What We Knew About the Shiites

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One of the more neglected points about the Downing Street Memos is not that they prove that the Bush administration lied and cooked up a shoddy legal justification to go to war with Iraq. They certainly suggest that, but even more damningly, they show that the Bush administration had no idea what it was getting into. Did they know anything about the internal workings of Iraq? One of the memos, the Options Paper has this little tidbit: “Most Shia would like to have a greater say in government but not necessarily control.” Oh, whoops. Maybe that explains why the CPA was so befuddled when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani demanded that the Americans drop their plan to install their allies and hold direct elections.

Meanwhile, might I add, for anyone considering—oh, I don’t know—an invasion of Syria, that at least in Iraq we had the benefit of Iraqi exile groups giving us some information about the internal dynamics of the country. In Syria we know even less.

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