Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Next War is Already Beginning
As the Bush administration struggles to find a way forward in Iraq, the next major conflict there is already underway by proxy armies determined to impose their own agenda in the ugly situation that is likely to get uglier soon.

The next war being fought is between Iran, through the Shi'ite, Iranian-backed militias and infiltrated Iraqi army, and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab Sunni world, anxious now to protect fellow Sunni believers who make up the bulk of the internal Iraqi resistence. All of this will make the situation worse for U.S. forces on the ground and further restrict realistic U.S. policy options.

Both groups support terrorist networks that pose direct threats to the United States and the West. Both sides want the United States to be defeated and forced into a long-term retreat in the war on Islamist radicals. There is no good side here.

The London Daily Telegraph says Nawaf Obaid, a senior Saudi government security adviser-is publicly considering providing anti-US Sunni military leaders with funding, logistical support and even arms - as Iran already does for Shia militia in Iraq.

This fear of a Sunni slaughter in the wake of possible reconfiguration of U.S. forces there, was one of the main reasons vice president Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia last week. The problem for the United States is that Saudi Arabia has been unwilling to try to rein in the Sunni forces that are inflicting the most casualties on U.S. troops on the ground.

Yet allowing the Shi'ite militias to run rampant and perhaps eliminate the Sunni threat and its al Qaeda-linked allies, is equally unpalatable. The power center then flows directly to Iran, a nation bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, eliminating Israel and defeating the United States.

Iran is already sensing victory and becoming less and less shy about openly bragging about it.

"The kind of service that the Americans, with all their hatred, have done us — no superpower has ever done anything similar," Mohsen Rezai, secretary-general of the powerful Expediency Council that advises the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, boasted on state television recently.

"America destroyed all our enemies in the region. It destroyed the Taliban. It destroyed Saddam Hussein… The Americans got so stuck in the soil of Iraq and Afghanistan that if they manage to drag themselves back to Washington in one piece, they should thank God. America presents us with an opportunity rather than a threat — not because it intended to, but because it miscalculated. They made many mistakes."

So there we have multiple rocks rubbing up against numerous hard spots. Our Sunni supposed allies in the rest of the world backing armed groups that are killing Americans and fighting Iran's radical Shi'ite regime that would like to be killing Americans.

The chances of ramping up U.S. force levels to have a real and sustainable impact on the conflict are negligable. Immediate withdrawal is not an option. Endless talk about creating a functioning democracy in Iraq is empty. The notion of dialogue with Iran and Syria-when neither has any stake in a secure and stable Iraq friendly to the United States, is a non-starter. And one way or another the bad guys seemed poised to strengthen their positions in the mid to long term.

I doubt the Baker-Hamilton Group can propose a workable solution to this. Perhaps it is time to start looking for the least bad option in this tragic mess.
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