Monday, October 24, 2005


Iran and Iraq: War and Politics

[I have posted some background material to the subject in my other blog “A Glimpse of Iraq. An extended version of both essays combined can be found here]

Some Background

When Iraq was ‘liberated’ from the Ottomans by the British during WWI and became a ‘free country’… and Iran was also a ‘free country’ under considerable influence from Britain, there were numerous outstanding issues of conflict regarding their common borders. There was also the problem of Arabistan (Ahvaz or Ahwaz) - the region in Persia next to Iraq occupied by Arabs who saw themselves as part of Iraq to the extent that the notorious Shaikh Khaszal of Mohammra (Khoramshahar) was one of the major contenders to the Iraqi throne. That region was on the other shore of the oil-rich Gulf.

Those border issues, particularly at Shat al Arab, the combined flow of Iraq’s two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, later became a major ‘official’ excuse of the Iran-Iraq war that started in 1980 and lasted for 8 years.

Most people still find Saddam’s attack on Iran almost immediately after Khoeini’s Islamic revolution rather perplexing. Many Iraqis find good explanation in conspiracy theories. The vast majority of people I know in Iraq firmly believe that Saddam was doing America’s bidding. However, I believe that there were some tangible ‘incentives’ for him to jump into that unfortunate venture.

Saddam had made a number of territorial concessions to the Shah of Iran in 1975 to encourage the Shah to stop his support for the Kurdish insurgency. There was much resentment, even within his party. Someone close to him wrote a book later in exile about that time and he stated that he cried when he knew of the details of Saddam’s deal with the Shah. When the Khomeini revolution came, Iran was in chaos and in turmoil. The clergy purged many of the senior officers and pilots. The mostly inexperienced ‘Islamic Revolutionary guards’ were incompetently running the war machine. Iran was rather weak. Saddam probably saw an opportunity in attacking her. I can find a number of ‘advantages’ from his point of view for that adventure. America of course encouraged him. It is now open knowledge that the late King Hussein of Jordan played a significant role as a go-between.

There is a great deal of mistrust towards Iran in the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia. Most of these rich countries overtly or covertly assisted Iraq during the last war with Iran (1980 – 1988), most evidently Kuwait. In addition to what is seen as Iranian imperial aspirations in the region, there is no doubt that the sizeable Shiite communities in the oil-rich eastern bank of the Gulf were, and still are, on most of those people’s minds. Militant Islamist Shiism that is inspired by Iran was not welcome.
The recent harsh words coming from the Saudi Foreign Minister regarding American policies empowering Iran in Iraq are a case in point. In September he said:
“We fought a war together to keep Iran out of Iraq after Iraq was driven out of Kuwait. Now we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason.”

The Iraqi Minister of Interior reacted harshly:
"This Iraq is the cradle of civilization that taught humanity reading and writing, and some Bedouin riding a camel wants to teach us. This talk is totally rejected"

Iran and Post-invasion Iraq

During the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the present administration of President George W. Bush made no secret of the fact that their next station was Iran, one of the components of the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Iran’s response to the American invasion of Iraq has been a two-component policy: political and military.

The Military component is quite understandable and straightforward:

The general assumption was, and still is, that the USA would turn to face Iran as soon as things were settled in Iraq. Pro-administration war hawks were jubilant at the beginning of the invasion (before discovering that they were in a quagmire or being aware of the nature of that quagmire!) that Iran’s regime’s days were numbered. In Iranian eyes, this threat is still quite real.

The main obstacle preventing that threat from materializing is America’s entanglement in Iraq. It only makes sense for the Iranians to help bog down the Americans in the Iraqi quagmire. I am certain that Iranian policy-makers believe that they are doing it in self-defense. They are probably correct!

Iran had been actively doing that through supplying several factions of the insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld recently announced something about Iranian explosives being used against the American army, explosives that the insurgents didn’t have before. This claim has been echoed by the British in Basra.

