April 08, 2008

Bowling for Iran

I don't often link to the Guardian's Comment is Free - I appreciate informed opinion and thoughtful debate but CIF is mostly cheap spin and mockery. The most recent example: an article today by Dilip Hiro, entitled A convenient culprit. The strap line:-

The US says Iranians were involved in the recent fighting in Basra - but Iran later helped to broker a ceasefire
From which you might get the impression that Hiro is about to explain why the American claim is false and, far from being culpable, the Iranians are only interested in peace in the region.

But this is CIF and the first rule of CIF is never believe the strap line - it will only confuse you. In fact, what Hiro goes on to say is that Iran is heavily involved in the political conflict out of which the Basra fighting developed. And, he suggests, Iranian elements participated in the street battles in Basra "at a tactical command level". These are Hiro's closing grafs:-

So why did the Iranians assist the Mahdi Army militia at a tactical command level against the forces of Maliki in Basra, if they did? Probably they aimed to frustrate Maliki's adoption of the American neocons' modus operandi of using force as the first option, instead of negotiating with Sadr to reach a political compromise during the ceasefire that Sadrists had observed since last August.

Also, with the Americans and the British intervening on his side, Maliki could no longer claim that his offensive was a purely Iraqi affair. That provided grounds for the Iranians to intervene on the opposite side.

Overall, though, the Iranian government deplored the spectacle of Shias killing one another in Iraq, with the toll mounting to more than 300 in a week. That explained its active involvement in brokering the ceasefire that seems to be holding by and large.
I don't know about you, but I think that "if they did?" I highlighted above is just poor grammar - incorrect use of the petty superfluous. It's an oops, an afterthought. It's the kind of phrase you might add to a paragraph after you'd read it back to yourself and gone "Hmmm, that's true but it kinda negates the point I was trying to make."

So, back to that strap line, how about we change it to:-
The Iranians were heavily involved in the recent fighting in Basra - despite later brokering a ceasefire
That makes sense.