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They Died for Iran


More than 4,400 Americans have died during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nearly 32,000 Americans have been wounded. And despite what President Obama says, it’s not over yet. What did those men and women sacrifice for? Some war critics say it was in vain, but that’s not true. It was for Iran. Iran is the big winner in Operation Iraqi Freedom (and now Operation New Dawn).

I realize that seems crazy. Iran is the biggest demon in the U.S. government’s vision of the world. According to American officials Iran sponsors terrorism everywhere and is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons to use on Israel and maybe on America. Iran is such a danger that the neoconservative Brain Trust fervently believes that unless “we” effect regime change there, the world is doomed.

Ignore for the moment that all this is buncombe intended to build support for the U.S. military in the face of flagging enthusiasm for its countless operations around the world. Let’s take the American narrative at face value.

If Iran is the threat we’re told it is, then U.S. policy in Iraq looks mighty peculiar. It’s the result either of stupidity and ignorance or of a larger agenda for the region. The reader can decide for himself.

It is part of the official U.S. story that Iran has worked against American efforts in Iraq, in effect fighting a “proxy war” through a Shi’a insurgency. Journalist and historian Gareth Porter of the Inter Press Service shows in an article titled “Joe Biden and the False Iraq War Narrative” that this is a complete rewriting of recent history. “The official narrative suggested that Iran exerted political influence in Iraq by supporting armed groups opposing the government,” Porter writes. “In fact, however, Iran’s key Iraqi allies had always been the two Shi’a factions with which the United States was allied against [the Shi’a Iraqi nationalist and anti-American Muqtada al-] Sadr — the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party. They had both gotten Iranian support and training during the war against Saddam, and the fiercely nationalist Sadr had criticized SCIRI leaders as Iranian stooges.” (Emphasis added.)

Let’s emphasize the point: The U.S. government is allied with Iran’s allies in Iraq. While the Americans demonized Sadr as an agent of Iran, he was in fact the staunch nationalist who denounced the other Shi’a parties as Iranian agents. Only after the fierce U.S. campaign against Sadr did he move toward the Iranians for support.

“The Iranian interest was to ensure that the Shi’a-dominated government of Iraq consolidated its power. Iran’s ‘supreme leader’ Ali Khamenei told al-Maliki in August 2007 that Iran would support his taking control of Sadr’s strongholds,” Porter writes. “ By late 2007, contrary to the official Iraq legend, the al-Maliki government and the Bush administration were both publicly crediting Iran with pressuring Sadr to agree to the unilateral ceasefire — to the chagrin of [Gen. David] Petraeus…. So it was Iran’s restraint — not Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy — that effectively ended the Shi’a insurgent threat,” Porter adds. (Emphasis added.)

Al-Maliki himself was handpicked as prime minister by Iran. Porter writes,“It was [Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem] Soleimani who had presided over the secret April 2006 meeting of Shi’a leaders that had chosen al-Maliki as prime minister, after having been smuggled into the Green Zone without telling the Americans.”

Why would the U.S. government turn the natural barrier to Iranian influence in the Middle East — a secular Sunni-dominated Iraq — into an Iranian ally? We can’t rule out stupidity and ignorance, but neither can we rule out the possibility that American officials have had regime change for Iran in mind all along. They might someday accuse Iran of intervening in Iraq for the purpose of justifying an invasion. While parts of the U.S. military reportedly oppose attacking Iran — it has more than twice the population and almost four times the area of Iraq — there are forces in the U.S. government and outside interest groups that clearly favor it. The alleged nuclear-weapons program, for which there is no evidence since all the uranium is accounted for, is just the excuse.

Whatever the future holds, we can be sure of one thing: Americans died in Iraq for the benefit of Iran.

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    Sheldon Richman is former vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.