The other activity was more vicious. There are numerous pieces of evidence (including CIA reports) to suggest that Iran has its own violent covert operations in Iraq. Some reports suggested the presence of 17 separate covert combat units operating in Iraq. The idea seems to be to produce maximum chaos and instability in Iraq, making the American occupation as difficult as possible. Some of the senseless acts of violence as well as some acts of violence of sectarian nature have been attributed to Iran.

The political approach had the aim of gaining as much influence as possible on the political arena in Iraq.

They had considerable influence on several of the ‘Shiite’ forces opposing Saddam’s regime. They had supported them considerably during their struggle against that regime. There were two major such parties: The Da’wa party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

The Da’wa party (currently represented by Prime Minister Ja’afari) was friendly but not totally ‘owned’. The reason is that the movement was born inside Iraq and fought its battles on the inside most of the time. Its members were severely punished for that and paid a hefty price for it, including the death penalty to their founder and philosopher… another Sadr, usually known as the ‘First’ Sadr (to distinguish him from his cousin, Moqtada’s father) The attack started during the Iraq-Iran war and was rather vicious and persistent.

SCIRI, on the other hand, was born and nurtured in Iran, again mainly during that war. A militia, now known as the “Badr Brigade’ was wholly constructed in Iran, mainly from Iraqi defectors or PoW’s during that war. It was totally financed by the Iranian regime. Some of its elements actually took part in battles against the Iraqi army during that war; something that would have been unthinkable to many of the Da’wa people.

That distinction is most important. It explains a lot of the differences between the positions of the two parties after the invasion of Iraq.

After the invasion, both parties accepted the political game as defined by the American administration and played it with zeal and enthusiasm. But to the surprise of many Iraqis, there was a great deal of difference between the attitudes (and methods) of the two parties. Da’wa turned out to be the more ‘political and philosophical’ of the two! Much of their agenda were ‘Iraqi’ in essence and spirit. SCIRI was something else.

During the elections, both parties entered into a coalition and joined the same slate (under the tacit blessing of Sistani). After those elections, the Da’wa was given the ineffective post of Prime Minister (because he had little control over his ministers!) and SCIRI took the Ministry of Interior, primarily in charge of the police. Now, Badr people have taken almost complete control of the police force.

In the simplest possible terms, I cannot understand the following: Iran is a declared enemy of America. America invades Iraq. America consistently strengthens the hand of pro-Iranian political parties and their influence on the future shape of Iraq!

The latest source of amusement is that both the US administration and the regime in Iran are enthusiastic supporters of the new draft constitution.

There are too many murmurs coming from the Iraqi politicians taking part in the political process that Iran has too much influence on Iraqi politics… to ignore!

An Illustration!

Perhaps no single issue illustrates the extent of the (suspected) Iranian machinations in Iraq at present more than the plight of retired Iraqi army officers and fighter pilots.

Over the past two years, some unknown force literally went on a killing and an assassination spree that included former senior army officers and, almost inexplicably, former fighter pilots who took part in the Iraq-Iran war. Some of those people were old and retired.

Their plight was discussed in the National Assembly: A lady member of the National Assembly once raised the plight of those people during a parliamentary session last August and said that, up that moment, more than 30 of those people had been killed and asked for an investigation. Another member coldly replied that it was ‘dangerous’ for the lady to address such issues and make those insinuations! Nothing was done.

Then they took their case to the President: In mid-October, those unfortunate people, about 1000 retired army officers, went to see their president. They complained that they were being targeted and killed systematically, particularly the pilots who took part in the Iraq Iran war.

The President invited those unfortunate people to go to Iraqi Kurdistan and live in Arbil or Suleimaniya where they would be safer!!!


Regular readers may have noticed that I have started yet another blog. I will use it to ‘dump’ extended articles that have little appeal to most readers. (I have also published my rather long essay on the Perpetual War Theory on that blog!)

Do you want a comments section there? Is a comments section restricted to ‘registered’ users objectionable?

Mr. Democracy, thank you for the suggestions.

I'm not sure but did you just accuse the Kurds of working with Iranian covert operations?

