leave, and we win:

He was more despondent than angry. “We Sunni are to blame,” he said. “In my area some ignorant al-Qaida guys have been kidnapping poor Shia farmers, killing them and throwing their bodies in the river. I told them: ‘This is not jihad. You can’t kill all the Shia! This is wrong! The Shia militias are like rabid dogs – why provoke them?’ “

Then he said: “I am trying to talk to the Americans. I want to give them assurances that no one will attack them in our area if they stop the Shia militias from coming.”

This man who had spent the last three years fighting the Americans was now willing to talk to them, not because he wanted to make peace but because he saw the Americans as the lesser of two evils. He was wrestling with the same dilemma as many Sunni insurgent leaders, beginning to doubt the wisdom of their alliance with al-Qaida extremists.

Another insurgent commander told me: “At the beginning al-Qaida had the money and the organisation, and we had nothing.” But this alliance soon dragged the insurgents and then the whole Sunni community into confrontation with the Shia militias as al-Qaida and other extremists massacred thousands of Shia civilians. Insurgent commanders such as Abu Omar soon found themselves outnumbered and outgunned, fighting organised militias backed by the Shia-dominated security forces.

We can admire our enemy in Iraq, just as we can admire our enemies from decades ago. But should as it would have been idiotic to join the Axis powers in 1945, because of their fighting spirit, so it would be insane to stab our allies ni the back in order to save the Iraqi Sunni Arabs.

This is victory.

6 thoughts on “Victory is when Winning is So Easy It Feels Like Murder”

  1. Dan,

    Very interesting analysis. You make a very persuasive case for backing the Shia in their maximalist goals. Perhaps I missed it in a previous post, but how do you expect to handle the rest of the Middle East and ummah as a whole since the Sunnis comprise 80% of all the Muslims in the world? Backing the Shia, explicitly or implicitly, against the Sunni would be bin Laden's and every Salafi's wet dream. A Crusader/Zionist/Shia alliance to destroy the Sunnis. Just today, the Saudis told Bush that once the US withdrawals from Iraq, the Saudis will back the Iraqi Sunni population against Mahdi Army and the Iranians. That could very easily spiral into a Iranian/Iraqi vs. Saudi/Jordanian(?) war. Given that those 3 countries have such immense importance in terms of strategic placement and economic interests, I could never see a US President (either Democrat or Republican) sitting idly by while that happens.

  2. The Iraqis need at least two more elections before they're going to get a decent political class going (though every Iraqi government elected is going to be less incompetent than its predecessor). We need to stick it out and stay for that transition, though the manner of our staying should change. Coincidentally, it is in the current plan for it to change already so I'm fairly happy on that front.

    The armed forces and the police know that it's going to take quite a long time for them to be trained up to something competent so they're going to support our staying.

    I see us going from dominant to shared fighting to being a reserve force to just a training force over the next two years. That training force is going to be in Iraq for the next two decades until Iraq has a US trained general staff that can live up to their full potential.

    As 'the americans' confine themselves to barracks and then to the academies, the perception will be that we have 'left' Iraq. We won't have. But we will still have victory.

  3. I like the fact that we have kept both sides on their toes, whether deliberate or not. While their focused on each other, they have less time to ponder how much we suck. Ultimately that was what taking out Saddam's regime was about, pre-empting a problem that was to occur sooner or later in order to have some input on its resolution. WMD, the UN sanction, anything else was the pretext (WMD being a poorly chosen pretext).

  4. LJ,

    “A Crusader/Zionist/Shia alliance to destroy the Sunnis. Just today, the Saudis told Bush that once the US withdrawals from Iraq, the Saudis will back the Iraqi Sunni population against Mahdi Army and the Iranians.”

    The more the Sunnis fight, the faster and more complete Iraq's ethnic cleansing of them will be. Like the Russians of the former Soviet Union or the Serbs of the former Yugoslavia, a continuation of hostilities means a deterioration in position.

    It would of course be nonsensical to attempt to build an Imamate by destroying the world's Sunni's population, but we can establish that actions have consequences. The Sunni Arabs have, for half a century, gone from one anti-Western ideology (Nationalist-Socialist-Secularism) to another (Secretarian-Totalitarian-Fundementalim). Sadly, because we were focused on the Soviets in the Cold War, we let them go away with this. The whole world saw Naser's triumphs and the West's failure in Suez. The whole world saw the nationalization of industries and the socializaton of civil society. The whole world saw the Sunni Arabs' success.

    Now the whole world sees their failures. Their catastrophic loss of a state. That Iran, Israel, and America are able to meddle so freely may or may not make a propaganda difference (Sunni Arab hostility to the West far preceeds 9/11). However, it demonstrates that their formula for success is terribly, terribly arry.

    “That could very easily spiral into a Iranian/Iraqi vs. Saudi/Jordanian(?) war.”

    Neither Saudi Arabia or Jordan are able to project conventional force. America, Israel, and Iran are.

    PS: I like your blog.


    “I see us going from dominant to shared fighting to being a reserve force to just a training force over the next two years.”

    I hope so. But given Bush's dreams of attacking the largest political parties in Iraq (SCIRI, the Sadr Bloc, now apparently the Kurds, etc), I can't be sure.


    I don't like the fact that we've antagonized the majority of the people in a democratic state (Iraq). I would rather have Iraqis focused on the future than on the latest thing Americans will steal from them to buy off terrorists.

