Watching Iraq and the US actions there is disheartening, unless of course you are Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s notorious Quds force. Suleimani and the Iraqi Shia militia he largely directs, are doing quite well (see the happy chap in the picture above).
Iraqi and American officials admit there is a substantial role played by Suleimani specifically and Iran generally in the direction of Iraq’s government and its military—especially the Shia militias. While the Iraqi army has been pathetic, the Iraqi Shia militias have been effective in the areas they choose to be. They have retaken some areas from ISIS, but, but, according to local Iraqis, they also have been cleansing the Sunni populations from the areas once held by ISIS.
Washington seems to think this is something we can’t really do much about. Maybe. But in fact we are helping the process. Our position in Iraq has become so lame that we ship arms to Iraq in full knowledge that many will be passed to Shia militia under Iranian leadership. Really? Do we need to give US weapons to Iran? I thought this was illegal, but I am not a lawyer. Still, the last time this seemed like a good idea, people faced jail time. Ask Ollie North.
Josh Rogin and Eli Lake have a detailed article in the Bloomberg View (http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-01-08/iranbacked-militias-are-getting-us-weapons-in-iraq?alcmpid=view) that lays this sorry story out. It’s great reporting, but depressing. They even came up with the picture (above) from a militia members (Thafer Hashm) Facebook page proudly showing him atop an M-1 tank helpfully provided by the US (roughly $5 million a piece according to press accounts). Aside from the loss of the weapons, it seems we might be concerned about the loss of technology.
What’s going on here? Are we really shifting our priorities to support Iran? Is this part of a grand strategy synchronized with the nuclear negotiations to align US and Iran interests? Can someone explain this?