Washington's continuing military presence in Iraq, justified by al Sadr's and Iran's opposition to U.S. influence, in fact aggravates both al Sadr's anti-American tendencies and Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 Ryan Crocker is quoted today in the New York Times as follows:
I think the Iranians understand that they are not going to dominate Iraq, but I think they are going to do their level best to weaken it — to have a weak central government that is constantly off balance, that is going to have to be beseeching Iran to stop doing bad things without having the capability to compel them to stop doing bad things. And that is an Iraq that will never again threaten Iran. [Michael R. Gorcon and Andrew W. Lehren, “Leaker Reports Detail Iran’s Aid for Iraqi Militias,” NYTimes.com 10/23/10.]
This sort of analysis is important not because some former official of the discredited neo-cons believes it but because it is representative of the standard American public line. It assumes and leads gullible Americans to assume that for Iran to defend its own national interest somehow makes Iran different from other more moral(!) countries. In fact, I do not disagree with any part of Crocker’s statement as reported above.
The problem is with what is left out. Whatever Crocker’s own view may be, the standard American government/media line takes the above argument as justification for opposing and threatening Iran as well as justification for remaining in Iraq. (And where, tell me please, is there any evidence that the U.S. government plans to do anything other than remain in Iraq? Is the military pulling out its troops? Only a fraction. Are the city-scale U.S. military bases being closed? Is the world’s largest fortress…ah, embassy…being turned into housing for Baghdad’s poor?)
To the degree that the U.S. remains militarily involved in Iraq, its neighbor Iran will feel compelled for its own security to support its Iraqi assets and do what it can to ensure that Iraq never be used as a base for…well…for exactly what the U.S./Israeli elite repeatedly threaten: a military attack on Iran. Now shift to al Sadr. To the degree that the U.S. remains militarily involved in Iraq, al Sadr will feel compelled to work with Iran and any other force willing to support his effort to free Iraq from U.S. control.
As long as the U.S. tries to prevent Iran’s emergence as a regional power center, Iran cannot but take advantage of its ability to undercut and trap the U.S. in Iraq. As long as the U.S. remains militarily involved in Iraq, al Sadr will build his career on opposition to that presence.
The American military presence that is justified in Washington as a means of resisting Iranian influence instead promotes Iranian influence.