Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Al-Zarqawi is still dead.

Today, the U.S. government released details of the autopsy of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The conclusion reached is that he is not merely dead; he is most sincerely dead. Big Mitch had reached a similar conclusion based on examination of the photos of him, which were released in apparent violation of the Geneva Convention.

One of al-Zarqawi’s last acts was to release a four-hour-long audiotape harangue against Shiites, saying militias are raping women and killing Sunnis and extorting his community to fight back.

The tape — available on the Internet — was an attempt to sabotage the formation of a unity government. Al-Zarqawi clearly wanted to fan the flames of rising Shiite-Sunni tensions across the Arab world. Al-Zarqawi, accused the Shiites of having only loyalty to their “mother country,” Iran. Read more here.

Iran is 98% Muslim, and 89% of the country adhere to the Shi’a branch of Islam, which is the official state religion.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, “It is natural that we, like the Iraqi people, are happy from this occurrence [i.e., the death of al-Zarqawi.] This doesn’t mean that we cooperated with the U.S. in getting him. We had no exchange of intelligence with the U.S. at all (on this).”

Big Mitch says it sounds like the Iranians cooperated with the U.S. in getting him.

According to the self-described “leading Arabic International Daily,” Asharq Alawsat:
A high-ranking Iranian official has stressed that his country's influence is present in Iraq's current political situation in Iraq and that Iranian Intelligence have had a presence in Iraq since the era of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The official, who was speaking during a lunch banquet with a group of journalists, said that Iran has friends in Iraq, including President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the parliament speaker.
Why would the Iranians cooperate with the Americans rather than just take out al-Zarqawi themselves, or through their proxies in the Iraqi government? The Iraqis could not do the deed because the risk of provoking a more open civil war than the one they already have on their hands. Also, why should they? It is easier, neater, and less expensive to just pass along the targeting information to the Americans.

For the Iranians they were faced with a win-win situation. First, the enemy of Shi’a Islam is dead as a mackeral. Second, there’s more blood on the American hands, making us even more unwelcome to the Sunnis sympathetic to the insurgency.

Still, the idea of the Iranians voluntarily cooperating with the Americans, even through Iraqi intermediaries, is a tough one to swallow.

Here’s a possibility. Suppose the Iranian’s cooperation was not voluntary. You may ask, what pressure could the American’s bring to bear in order to force the Iranians to cooperate in bringing al-Zaqawi to his well-deserved death? All I know is that the U.S. is exerting every possible kind of diplomatic pressure, up to and including the threat of invasion, on the Iranians. Nothing has been taken off the table, as Condi Rice would say.

The Bush administration tells us that the diplomatic pressure on Iran is to force them to abandon a nuclear weapons program, and they are honorable men. How dare anyone suggest that men such as these would inflate the threat of a nuclear weapons program to advance some ulterior purpose?

The best estimates indicate that the Iranians are ten years away from a nuclear weapon. I’m no expert, but I would think that a country with the oil revenues of Iran could go from a standing start to a nuclear weapon in less than a decade. Be that as it may, I simply cannot bring myself to believe that Bush, the devout millennialist, is concerned about what happens after he leaves office, much less a decade out. If he were, it would show up in his economic or environmental policies.

It makes a person wonder. Is it possible that all the saber rattling with respect to Iran is simply for tactical reasons in Iraq? If so, it’s a pretty risky play. That’s another hallmark of King George the Incompetent and his minions.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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