Analysis by Gareth Porter
"WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (IPS) - The supreme irony of President George W. Bush's campaign to blame Iran for the sectarian civil war in Iraq, as well as attacks on U.S. forces, is that the Shiite militias who started to drive the Sunnis out of the Baghdad area in 2004 and thus precipitated the present sectarian crisis did so with the support of both Iran and the neoconservative U.S. war planners.
The U.S. policy decisions that led to the sectarian war can be traced back to the conviction of a group of right-wing zealots with close ties to Israel's Likud Party that overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq would not destabilise the region, because Iraqi Shiites would be allies of the United States and Israel against Iran.
The idea that Iraqi Shiites could be used to advance U.S. power interests in the Middle East was part of a broader right-wing strategy for joint U.S.-Israeli "rollback" of Israel's enemies. In 1996, a task force at the right-wing Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, under Richard Perle advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that such a strategy should begin by taking control of Iraq and putting a pro-Israeli regime in power there.
Three years later, the former director of that think tank, David Wurmser, who had migrated to the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, spelled out how the United States could use Iraqi Shiites to support that strategy in "Tyranny's Ally". Wurmser sought to refute the realist argument that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would destroy the balance of power between Sunni-controlled Iraq and Shiite Iran on which regional stability depended.
Wurmser proposed replacing the existing "dual containment" policy toward Iran and Iraq with what he called "dual rollback". He did not deny that taking down Hussein's regime would "generate upheaval in Iraq", but he welcomed that prospect, which would "offer the oppressed, majority Shiites of that country an opportunity to enhance their power and prestige."
Whereas the "realists" had assumed the Iraqi Shiites would be "Iran's fifth column", Wurmser argued that the Iraqi Shiite clerics would "present a challenge to Iran's influence and revolution." He cited their rejection of the central concept of the Iranian revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini -- the "rule of the jurisprudent" -- justifying clerical rule.
From that fact, Wurmser leaped to the conclusion that Iraqi Shiites would be an ally of the United States in promoting a "regional rollback of Shiite fundamentalism". Wurmser even suggested that Iraqi Shiites could help pry Lebanese Shiites, with whom they had enjoyed close ties historically, away from the influence of Hezbollah and Iran......."