January 29, 2007

Bad Day For the Bad Guys

300 terrorists--including Afghans, Saudis and one Sudanese--were killed in a pitched battle near the Shiite holy city of Najaf, after Iraqi forces were tipped to a planned raid on Najaf that sought to kill Shia pilgrims and leading clerics at the Imam Ali Shrine. Among the targeted clerics was Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered of Iraq's Shia clerics.

The terrorists seemed to be composed of both Sunnis and a radical Shia sect. The goal of the attack seems clear: to plunge Iraq into a direct and all-out civil war along sectarian lines, dwarfing the present sectarian conflict and perhaps pre-empting the goals of the surge of American troops that hopes to stabilize Baghdad.

As Captain Ed notes:

The post-battle assessments should be interesting. Intelligence forces must be wondering why insurgents would attempt a straight-up fight against the Iraqis, and whether that indicates overconfidence or desperation.

Jules Crittenden brings up the very interesting point that the goal of the Shia sect involved in the attack, the Army of Heaven or Army of the Sky" depending on the translation, hoped to kill the assembled Shia Grand Ayatollahs to clear the way for the arrival of the Hidden Imam, also known as the Madhi.

It bears noting that this seems to be almost exactly in line with the goals and desires of the Hojjatieh sect of Shia Islam in Iran, the sect of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahcracy of Iran.

While I've seen no accounts of the battle that explicitly or implicitly state and Iranian involvement in either the planning nor the pre-empted execution of the attack to date, I'll be very interested to see if any evidence emerges that indicates Iran may have either had advance warning of the attack, or if they had a role in its planning. Considering Iran's probable involvement in the Karbala attack nine days ago that saw American soldiers kidnapped and killed is a sophisticated attack that may have directly involved the Qods Force branch of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps, I'd say anything is possible at this point.

If it can be proven that Iran was behind this disastrous (for the bad guys) raid, it seems likely that Iranís plans to expand its role in Iraq is far from benign, and may be setting both of our nations on a path towards a more direct conflict.

I sincerely hope that the Iranian leadership is not intent of forcing our nations into a direct conflict, but they seem increasingly willing to take that risk.

Iran is not nearly as strong militarily, economically, or diplomatically as they would like to appear, and we have two branches of our militaryóthe Air Force and the Navyówhich are quite capable of leveling Iranís infrastructure, their fledging nuclear weapons program and their military (mostly composed of conscripts) before they penetrate the Iraq border, should it come to a direct confrontation between our nations.

I donít think anyone in this country wants to fight in Iran and Iraq simultaneously, but as long as we donít desire to physically invade Iran and hold ground (and we have no reason to want to do so), we can wreck far more havoc in 2007 with our assembled regional air power than we ever brought to bear in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

Then again, you cannot ascribe rational motives to a group so radicalized that it was once outlawed by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1983. The Hojjatieh do not think in mortal terms and are obsessed with bringing about their sectís "End of Days" to usher forth the Hidden Imam. What we would see as an irrational escalation that could only bring about their defeat on the battlefield, may be exactly what they hope would trigger their hoped-for apocalypse.

Strange days, indeed.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 29, 2007 09:43 AM