U.S.-Iran alliance in Iraq?

Some scattered items in the news today shed yet more light on the oft-overlooked U.S.-Iranian alliance in Iraq. Yes, that would be the same U.S-Iran alliance that many Sunnis in Iraq, including Baathists and resistance leaders, keep talking about.

Here's the problem: Most of the key forces in Iraq that are closest to the United States, namely, the Kurds and the Shia party that used to call itself the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, actually want to partition Iraq, not preserve it. The Kurds want to split off the north, and SCIRI wants to carve out a pro-Iranian Shia fiefdom in the south. The vast majority of Iraqis oppose these ideas. But the Bush administration, flailing about, seems to be getting caught up in the idea. And now it's an official plan from the Brookings Institution, which has proposed "soft partition."

So the United States and Iran are increasingly aligned in Iraq.

In an interview Newsweek, Mohsen Rezai, the grand old man of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, says that Maliki's regime in Iraq "is of strategic importance to us. ... We want this government to stay in power. Rival Sunni countries oppose Maliki. We haven't."

The Post, meanwhile, writes about Amar Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the son of. He's taking over SCIRI, now SICI. (In the article, Robin Wright talks about the conference put together by Hakim, Iraq for All Iraqis, at which I spoke. No, she doesn't mention me.) But in addressing SICI's remaining power in Iraq, the Post notes that SICI's power in the south of Iraq is ever less and less. It quotes an Arab diplomat in Iraq thusly:

"The only person who has grass-roots support is Sadr. Hakim has Bush receiving him at the White House and the ayatollahs seeing him in Iran. But Hakim's influence in southern Iraq began to ebb at the end of 2006."

So there you have it. Hakim has the support of the White House and the ayatollahs. And the Iranians are calling the survival of the Dawa-SICI regime in Baghdad "of strategic importance."

That's the context in which to view the newly reaffirmed alliance between Dawa and SICI. The New York Times actually had the gall to suggest that this alliance, proclaimed this week, could salvage Iraq, citing unnamed diplomats in Baghdad thus: "If Kurds were included and a true bloc of moderates could be formed, it could break some of the parliamentary paralysis."

How stupid. The fact is that no bloc of American-supporting moderates can rule Iraq, since they'd be opposed by the only forces with any real popular support: Sadr's Shia and the pro-resistance Sunnis.

PS What's with David Ignatius? One of the best Middle East analysts around, today Ignatius goes ga-ga over Amar al-Hakim. Here's the money quote:

"In April 2005 I spent a morning with Amar when he made his first trip to the United States. I will never forget his description of visiting the Lincoln Memorial and looking up at the face of the man who kept America together during the carnage of its own civil war. He wants to save his country, too."

Ignatius is too hardened a reporter to wax misty-eyed when a fundamentalist Shia cleric, whose party runs death squads and torture prisons, claims to admire Abe. Is he really buying this? He "wants to save his country, too"? The Hakims are officially on record as wanting to soft-partition Iraq into oblivion, not save it.

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