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Hello Abu Khaleel,
I was recently wondering about the effect of Saddam's war against Iran as Iraqi nationalism as contrasted to the 1963 UAR proposal(Syria-Egypt-Iraq union). Obviously, wars tend to unite people against 'enemies' very effectively. Personally, I am skeptical about the value of nationalism, except as a way of maximizing somebody's political power, but those feeling are reality. I also feel strongly that the non-Arab Kurds need autonomy at the very least.
Iraq is the frontier of the Arab lands and something in the Arab psyche strongly rejects any 'foreign' elements such as colonialists,Israel or Iran.

As to Saddam, I believe the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one. Saddam Hussein, the later-day Nebecanezzer, attacked Iran because he was stupid, just as he attacked Kuwait, just as he let Iraq fight the Hyperpower(he could have gone into to exile, or just agreed to more inspections, etc.) He probably listened to his puffing 'advisors' who convinced him that he was God( possibly Bush has a similar delusion).
"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad."--Euripides

Bush has embraced the Ayatollahs, to justify his war for oil, but Allawi or Chalabi has convinced him that his GreenZone government-in- exile is the government of something, but it's clear that it isn't. I wonder if Sadr and Badr will indeed fight it out one of these days.
It seems obvious that the longer the war goes on the worse for Iraq, but the Sunnis and Sadr are not able to 'reconcile' with that insect Zarqawi alive(if there is a God, He really needs to kill that bug now!)-so the puppet (exiles) regime goes on and feeds the nation-building delusions of Bush.

Really, I am tired of waiting for Iraqis to give Bush the boot, or is that considered too impolite? How about a national referendum on...Bush leaving Iraq in 3 months (you thought I was going to say another constitution, right?).By boot, I mean a clear, unambiguous, non-violent campaign to end the occupation--modeled on Gandhi's 'Quit India' campaign, perhaps? Has this even been tried?
Keep the faith!

Abu Khaleel --

Thank you for posting yet another insightful article.

I found the discussion of the origin of SCIRI and Dawa most interesting.

To be quite honest, I can understand the reasons for Saddam invading Iran. All indications were that he would have a swift victory at little cost. And if one were to apply the ‘pre emptive’ doctrine of certain infamous countries at the moment, Iran would certainly have been a candidate for a ‘pre emptive’ invasion.

He miscalculated the strength of fervour of the Iranian masses and the extent that the fanaticism of the Iranians would compensate for lack of organisation and equipment. This is a miscalculation that I believe can be applied to Germany in 1941 and the US in 2003. The latest poll commissioned by the British in a secret study to gauge the political temperature seems to bear out the extent of the miscalculation.

For example:

Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops
Sunday Telegraph - By Sean Rayment - 23/10/2005

“The survey was conducted by an Iraqi university research team that, for security reasons, was not told the data it compiled would be used by coalition forces. It reveals:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

The opinion poll, carried out in August, also debunks claims by both the US and British governments that the general well-being of the average Iraqi is improving in post-Saddam Iraq.” //end excerpt

All things considered, however, it really does seem puzzling that the US continues to tolerate the increasing Iranian influence in Iraq. Either the situation is so far gone that there is little the US can do to stem the tide – or – considering it’s the Neocons we’re talking about – another ‘liberation’ to the East is being planned. Perhaps they feel that removing the Iranian government is the magic bullet to their woes.

That would be an interesting event … if one finds bloodbaths and similar events interesting, of course.

Our thoughts are with you in this difficult period, Abu Khaleel; I hope that the fact that you managed to get a few spare minutes to post means that things are marginally better where you are.

shoof abu! reading now, am glad you wrote and posted!

