As most everyone knows, since last week the Iraqi government, supported by U.S. troops and warplanes, has been engaged in fierce battles for control of Basra.
The question, of course, is: Why now, and why is control over Basra so important? We can only hope that the answer does not lie in any plans that President Bush might have to bomb Iran.
As things stand right now, the Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and his fighters control Basra. Al-Sadr is closely aligned with the Shiite regime in Iran. In fact, one could easily argue that matters in Basra are effectively controlled by Iran.
What would an Iraqi-U.S. assault on Basra have to do with a possible plan to bomb Iran?
The answer is found in a recent article entitled “Operation Cassandra” by William S. Lind, an expert on military affairs.
Lind outlines the danger of a potentially catastrophic outcome on U.S. forces in Iraq of a U.S. attack on Iran. He posits the likelihood that Iranian forces, combined with Iraqi Shiite forces, would move into Southern Iraq to attempt to cut off supply lines to U.S. troops in Iraq. He points out that most U.S. army units in Iraq depend on supplies that come up from Kuwait.
Lind points out that if Iranian and Iraqi Shiite forces were successful in cutting off that Southern supply line, army forces in Iraq would soon find themselves without oil, food, parts, and other essential supplies, making them easy prey to enveloping enemy forces. Lind describes the possibility of a massive military catastrophe, the type that has struck hubris-filled imperial armies in the past that were considered invulnerable.
If a war against Iran were to break out, the situation that Lind posits would obviously be significantly aggravated if Iran is controlling a major port city — Basra — that is situated just a few miles away the Kuwaiti border.
“The purpose of this column is not to warn of an imminent assault on Iran, though personally I think it is coming, and soon. Rather, it is to warn of a possible consequence of such an attack. Let me state it here, again, as plainly as I can: an American attack on Iran could cost us the whole army we now have in Iraq.”
“How probable is all this? I can’t answer that. Unfortunately, the people in Washington who should be able to answer it are not asking it. They need to start doing so, now. It is imperative that we have an up-to-date plan for dealing with this contingency. That plan must not depend on air power to rescue our Army. Air power always promises more than it can deliver. As I have warned before, every American ground unit in Iraq needs its own plan to get itself out of the country using only its own resources and whatever it can scrounge locally.”
Let’s just hope that Bush isn’t foolish enough to attack another country that hasn’t attacked the United States. Let’s just hope that his recent firing of Admiral William J. Fallon, who opposes a war on Iran, and the recent assault on Basra are not preparatory steps on the way to attacking Iran. Otherwise, the American people might well find themselves “supporting the troops” by praying that all 158,000 of them make it out of Iraq on their own.