Across the Bay

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hizbullah in Iraq

Iraq's Interior Minister is saying that 18 members of Hizbullah have been detained in Iraq. The idea that Hizbullah would be active in Iraq doesn't really come as a surprise (most these guys have relatives in Iraq anyway), and they have been cheerleading for Muqtada since last Spring. But they have been careful not to do anything that draws too much attention. So I wonder what this means. The Iraqi Minister seems to link it to Iranian interference, which is always plausible, but it's not clear from the second hand report. If indeed it has something to do with Iran, it could be a way to show the US the possible problems Iran could create for it in Iraq and elsewhere if it attempts any limited strike on its nuclear facilities. Who knows?

I'll tell you who doesn't know. It's Mr. Informed Comment of course! Commenting on the same piece I linked above, Cole gave us a dazzling show of how he operates.

First, he starts with a dodgy premise, which in this case is demonstrably false, as he misread the name of the Iraqi Minister, writing that it was "Ex-Baathist Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan" when the story clearly says it's Iraq's Interior Minister Falah al-Naquib!! The name Hazem Shaalan doesn't even appear in the story he links to!

After starting off with his premise -- which he qualifies (Ex-Baathist) to set the tone of his rant -- he goes on building an entire theory based on the faulty premise:

    I don't know who exactly Shaalan represents, but I have concluded the man is a mole for someone. Nothing he says makes sense or tracks with reality. He is always shooting his mouth off and then being repudiated by his supposed boss, Iyad Allawi, but Allawi doesn't fire him.

Slow down cowboy! A mole!? You got the wrong guy to begin with!! Second, what kind of informed comment is that!? He hath concluded! Oh well, now my mind is at ease! Based on what!? Is it your ColeMole detector?! What in that statement, by the other Minister, warrants that conclusion!? That the Iranians are the biggest problem, whereas the Iraqis can negotiate with the Syrians (with whom the Americans are also negotiating on the border issue)? What's so outrageous and suspicious about that? Or is it that since it points the finger at Iran, the Neocons can't be too far behind!?

That by the way is the third element in Cole's method. The premise and the (conspiracy) theory are based on a preconceived dogmatic belief that has nothing to do with reality. It's not the first time of course that Cole has claimed some nefarious Neocon mole in Iraq. See this post by IraqPundit.

The fourth step is to flash his "expertise." Here is where Cole instructs us on the rigid lines of Islamic sectarian schisms. Marvel at the logical formula: the insurgents are Sunnis (either Baathists or Salafis). Hizbullah is Shiite. Ergo, Hizbullah cannot be part of the Iraqi insurgency, since no Shiite can ever work with a Sunni (which is ridiculous, as Hamas and Hizbullah have been working closely together, and Hamas is a Sunni Islamist group). Of course, the Iraqi Minister did not even claim that they were part of the insurgency! That was part of Cole's supreme logical matrix. In fact, al-Naquib said that most of those detained on charges of terrorism were Sudanese and Egyptians with some claiming to be Saudis. I.e., they were indeed all Sunnis. However, does this mean that it is an impossibility that Hizbullah can be active in Iraq, separately!? Couldn't it be related to Iran's war of nerves with the US?! Cole never even bothers to consider any of that! Instead, he issues a statement ex cathedra that there is no Shiite terrorism right now! Therefore, what possible operation could these Hizbullah guys be planning!? The (il)logical leaps are breathtaking! The conclusion is even better: these were "most likely just Lebanese Shiite pilgrims" ... and he based that on absolutely nothing! Just that "Hizbullah is disciplined enough not to step on Sistani's toes"! Right, but meanwhile they were voicing support for Muqtada back in the Spring, when he was clearly directly challenging Sistani who was against what Sadr was doing!

Then the final elements, judgment and prediction: "Shaalan should enjoy his grandstanding and Iran-bashing while he can -- I'd be very surprised if he is still in office a month from now."

So there you have it, an entire rant, complete with a conspiracy theory about an Iraqi minister mole, an "expert" analysis on Islamic sectarianism, and a condescending jab, and a prediction. All based on what? A blatant misreading of the source (and it wasn't even in Arabic!) and a pre-established assumption run wild!

Vintage Cole "expertise."