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Monday, March 31, 2003
 
One of many reasons to respect international opinion

Sulaimaniyah, Iraq - A major reason for the lack of a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq could lie hundreds of miles away in the Iranian capital, Tehran, where the leading Iraqi Shiite cleric has lived in exile for more than 20 years.

Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim has sent instructions to his supporters and secret cells in Basra, Najaf, Karbala and other southern Iraqi cities not to start an uprising or support the American-led coalition in any way, according to two of his top advisers. Al-Hakim also issued a "message to the Iraqi people" last week urging them not to side either with the United States or the Iraqi regime.

And in his most direct challenge to the United States, al-Hakim warned coalition forces that they must leave Iraq soon after toppling Saddam Hussein's regime, or Iraqis would rebel against them.


Why didn't we see this coming? I'll tell you.

Before the war began, Hakim stressed that he was not an Iranian puppet, and that his group was focused purely on getting rid of Saddam.* He pledged cooperation with the US, and very nearly offered his forces to help us. Now that the war has begun, and Rumsfeld et al. have clumsily slapped at Iran, Hakim has pulled back. Khameni told him to, and Hakim had no option but to obey.

Hakim depends upon the Iranian government. We depended on Hakim to help keep the Iraqi Shi'ites in order. Although it had long been whispered in the dark corridors of the Bush administration that Iran would be next in our crosshairs, Iran kept quiet. The Iranian elite had been willing to hold their noses and deal with the Great Satan to get rid of the hated Saddam. Rumsfeld slapped* them* so hard they switched and took the part of the reviled man who had launched a war against them that took 2,000,000 Iranian lives.

Iran is Iraq's longstanding and natural enemy. Their noninterference with Hakim could have made capturing Basra easy. But Rumsfeld screwed it up.
* = links t/k