Sunday, November 20, 2005

Newsweek: Will a weak Iraq become Iran's playground?

Newsweek reports on the extent of Iran's involvement in Iraq and how it is helping prolong instability in that country:

the Bush administration worries that a fractured Iraq under weak leadership will be Tehran's playground, a place where rabid anti-Americans like Ahmadinejad can continue to sap U.S. strength, diverting Washington from its efforts to confront Iran over its own nuclear plans. Already many Iraqis are convinced that Iranian intelligence provides key support to Shiite militias. Some see Iranian hands in the torture chambers discovered last week beneath an Interior Ministry compound, which was run by Shiite officials allegedly linked to Tehran.

Iraqi officials are all too aware of how deeply Iran has infiltrated Baghdad. Some assert that a special unit controlled by a man named Ahmed al-Mohandiss, with ties to Iran, abused the prisoners in the Interior Ministry facility. Last week, as the government was launching a promised investigation into alleged torture at the Jadriyah jail, three senior Iraqi officials told NEWSWEEK that Mohandiss was now in Iran...

And this also from Newsweek on the movie I've long been waiting for: George Clooney's new movie "Syriana", a political thriller directed by Stephen Gaghan, winner of the Best Screenplay Academy Award for Traffic :

As he did in his Oscar-winning screenplay for "Traffic," Gaghan shuffles multiple stories, often continents apart, only gradually unveiling how they're connected. There's an Arabic-speaking CIA agent left out in the cold by his handlers in Washington, played by a bearded, heavyset, deglamorized George Clooney. There's an ambitious Washington lawyer (Jeffrey Wright) investigating a questionable merger between two Texas oil firms—that want drilling rights in Kazakhstan, and the powerful boss of the law firm (Christopher Plummer), who insinuates himself in the power struggle between two heirs vying to become the emir of a Persian Gulf country. One of those princes (Alexander Siddig, an actor to watch) has given his country's drilling rights to the Chinese, which makes him an official enemy of the U.S. government. Yet his new adviser (Matt Damon) is an American oil consultant, based in Geneva, who's parlayed the tragic death of his son at the emir's Spanish home into an economic opportunity. At the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder is an unemployed Pakistani migrant oil worker (Mazhar Munir) who's taken under the wing of a radical Islamic mentor.

Gaghan's movie doesn't play by conventional Hollywood action-movie rules (when it tries to, in one action scene near the end, it can sacrifice sense for sensation). This is a movie that sticks its political neck out, that throbs with dread, paranoia and outrage, that doesn't coddle the audience by neatly tying things up. "Syriana" demands both an alert mind and a stout heart, and not just for its powerfully unpleasant torture scene. Its dark, dog-eat-dog vision of the world we live in may give you geopolitical nightmares.