Boy, talk about feast and famine! It’s great to see Mr Kahleel apparently back on his Blogging feet, but it looks like Professor Abu is going to be a stern and demanding mentor.
Having ploughed my way through three posts (there seems to be a double posting on Iraquna2?) I’m mainly left curious about the lasting effects of the 1980s war on both countries, which Abu seems to touch on only in passing.
I’ve seen this described as a Middle-Eastern replay of World War I, complete with trench warfare, suicidal charges into machine guns, gas attacks, and all that good stuff. (Plus a bit of WWII, with V2-type unguided missile attacks on cities.) Our local newspaper is publishing excerpts of Robert Fisk’s new book - his description of the Iranian advance on Basra is very harrowing.
(Incidentally, I remember him saying a couple of years ago that the hard-bitten young officers he met in the Iraqi trenches would 20 years later be ideal leaders of an insurgency.)
WWI of course affected European relationships for decades, and the scale of casualties had all sorts of social consequences.
Presumably a large part of the Iraqi Army in the 1980s must necessarily have been made up of Shiite conscripts? How willingly did they serve, on the whole? What are their attitudes now? Do SCIRI and Da’wa enjoy similar support among the Shiite on the streets, or are there differences?
See that’s what happens when you Blog, you get asked silly questions.
Comments sections in your other blogs? Why not? More room for silly questions.

Abu Khaleel:

It is good to see that you are writing again. I hope that this means that the sectarian tensions you recently wrote about have cooled off to some extent.

I have a question concerning your recitation about the causes of the Iran/Iraq war. What is the source for your assertions that "America of course encouraged him [Saddam]. It is now open knowledge that the late King Hussein of Jordan played a significant role as a go-between."

I have done some research and have been unable to come up with credible sources which back up the assertion that the U.S. encouraged Saddam to invade Iran. Of course, the sleazy U.S. policy of covertly supporting both sides afte the war began is well documented. Can you provide me with some links for your assertion? The best information I have been able to find concerning the U.S. role early in the Iran/Iraq war is found at .

Sorry, last one was me. But Abu Khaleel proably already knew that based on my IP address.


Mark, as you might have guessed, I too have done a bit of research into the matter. Take a look at this interesting article – I’ve shortened it to the basics that address your question. You’ll have to Google for the whole thing – I don’t have a link handy, sorry.

“Missing U.S.-Iraq History” By Robert Parry - February 27, 2003 at The Consortium
“Before George W. Bush gives the final order to invade Iraq -- a nation that has not threatened the United States -- the American people might want a few facts about the real history of U.S.-Iraq relations. Missing chapters from 1980 to the present would be crucial in judging Bush’s case for war.
But Americans don’t have those facts because Bush and his predecessors in the White House have kept this history hidden from the American people. When parts of the story have emerged, administrations of both parties have taken steps to suppress or discredit the disclosures. So instead of knowing the truth, Americans have been fed a steady diet of distortions, simplifications and outright lies.
Carter's 'Green Light'?
This intersection of Saddam’s wars and U.S. foreign policy dates back at least to 1980 when Iran’s radical Islamic government held 52 Americans hostage in Tehran and the sheiks of the oil-rich Persian Gulf feared that Ruhollah Khomeini's radical breed of Islam might sweep them from power just as it had the Shah of Iran a year earlier.
On Aug. 5, 1980, as tensions mounted on the Iran-Iraq border, Saudi rulers welcomed Saddam to Riyadh for the first state visit ever by an Iraqi president to Saudi Arabia. During meetings at the kingdom’s ornate palaces, the Saudis feted Saddam whose formidable Soviet-supplied army was viewed as a bulwark against Iran.
Saudi leaders also say they urged Saddam to take the fight to Iran’s fundamentalist regime, ADVICE THAT THEY SAY INCLUDED A “GREEN LIGHT” FOR THE INVASION FROM PRESIDENT CARTER.
The claim of Carter’s “green light” for the invasion was made by senior Arab leaders, including King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, to President Reagan’s first secretary of state, Alexander Haig, when Haig traveled to the Middle East in April 1981, according to “top secret” talking points that Haig prepared for a post-trip briefing of Reagan.
Haig wrote that he was impressed with “bits of useful intelligence” that he had learned. “Both [Egypt’s Anwar] Sadat and [Saudi then-Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel,” Haig noted. “It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd.”
Haig’s “talking points” were first disclosed at in 1995 after I discovered the document amid records from a congressional investigation into the early history of the Reagan administration’s contacts with Iran.
[Haig's "top secret" talking points have been posted on the Web for the first time here.]
[…]”” //end excerpt

What is extremely interesting to me is that Saddam Hussein’s trial will not be broadcast live; there will be an hour / half hour delay. I’m very interested to know about the bits that will be censored out. Certainly it is in Saddam’s interest to demonstrate that the US was complicit in his actions; whether he will be allowed to do so is another matter.

