Iranian invasion? Probably not


Shi'ite militiamen have seized control of Al Amarah, the largest city in the southern province of Maysan, according to The L.A. Times:

Police barricaded themselves inside their stations and fought off the attackers, but eventually fled after running out of ammunition. The militiamen, affiliated with Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, then stormed the stations. At least 15 people were killed in fighting today and 90 people were injured. Another seven were killed the previous day.
272545580_631b40e465.jpgHere's why you shouldn't worry. The police in Al Amarah are some of the most thuggish and corrupt in all of Iraq -- and that's saying a lot. For most Al Amarah residents, militia control might be an improvement.But it's not those poor Iraqis most pundits and politicians are worried about. It's Iran. And to those who paint Iraq in broad brush strokes, Shi'ite Iraqis and their militias are just fronts for Tehran, which slips agents and weapons over the porous border in the bottoms of Marsh Arab fishing boats.It's a little more complicated than that, as I explain over at World Politics Watch:
For 4,000 years the [Shi'ite] Marsh Arabs have inhabited what is now southern Iraq. For much of that history they were ignored by the various governments that rose and fell in the region. The result is a xenophobic, deeply traditional society where tribal leaders are the highest authority -- and where political borders are largely irrelevant.Not that those political borders are always clear. Maysan's marshes are a shifting landscape devoid of permanent features. [British commander Lieutenant Colonel David] Labouchere says it's difficult to mark a border in such a place. "The division between Iran and Iraq is, at places, fuzzy," he says. So fuzzy that, two years ago, eight British servicemen were briefly detained by the Iranian military after accidentally crossing into Iranian waters while delivering boats to the Iraqi Navy.If British troops can't tell where Iraq ends and Iran begins, how can anyone expect illiterate Marsh Arab fisherman to know and care -- especially when, from their shared point of view, borders are matters of tribe and marriage, not politics and international agreement?
Bottom line: militia seizure of Al Amarah doesn't entail an Iranian invasion of Iraq any more than Marsh Arab fishermen are Iranian agents.--David Axe
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