Matthew Yglesias describes our recent series of raids on Iranians Iraq as some kind of mad pony hunt. Well, what are they looking for, and why?
One possibility is that Dubya & Co. are simply trying to provoke the Iranians into escalating conflict, allowing the Americans to escalate further. (You might think that two wars in the Middle East are enough, counting Afghanistan, but there are certainly folks in the White House who seem to think differently). But if that's the case, they've certainly done poor advance work. Both the initial raid in Baghdad, and the more recent one in Kurdistan have drawn strong protest from the local Iraqi (or Kurdish) authorities. And this plan also presumes that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are not only crazy, but also stupid enough to rise to the bait.
Which leaves a more frightening possibility --- that Dubya is not only saying that foreign interference from Iran is the cause of Iraqi security problems, but that he actually believes it, just as they really believed Saddam had active WMD programs which the U.N. inspectors were somehow too lazy to find. (If not, they would have just stopped talking about them and shifted to other excuses immediately after they got their shiny little war). And if you really believe it, the most natural thing in the world is to order raids on Iranians to collect the evidence which those eggheads in the CIA are somehow too lazy to find.
Mind you, believing this means that you have to believe that the Iranians are giving bombs, or bomb technology, or whatever they're being vaguely accused of giving this week, to Sunni insurgent veterans of the old Iraqi regime, which Iran fought to a bloody stalemate in a phenomenally brutal war. And you have to believe that they're doing this to undermine the soi-disant Iraqi "government", which is currently dominated by folks who spent years under Iranian sponsorship.
But, hey. If you really believe in an "axis of evil", in which the medieval religious fanatics running Iran are acting in concert with the Marxist-Nihilist nutcases running North Korea just because they're all really, really bad and we're really, really good and none of the bad guys like, well, good stuff --- then it makes perfect sense for the Iranians to be sponsoring their own worst enemies. Because everything changed on 9/11, when the world started to revolve around George W. Bush.
If you don't believe that, though, then you might expect this policy to run into trouble. Like when we try to split off the factions comprising the Iraqi "government" from their Iranian sponsors, and that drives them closer together instead as their much more well-established alliance turns against us.
And if you know anything at all about Iraqi politics, you'll notice the one huge omission in my description of the current, soi-disant "government" --- Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the only major Shiite political faction in Iraq, that I'm aware of, that does not have long-established ties to the current Iranian regime. Naturally, Dubya's administration is acting as if he's a natural ally of all the other bad guys --- whether the die-hards from the former regime that killed his father, or the Ayatollahs from Iran who sponsored his own domestic rivals --- because, well, he's a bad guy, and so are they. See how much easier it is to explain the world if you start to believe things like this?