  5. Perhaps I should clarify, despite their obvious ties to Iran, SCIRI seems far more inclined toward democracy than the Sadrist. The Sadrist have never struck me as being particularly focused on the future of Iraq except for their absolute control or atleast the biggest piece they could take. I agree with you that the Shia are our natural ally here, but not all of them are. The more overt they are in savaging Sunni's the more they encourage outside support. They are not good news and are anathema to our desires.

    That being said, our diplomacy has been ham-handed with the Shia and the Kurds and way too much of it has been carried out in the open.

  6. ElamBend,

    We agree.

    SCIRI is infinitely preferable to Sadr. This is why we should have supported the responsible, mainline Iraqi parties (SCIRI, Dawa, KDP, PUK, etc) immediately, instead of sapping of them of legitimacy through the toothless Iraq Governing Council and then…

    “our diplomacy has been ham-handed with the Shia and the Kurds and way too much of it has been carried out in the open.”


  7. The problem, though, you already note: there is no “despite” anything when it comes to SCIRI's relationship with Iran. Or the fact that they have their own Iranian backed militia (the Badr Brigade) that have consolidated their power over the southern Shia district with towns such as Basra and southern provinces. This holds the major oil production for Iraq. They've killed British Soldiers, Iraqis (not just Sunni, but Shia political or economic rivals) and an American Journalist for starters.

    Don't be fooled by the SCIRI party's talk. It's slight of hand tricks. While you're busy listening to them talk the talk about democracy and negotiations while watching the much more straightforward Muqtada who talks like a crazy man, the SCIRI and DAWA party's have been consolidating their hold over areas of economic power, infiltrating the police and military with their own militia.

    Acting as if their Iranian influence is not such a concern is a bit short sighted. I am sure that there was an intentional attempt to minimize or at least cause a need for power sharing and compromise amongst the Shia groups in order to mitigate the Iranian infuence.

    the Iranians are not in this just so they can get a better price on Camel meat or sell their electricity at an inflated rate. They know that an Iraq that is not seriously in their pocket is a financial, political and, potentially, military security threat to them. And, we see an Iranian influenced Iraq without the mechanisms for balancing as giving Iran the foothold it wants and needs to spread it's hegemonic alliance between Iran, Iraq and Syria, creating an economic, oil rich and militarily capable block against the Arab regimes ostensibly allied with the US.

    So, I wouldn't take the Iranian connection too lightly.

    Lastly, though I hate to subscribe to conspiracy theory, I have wondered if we are not willingly allowing a low intensity war between the two factions we don't like: iranian mullahcracy and Saudi bred, Sunni extremists.

    Maybe the limited increase or decrease in troops is simply to maintain enough force to keep the lid on and the violence within the borders of Iraq while each force degrades their abilities and resources against each other? I mean, imagine if the full force of the insurgency was actually being aimed at the US instead of at opposing “sects”.

    Just a thought.

  8. Kat,

    I'm not one to dismiss the “Shia crescent” hypothesis but I think you might be overstating the Iranian aspect in regards to the Shia majority in Iraq.
    I have a hard time accepting the idea that an arab Iraq (even with Shia governance) will effectively accept a Persian overlord. Bear in mind the conceptual catalyst of the Shia aggression is years of brutal Sunni-Baathist totalitarian rule and remember the million+ casualties of the Iran/Iraq war.
    That the Iraqi Shia's should willingly jump from one overlord to another doesn't seem likely. More likely is that this is a case of “convenient alliance” or “my enemies enemy is my friend.”

  9. Kat-Missouri,

    We agree on a lot. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq was set-up by Iran in case the Iranians reached Basra. SCIRI was intended to be a pro-Iran occupation government (albeit one not opposed by the people). There is every reason to believe that SCIRI has continued to operate closely with Iran.

    While the other major Iraqi parties are not Khomeinist, they all have long working relationships with Iran. al-Dawa probably represents something closer to an “Iraqi model” for an Islamic Republic, while the Kurdish parties are better thought of as clients. As Subadei says, probably all would accept Iranian friendship as better than trying their luck with Turkey or Saudi Arabia. But

    (Ironically, if it would gain power, the most dangerous of the popualr Iraqi parties would be the Sadr group. But that's a whole nother post…)

    Likewise, we agree that Iran's influence on Iraq must be viewed in the long-term. And it is in the long-term that Iran shines most brightly.

    Compare Iran's government — which is basically that of Victorian Britain's — to any other state in the region. The military coups of Turkey, the dangerous mess of Iran, the sea of despotism of the Arab world. Iraq would be lucky to be under Iran's influence than under the influence of any other neighbor.

    Bush's destablization of the middle east was brilliant, because a stable middle east got us this terrible system and its awful terrorism. We need to break the Arab middle east out of its current state. We need to improve Iraq. Unless we're going to attack Iran (which, if true, we're waisting precious time doing), building up Iran as a regional hegemon over the Arabs is an important part of that.

  10. Recently there was a mild anti-Iran protest in Basra over influence, so the Iraqi Shia wouldn't take Iranian heavy-handedness lightly. I am skeptical of any thing Sadr, though because I think he would take more direction from Iran for the support, whild SCIRI so far [and who would have thought this at the beginning of the war] seems to have shown more independance.

    Also, Iran does not want Najaf to become the religious center of Shi'ism (though it has a better claim to be) because they have more influence in Qom.

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