To catch a snake, use your enemy's hand.- Persian
Last week's U.S. military re port alleging Iran is now giving
weapons to Iraqi Sunni insurgents may seem downright
illogical next to earlier claims that Tehran was arming Iraq's
It's not. Far from it.
While a risky strategy, Tehran's willingness to arm both
their Shia allies and Sunni foes in Iraq could pay big dividends
for the ascendant and ambitious Islamic Republic - at our
In fairness, not everyone buys into the U.S. military's latest
finger-pointing at Iran. Some are reasonably skeptical, saying the
initial intelligence analysis could be half-baked.
Pieces of the puzzle do seem to be missing. For instance, the
owner of the weapons cache that included some Iranian arms found in
the Sunni-majority Baghdad neighborhood was never identified.
Moreover, the overarching conclusion about Iranian complicity is
staked on separate intel provided by unidentified detainees, who
claim Tehran is aiding Sunni insurgents. That info could be shaky,
Plus, the insurgents could've bought the arms on the
international black market. Syria - an Iranian ally - could be the
supplier. Or corrupt Iranian officials - looking to make a quick,
easy buck - could've sold them to the insurgents.
Naturally, Iran denies any involvement.
But let's assume that the witch's brew of Iranian weapons (e.g.,
mortar rounds) found in a Sunni neighborhood - added to the
detainee info - makes for a credible case against Tehran.
What accounts for Iran's action?
Although seemingly as incompatible as oil and water, the Sunni
insurgents could help Shia Iran advance important strategic
objectives in Iraq.
Continued Sunni attacks - aided by Iranian weapons - will keep
the United States sufficiently distracted so as to hinder the
possibility of Washington's dealing with Iran politically, much
Plus, continued Sunni violence (again, supported by Iran) will
only add to the possibility that the United States will defeat
itself in Iraq by opting for a politically motivated
withdrawal in Washington.
Sure, the Sunnis will use Iranian weapons to kill some Iraqi
Shia, but what are a few Iraqi lives in the pursuit of
clearing away the biggest hurdle to Iran's quest for Middle Eastern
dominance - the United States?
Moreover, while Iran has no interest in complete chaos, a
tolerable level of instability fomented by Iranian-aided Sunni and
Shia - in a country that for many years was its greatest threat -
would be welcomed by Tehran's sinister strategists.
The last thing Iran wants - ever again - is a strong, unified
Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the
1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, remembers well the carnage, including the
loss of 300,000 Iranian lives at Iraqi hands.
On top of that, Iran has no desire to see real freedom and
democracy blossom in Iraq. Talk about an ideological threat to the
repressive Iranian regime!
Tehran is already struggling to keep the lid on a simmering pot
of social discontent; it doesn't need a "bad" political example
right next door, turning up the heat that might push dissent to the
Working both ends (that is, the Sunni and Shia) against the
middle (that is, the Iraqi central government) will surely stifle
Iraq's development toward a stable, fully-fledged democracy.
None of Iran's machinations should surprise us. Iran likes to
get others to do its dirty work. Fighting by proxy is its M.O.
That's why it's been such an active state sponsor of terrorism.
Just look at Hezbollah's role as Iran's cat's-paw. In 1983,
Hezbollah killed 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut. Last summer, it fired
some 3,000 rockets into Israel. Today, it's trying to topple the
As with Hezbollah, using such surrogates as the Shia militias
and Sunni insurgents to protect and advance its interests in Iraq
is just another pernicious example of how Iran operates
Now, this isn't to say that Iran is behind all the problems in
Iraq. There are real problems that are uniquely Iraqi. But Iran
appears to increasingly have a hand in preventing the establishment
of stability in Iraq.
Indeed, Tehran could be supporting other evildoers in Iraq, too
- even al Qaeda. And considering the recent news of disagreements
between al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents in Iraq, it's certainly
possible Iran will aid al Qaeda, too.
Brookes is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation
and the author of "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and