Iran is considering forming a new Shiite militia force in Iraq, as the previously existing Shiite militias have either been too independent and unpredictable, too weak or more at odds with each other than they were in-line with Iran’s desires. This will be a difficult thing for Iran to do because the U.S. is all over the Shiite militia game already and Iran has far overplayed its hand both politically and militarily everywhere from Lebanon to Iraq. Iran is functioning from a position of weakness now and it is no longer in their best interest to form or control militias inside of Iraq for several reasons. This is not to say that someday it may be advantageous for them to reform or take control of a militia in Iraq, but that day is far off and would come long after the U.S. loses interest in the region once again. The U.S. is willing to play along with the Iranians to a point, and Bush recently laid out in a speech exactly how far their willingness extends and creating new militias is entirely out of the question, it seems.
Iran has lost this round. The U.S. outmaneuvered them politically and militarily and has isolated Iran in the Muslim world. The effects of this can be seen in Iran’s rapidly shifting focus which represents a bit of confusion on which way the Iranian leadership wants to move next. They no longer agree what is the best way to proceed and this confusion has reduced their credibility in the eyes of the potentially cooperative Iraqi Shiites, as once Iran makes up its mind, Iraqi militants who decided to accept Iranian support and put themselves out on a limb might find themselves forgotten once Iran changes its mind again. I expect to see Iran do one of two things now:
- Pull itself apart at the leadership level due to a variety of (mis)interpretations of their current situation, fragment and generally fail to reclaim any of its lost influence in Iraq or with the U.S.; or
- Slow down, put the Iraqi Hezbollah plans on hold for a bit, reassess and consolidate its position in Iraq, work the diplomatic angle there while pushing to protect Hezbollah in Lebanon from what seems to be impending destruction at the hands of the Israelis.
Iran can’t go on at this pace forever in Iraq and it is making huge mistakes. If it goes through with the Hezbollah plans and that irks the U.S., the Iraqi and U.S. governments will quickly squish this new group and move further away from Iranian influence. That would drastically reduce their influence inside Iraq and generally ruin the dream they have of running a puppet Shia government inside Iraq for the next decade.