University of Pittsburgh
March 26, 2008

Pitt Faculty Expert Available to Comment on the United States' Urging Of Britain to Launch "Surge" in Basra to Combat Increasing Violence

Pitt Professor Michael Brenner says Iran is "the only winner" in the United States' "game of self-delusion"
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH- Michael Brenner, professor of international affairs in the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, says Britain's answer to the United States' urging a surge of British troops in Basra to combat increasing violence will be a resounding "NO."

"The military, the politicians, and surely the public understand that Iraq is a lost cause," says Brenner. "Americans may debate the military effects of the surge, while others realize that is not the point. The United States does not have the ability to determine Iraq's political future. Internal divisions are sharpening with time.

"The Awakening movement that has seen Sunni tribes turn on Sunni al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia adds another fault line to the Iraqi political scene," Brenner continues. "By arming the Sunni tribes without integrating them into a nonsectarian national army, we are strengthening them for the high-voltage civil war with the Shi'ite militias down the road. The latter pass themselves off as the 'official' Iraq force, but are in fact loyal to their sponsoring parties. Now the 'official' Shi'ites, egged on by Washington, have declared war against their archrivals-the Mahdi movement led by the popular Moqtada al-Sadr. We stigmatize him as the 'bad guy' not because he is worse than the others, but because he demands that the United States leave Iraq. Moreover, his allegedly Iranian connection is no different from that of our Shi'ite friends. It is a classic power struggle little different from turf wars between mafia families.

"So long as the United States stays in Iraq, acting as surrogates for some factions while attacking others, we can expect no progress," Brenner adds. "No one can answer the big questions of what our interests in Iraq are, what is our purpose there, and how to deal with the obvious reality that the longer we occupy the country the more we are disliked. The only winner from this game of self-delusion is Iran. For Iran has close ties with all of the Shi'ite factions even as we denounce Iran for intervening in Iraqi politics. The last such 'intervention' took the form of President Ahmedinejad holding hands with Prime Minister al-Maliki in the Green Zone a few weeks ago."

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