Are Iraqi Fighters on Their Way to Lebanon to Aid Hezbollah?
This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 24, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq have a common enemy: Israel. That's why militia members from both groups are said to be on their way to Lebanon to help Hezbollah fight. A senior member of Muqtada al-Sadr's militia says it is training “the right people right now.” The Sunni cleric says he called on people to volunteer during Friday prayers.
Here now is former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman and FOX News Channel contributor Dan Senor.
So, Muqtada al-Sadr is going to send troops to join this fight?
DAN SENOR, FMR. CPA SPOKESMAN: I don't think so. I don't think he has the capacity to. Although he does have capacity to be a real problem for Prime Minister Maliki, Iraq's Shiite prime minister, who has to be very responsive to the Shiite underclass that are very prominent and have a real voice that manifests itself in the Shiite political caucus, and Muqtada al-Sadr is on the side of Hezbollah.
The Mahdi army reflects much more — Sadr's militia in Iraq — reflects Hezbollah much more than it represents any other political institution in Iraq and there is pressure on Maliki to make strong statements of condemnation against Israel.
GIBSON: If he sent his Mahdi army to Lebanon to fight the Israelis would that just mean the end of those people who went there?
SENOR: Yes. I mean one thing that was striking is every time the Mahdi army has confronted the American troops, the ratio of casualties on the American side to the Iraqi side to the Mahdi army side has been quite astonishing. Their capabilities are, shall we say, disproportionate.
That doesn't mean they haven't been destructive. They have killed Americans. They have killed coalition soldiers. So they have been able to use violence of some effect, but every time they have head to head confrontation with American troops they have lost and they have been completely outnumbered and outmanned. I would assume the same would be the case if they went against the Israelis.
GIBSON: Did Iran and the Shiites in Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shiites everywhere really expect that Israel was going to tolerate a Hezbollah land armed and shooting at Israel within meters of their border?
SENOR: I think they miscalculated on three fronts, John.
The first was: I do not think they believed there would be the consensus within the Israeli public for Israel to restore its capability against Hezbollah. They believed that there were many in Israel that wanted Israel out of southern Lebanon seven years ago and there would still be a movement for that position now to just stay out of it.
They didn't expect the Sunni Arab governments in the region to criticize them, to come out against them, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Jordanians.
And they didn't expect, I think, the administration in this country, while they are perceived to be “bogged down in Iraq,” to be in a position to take a hard line and empower the Israelis to do what they need to do.
GIBSON: Is there a chance that there is at least a temporary schism, a split between the Shias and the Sunnis and it's going to unite the Sunni world against Iran and the Shias?
SENOR: I think if there is any advantage along the lines of what you described, which I think is there, it's tactical and short term. We should seize it. We should capitalize on it, but we shouldn't fool ourselves into believing that this is some long-term realignment that's taking place in the region.
GIBSON: FOX News Channel contributor Dan Senor, as always, thank you.
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