The above article also details how Bush jr has issued orders that essentially block the last 20 years of white house documentation from release. That to me, at least, is an admission that something is rotten in the shop.


I found several links to the same article that you quoted from and did some additional research regarding its green light assertions. The Carter "green light" theory is, at this point, fairly thinly sourced and remains quite controversial. Carter, in fact, denies providing Saddam with any encouragement to invade Iran. Further, one of Carter's aids asserts that no green light or encouragement was ever given, but that the absence of a red light was interpreted by Saddam as permission. Solid evidence of the truth will proably not occur until the Carter adminstration records concerning its Iran policy are declassified. Given the current state of tensions with Iran, I doubt that will be any time in the near future. This does not necessarily mean that the failure to release such documents supports the Carter green light theory as there may be many other things in those documents that might be politically sensitive right now.


As usual, a very interesting post, Abu Khaleel. I've learned an enormous amount about Iraq from your blog.

I would think that another possible motive for Saddam's invasion of Iran was that he felt threatened by the Ayatollah Khomeni, since Khomeni was promising to export Islamic revolution to the Middle East and believed that the oppressed Shi'ites in Iraq would follow the Iranian example.

This is only tangentially related to your post, but I was re-reading an old article by Faleh Jabbar (who is one of the most intelligent Iraqi analyasts) on the failed uprising in 1991. One of the arguments he makes is that the Iraqi opposition failed to anticipate how much Iraqis would rally around the regime during the war with Iran. Saddam was very effective at mobilizing Iraqi nationalism, especially when the fighting was on Iraqi territory. Thus, the opposition suffered for not backing Iraq against Iran.

Jabbar argues that the opposition learned the wrong lesson by supporting Saddam during the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, precisely when the regime was at its weakest and Iraqis turned against Saddam. As a result, the opposition was unprepared for the 1991 uprising.


Abu Khaleel is not making any's a fact that Kurds cooperated with the Shah (and the United States) in the early 1970's. If you have some free time, you might want to google the terms, "Kissinger+ Kurds+missionary work"

"Hello" anaon,

Although I agree with you in principle, I find that under the present circumstances, nationalism has to be preferable to religion as “a way of maximizing somebody's political power”… because that is what has been happening in this part of the world. I believe that disillusionment with nationalism as defined in the 1950’s and 60’s was one of the main factors that have given rise to the present religious revival. That form of nationalism simply failed to deliver. The alternative was religion. That, in turn, was the soil that ultimately bred the present form of terrorism. ‘Binary’ American administrations encouraged it.

Related to this issue… you are also right in that Iraq is so important to the Arab world, in many respects. If you follow some of the Arab talk shows, you can clearly see the fervor the occupation of Iraq raises.

“I wonder if Sadr and Badr will indeed fight it out one of these days.”

I think you would be as surprised as I am that Sadr has for some time joined Badr on the ground on the sectarian issue. All recent news also indicates that he will be joining them politically too on the bandwagon of slate 169 (which Sistani says he will no longer support!!)

Chalabi has left them after engineering that unholy assembly shortly before the last elections. And who has joined Chalabi? The chairman of that constitution committee Himself!

Allawi has been joined by Pachachi and the Communists!

The emerging political picture in preparation for the coming elections is becoming clearer. Were the issues involved not so serious, it would have been comic.

I think Bruno has already answered your question regarding the sentiment of most Iraqis… with those poll results. Although I already know the answer, I think you would be delighted by the results of a poll on what Iraqis think of Mr. Zarqawi ;)


I see that your Arabic vocabulary is increasing!


