Crises in Flushing and the Middle East

First off, I'd like to echo Simon's lament. I too am a Mets fan and was at Shea yesterday, watching the Mets get eliminated from the playoffs at the end of a historic collapse. 9 men on a field playing a boys game someone can feel larger than life. Unfortunately, yesterday, that left me feeling like I'd been punched in the gut, while other fans were celebrating just an hour and a half down the Jersey Turnpike. For Mets fans like us, the long wait until spring begins today. Congratulations to the Phillies, they earned the right to play under the bright lights of October.

More importantly - although it doesn't feel like it at the moment - is Sy Hersh's new article in this week's New Yorker "Shifting Target's The Administrations plan for Iran." It's an explosive and insightful piece that details dangerous changes in our Iran policy. Part of what elevates the piece is the contribution of a close friend of NDN's, Professor Vali Nasr of the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy. (You can see Simon's in-depth interview with Professor Nasr here.)

Professor Nasr is quoted repeatedly in the piece, and one section that stood out is his detailing of the risks of our current strategy of arming Sunni tribes in Anbar Provence, ostensibly to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia:

Vali Nasr, of Tufts, called the internal displacement of communities in Iraq a form of “ethnic cleansing.”

“The American policy of supporting the Sunnis in western Iraq is making the Shia leadership very nervous,” Nasr said. “The White House makes it seem as if the Shia were afraid only of Al Qaeda—but they are afraid of the Sunni tribesmen we are arming. The Shia attitude is ‘So what if you’re getting rid of Al Qaeda?’ The problem of Sunni resistance is still there. The Americans believe they can distinguish between good and bad insurgents, but the Shia don’t share that distinction. For the Shia, they are all one adversary.”

As usual, Professor Nasr is a step ahead of everyone, including it would appear the people setting American policy towards the Middle East. I hope to hear more people asking these critical questions: are the short term gains derived from arming Sunnis in Anbar worth the medium and long term risks? And, are we really qualified to 'distinguish between good and bad insurgents?'