Friends and Coups

| Wed Aug. 10, 2005 5:51 PM EDT

Nadezhda suggests an oft-neglected point in this post, which I'm taking slightly out of context. Right now, in Iraq at least, the operating assumption is that the Sunnis are our bitter foes, and Salafist groups like al-Qaeda pose an existential threat to the United States, while the Shiites are our friends and natural allies. That may turn out to be true: the Shiites could indeed spearhead a "reformist" element within Islam. On the other hand, no one can predict the future, and ten years down the line, it could be Shiites—perhaps backed by, oh I don't know, Iran and our erstewhile allies in Iraq—that are attacking U.S. interests, the Sunnis our natural allies, and the CIA could be kicking itself for arming and training Shiite militias in Iraq. Who knows? It's one of the reasons why arming one group to fight another always seems like a short-sighted and potentially disastrous idea. And that's exactly why the neoconservatives opposed that sort of strategy. But then engaged in it anyway. Oh, whatever.

On a slightly different note, the Times is carrying this story about a Shiite coup in Baghdad today—SCIRI, one of the Shiite parties running the new government, ousted the mayor and installed one of its own militiamen. It's a situation in which it's hard to claim that the ousted mayor, installed as he was by coalition forces, somehow has more legitimacy than the thugs who ousted him; but, on the other hand, no one wants this sort of thing to become a regular feature of life in Iraq. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that U.S. intervention in the matter would prove none too popular.

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