I don’t think there is anything silly about your questions. In fact, I find them rather profound. You are absolutely right about the ugly replay of WWI in that war. I have seen people who had to face wave after wave of scantily armed people rushing into the firing range of tanks and machine guns. The shear magnitude of the killing left deep scars (to put it mildly) on those people doing the killing. I have met people who became so dehumanized that they could have their lunch or dinner next to the torn and mutilated bodies of their friends and comrades. Do you want to read more?

Talk about battle-hardened people!! Some of those guys are now fighting the Americans. Fisk was right.

Of course that war had tremendous impact on Iraqi society.

As to your questions, I really don’t know where to begin. Yes, they are important… and I hope to come back to these issues someday (This is NOT a promise! Right now, all I want to do is fulfill the promises I have already made ;) I have nearly finished another long article about Sistani.) Having said that, somehow I feel that you already know most of the answers. Am I right?


Thank you for responding to Mark. The motives you and Peter mention are certainly valid… and likely.

Well no Abu, I don’t know the answers to my questions.
See, the media reports we get now in the West mostly more-or-less take it for granted that there is a deep and unbridgeable divide between Sunni and Shia, and that the insurgency is exclusively Sunni. If this were true, then the implications seem to be (1) that the battle-hardened insurgents, who appear to be either winning or at least not losing, ain’t going to give up anytime soon: and (2) that therefore the only US/Iraqi Government/Shia strategy is continued devastation of the Sunni areas to batter the guerrillas support base into submission.
This is not exactly a bright outlook.
On the other hand, Iraqis like yourself and numerous blog commenters continue to insist that the divide is an artificial creation, that Iraqi society is far more intermixed than the West believes.
Hence my question about the Shia in the Iran war: basically did their patriotism, on the whole, outweigh their common religious ties with Iran?
Could patriotism at some point outweigh current sectarian differences, as the disastrous economic effects of the occupation go on and on?
The point being, it seems to me, that the one thing that can possibly end this long agony is for the Shia, or their leadership, to say "enough" to the US. In effect, "this insurgency is an Iraqi matter, let Iraqis handle it." (I mean, for one thing, some news reports seem to suggest the bulk of militarily effective insurgent action, 60 or 70 percent, is actually still directed mainly at foreign troops?)
Of course, whether the US would listen is another matter.

Hello Abu Khaleel,
The political news from Iraq to me is too weird, so I will tell you the news from America.
'Scooter' Libby, Vice President Cheney's intimate has been indicted for lying to the prosecutor about spreading rumors to the neocon-friendly US press stooges( Cooper and Miller) exposing former US Ambassador to Iraq Wilson's spy-wife as revenge against Wilson who denounced Bush's uranium 'evidence' for invading Iraq. Libby is a close friend of Wolfowitz and Michael Ledeen as well. Before the war, he was the White House 'expert' on identifying Iraq's biological 'weapons of mass destruction' program, which did not exist. He faces a $1.25 million dollar fine and 30 year maximum sentence. I realise that this is NO justice for the Iraqi people, but with trials you never know what will happen, and it's conceivable that Cheney and even Bush, who I am sure were in on the scheme, may be undone, just as Nixon was brought down not for his war crimes but for his petty lies.

Mark --

I agree with you, if this is what you are saying, that the case for American instigation of the war against Iran is far from conclusive. On the other hand, ‘plausible deniability’ is one of the maxims through which politicians and the CIA operate. I would also deny having started the war if I were Carter – and who is there to say otherwise?

My educated guess is that Carter was indeed angry about the hostage crisis, and could well have given Hussein a nudge in order to punish the Iranians. On the other hand, Hussein had plenty of reasons of his own to invade Iran, and probably wouldn’t have been too hard to persuade in any case.

Fact is, both the US and Iraq (Hussein) had some strong reasons for an invasion of Iran. The circumstantial evidence of ‘accidental collaboration’ is strong.

We’ll know in about 50 years, assuming that the shredders and incinerators don’t do their work first.

