IWF’s A. Yasmine Rassam has an article in this morning’s Los Angeles Times on the conflict with Iran. Yasmine discusses how America is underestimating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, what Iran’s defiant response to the U.N. means, and the important roll Iraq plays in our conflict with Iran. Here’s a snippet:
Iraq is the crucial test of Iran’s ambitions. The majority of Iraqi Arabs share the basic Shiite creed with the majority of Iranians. Iraq and Iran share a long history of conquest and reconquest, of intertwined culture. However, many Iraqi Shiites do not share the fundamentalist theology and hegemonistic ambitions of Iran’s ayatollahs and its government. They are represented not by Sadr but by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the revered and influential Shiite cleric and a voice of reason in Iraq.
It makes sense, therefore, that the first line of defense against Iran’s ambitions is a stable, democratic Iraq, which would provide a formidable counterbalance to Iran. A pro-Western Iraq that develops its economic ties throughout the Middle East and beyond would compete over growing markets for oil with Iranian economic interests. More important, a democratic Iraq would be a long-sought beacon for the oppressed Shiites of the world, an alternative to the appeal of extremist Iran.