Filed in Gather News Channel by on June 13, 2008 0 Comments

Last year, some Iraq analysts were skeptical about the White House’s emphasis that Iran was a key enemy of U.S. troops in Iraq. That’s because the vast majority of U.S. casualties were occurring in areas controlled by the Sunni insurgency, not those controlled by the Shiite militias closely linked to Iran.

According to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a non-profit group that tracks U.S. deaths, 60 percent of U.S. deaths last year occurred in Sunni controlled areas. The insurgents in those provinces were getting funding and weapons from Sunni backers in the Sunni Arab nations of Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan — not Iran.

At the time, only about 4 percent of U.S. casualties occurred in Shiite controlled areas, while about a quarter had taken place in Baghdad, where both Sunni and Shiite fighters operate.

This data entirely contradicted the White House assertion that “Iran is a significant contributor to attacks on coalition forces.”

But things appear to have changed — or at least the reality on the ground may finally be catching up to the rhetoric of our government.

The US military says that 73% of the attacks that resulted in American casualties during the past year were carried out by Iranian backed “special groups.” The US characterizes these “special groups” as breakaway Shiite cells that fight alongside the militia of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and which are trained and outfitted by Iran.
Last month, Gen. David Petraeus called them the “greatest long-term threat to a democratic Iraq.”

So, the greatest threat isn’t al-Qaeda after all.

This raises an important question; who are our friends, and who are our enemies?

The Shiite government in Iraq is ostensibly our ally. But despite the sacrifices of our military personnel, by last fall the Iraqi government had met only 3 of the 18 “benchmarks” they had agreed to over a year earlier. What’s more, they’re uncomfortably close to the Iranians. And it can’t be overlooked that the U.S. has battled al Sadr’s Shiite militia on numerous occasions. Not such a good friend.

But the Sunni militias have been the primary enemy of the U.S. military since the initial outbreak of the insurgency. Those fighters were previously members of Saddam’s army who were handed pink slips by Paul Bremmer a few years ago. They were angry, insulted, had too much time on their hands, and to little money to enjoy it. Ultimately, they were responsible for 60% of US deaths in Iraq last year. Once again, not such good friends.

Sure, they’ve battled the al-Qaeda militias, but the U.S. had to put them on the payroll to get them to do so. It can never be forgotten that they were Saddam’s henchmen and that we deposed and captured him, then handed him over to be tried and hung. It’s probably safe to say they don’t like us very much. We upset their apple cart and gave rise to the Shiite government.

So it seems safe to say that both the Sunnis and Shites are our enemies. But if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, does that make both of them our friends?

Perhaps, as long as they’re fighting one another. 

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.

An L.A-based freelance writer, Sean has written on a wide variety of news and current events topics from politics and social issues, to health and wellness, to money, business, sports and music.

His work has been featured in various magazines and newspapers, including Baseball Digest and the Portsmouth Herald.

Sean also writes his own Red Sox blog, , featuring all the latest Red Sox news, information and stats. The site provides a unique analysis and commentary of all things Red Sox. The Boston Globe has linked Kennedy’s Commentary to its online sports page and quoted it often. Kennedy’s Commentary is a must read for any member of Red Sox Nation.

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I write about economics and my work has been featured in news outlets from coast to coast, from Portland, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I've also been published in online sites such as, and San Francisco B

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