Circular --

I hope that Abu Khaleel will correct any misperceptions on my part, but this is how I understand it:

[circ] “Hence my question about the Shia in the Iran war: basically did their patriotism, on the whole, outweigh their common religious ties with Iran?”

Yes. As far as I can tell, only Iraqi shia who were part of SCIRI actually took up arms against Hussein. They and some Kurdish factions sided w/ Iran. But on the whole, despite Iranian attempts to woo Shia Iraqis, they remained loyal.

Secondly: The sectarian divide seems big because there are powerful forces that have converged on Iraq. It is in the interests of the Iranians to have the divide, so that they may exert their influence through SCIRI and the large numbers of Shia on the ground. It is also in the interests of the US to have this divide, in order to keep the Shia scared of the Sunnis and so facilitate a ‘legitimate’ US presence there. The Kurds too, don’t seem to mind, because the more fractured the rest of the country, the stronger their claim to an independent homeland. The people with the least to gain from sectarian fragmentation – the Sunnis – are ironically being blamed for the anonymous ‘Zarqawi’ car bombs that go off from time to time, invariably killing large amounts of Shiites and stoking tensions.

[circ] “In effect, "this insurgency is an Iraqi matter, let Iraqis handle it."”

I seriously doubt that the ‘Shia’ would be able to handle a civil war at this point. Simply, the fighting expertise and organisation is largely ‘Sunni’. Perhaps in the future. Not right now. Politically speaking the Shia have the aces. They could probably find a political solution with the ‘Sunnis’, (IMHO) if there were not so much distrust between the two sides.

In the meanwhile, SCIRI and the Iranians are enjoying the spectacle of the arab nationalists and the US cutting each others throats in the Anbar desert. I mean, two enemies going at it hammer and tongs - too bad they both can’t lose, am I right? ;) (hat tip Kissenger, if I recall).


Carter's reputation as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize would certainly take a tumble if he now admitted to giving Hussein a green light to invade Iran. As President, Carter was reknown for his injection of human rights concerns into U.S. foreign policy and for negotiating the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Panama canal. These are hardly the acts of a warmonger. Thus, such a green light would not seem consistent with Carter's overall character, but that doesn't mean that he didn't do so as we all occasionally deviate from our normal patterns of behaviour.

Saddam at the time of the invasion of Iran was a Soviet client, not an American one. If he were seeking permission for the invasion, it would have made more sense to seek it from the Soviets. He apparently did not do so because the Soviets, for a time, embargoed arms sales to him.

These facts cause me to doubt the green light theory, but I agree with you that it will likely be another thirty years before enough documents are declassified that to know much more.


Regarding the American role in the Iran-Iraq war, I came across a very interesting interview with Tariq Aziz where he talks about Saddam's relationship with the United States going back to the 1970's.

On the Iraq-Iran war, Aziz believes that the United States wanted both sides to lose. Aziz says that Saddam had very little contact with the Carter Administration, which (mistakenly) viewed him as a Soviet ally, and didn't make any contacts with the United States until 1982.

The Aziz interview is available at:

Also, the Alexander Haig memo is interesting, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. Haig is not talking from personal experience (he wasn't part of the Carter Administration), he's relaying what King Fahd told him. It's double hearsay. I wouldn't ignore the memo, but I wouldn't call it a smoking gun either.

It makes a lot of sense to suggest that Badr and the Iranians are behind what appear to be ethnic killings of Sunnis.

Sadly, it also makes sense that the Iranians were probably right that keeping Iraq a mess would stop the US Army doing a right-face and turning on them.

In 2002, when the attack on Iraq was a done deal in Washington, a friend told me that a favourite dinner-party joke in neo-con circles was "Wimps go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran."

But Iran must know the danger of invasion is past now. Those wimps are desperate to get out of Baghdad, and they know going to Tehran would be political suicide.

Surely SCIRI would be smarter now trying to cool things down? The Americans are just looking for an excuse to leave. Then SCIRI and Badr would have a free hand.
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