TCS Daily

A Message to Iran?

By Jay Currie - August 12, 2004 12:00 AM

"Heavy gunbattles are taking place in the holy city of Najaf today, as US forces prepare to launch a final assault on militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

"It was not immediately clear if the stepped-up fighting signaled the beginning of the major offensive against al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, but the US military and Iraqi forces said it was preparing for a full-scale assault to crush the week-long uprising."

-- The Scotsman

It seems possible that Moktada al-Sadr and the poor buggers who seem intent on dying for him are about to get their wish. While this may look like a measure to end one of the challenges to the new Iraqi government it is likely something rather deeper.

It has been pretty clear for some time that al-Sadr has been a cat's paw for radical factions of the Iranian mullahcracy. (I wrote about this at TCS which you can find here.) These factions stand accused by the Iraqi Defence Minister, Hazem Shaalan, of supplying arms to al Sadr. According to the AP:

"'There are Iranian-made weapons that have been found in the hands of criminals in Najaf who received these weapons from across the Iranian border,' Shaalan said.

"Asked if Iran is still considered the 'top enemy' of Iraq, he answered ambiguously.

"'From far and near, the facts that we have say that what has happened to the Iraqi people is done by the one who is considered the top enemy,' he said."

The same factions which, in defiance of world public opinion and the promises of the Iranian government, have insisted on going forward with the enrichment of the uranium required to make nuclear bombs. Worse, as Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria points out,

"The powerful Iranian politician Ali Rafsanjani has publicly speculated about a nuclear exchange with Israel. If Iran's program went forward, at some point Israel would almost certainly try to destroy it using airstrikes, as it did Iraq's reactor in Osirik. Such an action would, of course, create a massive political crisis in the region."

Short of taking out the Iranian nuclear program itself, America needs to send a clear, blunt, message to the Iranians.

A bloody -- for the militias -- take down of al-Sadr is that message. In effect the willingness of the Americans to go full on in Najaf would signal a clear intent to thwart Iranian ambitions in Iraq. It would also indicate a willingness to use military force to prevent what Euro-diplomacy has been unable to.

Beating al-Sadr decisively might be one of the last opportunities for America to significantly influence Iranian nuclear ambitions. The shock and awe of a combined forces attack on a militia rabble will remind the ayatollahs that the Revolutionary Guards in Iran are barely more lethal than the poor guys in their t-shirts firing their RPGs. The Iranian Army has already watched as the Coalition sliced through the Iraqi Army. The Iranian people, with increasing internet access and cable television are likely to see the destruction of the Mahdi militia.

Each group will take its own lessons.


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