Important Undercurrents in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 7 months ago

**** SCROLL FOR UPDATES **** 

The Arab League has called on the United Nations Security Council to set a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.  Continuing with the demands, in a request that might be humorous if it weren’t so sad, ”the list also includes a call for the fair distribution of wealth and the disbanding of all militias.”

The fair distribution of wealth is certainly a laudable goal, and one that might help in bringing some stability to the government.  It is the next demand that catches the eye: “disbanding all militias” – as if the U.N. was capable of causing such a thing to happen.  As we have noted before, Coalition Forces (primarily U.S.) are finally targeting Sadr City in the security sweeps, but still mainly engaging the so-called death squads and assumed rogue elements of the Madhi army.  But by attacking the “rogue” elements, the U.S. may be tacitly admitting defeat before the surge becomes fully engaged.

The Iraqi security forces and police are heavily infiltrated with Sadrist elements, and there is no question at the moment who controls Baghdad.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city’s population and the front line of al-Sadr’s campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr’s militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they’ve trained and armed.

“Half of them are JAM. They’ll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night,” said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia’s Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. “People (in America) think it’s bad, but that we control the city. That’s not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It’s hostile territory” …

“All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they’ll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It’ll be called the `Day of Death’ or something like that,” said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. “They say, `Wait, and we will be victorious.’ That’s what they preach. And it will be their victory.”

“Honestly, within six months of us leaving, the way Iranian clerics run the country behind the scenes, it’ll be the same way here with Sadr,” said Quinn, 25, of Cleveland. “He already runs our side of the river.”

We have previously noted the necessity to defang the Mahdi army and kill or capture Moqtada al Sadr, or at least, prevent his return to Iraq.  The strengthening of the radical Shi’ites and Iran is not at all a trivial concern, and the connection between the Mahdi army and Iran is not accidental any more than Sadr’s presence in Iran during the “surge” is accidental.  Iran is still training the Mahdi army, with some recent “deployments” of the Mahdi army directly from Iranian training camps.

500 members of the Mahdi Army have allegedly returned to Iraq during the last two days after receiving training in neighboring Iran, the Haqq Agency reports. Unnamed sources told the agency that several hundred Mahdi Army militiamen have been training in Iranian camps in areas bordering the Maysan Governorate, south of Iraq, for the last three months.

We have discussed the need to view OIF as a regional conflict, along with recommending full engagement in the covert war with Iran.  There seems to be significant action on this front.

Iran’s dep. defense minister for eight years up until 2005 – and before that a prominent Revolutionary Guards General, Alireza Asquari, 63, has not been seen since his disappearance in mysterious circumstances in Istanbul on Feb. 7.

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in – the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

The BAZTAB Web site reported that Feb. 6, two non-Turkish citizens made a reservation for Gen Asquari for three nights at the Istanbul Ceylan Hotel paying cash. He arrived the next day from Damascus and immediately disappeared.

The Turkish foreign ministry said only: “It is a very sensitive intelligence matter and the Interior Ministry is dealing with this issue.?

BAZTAB speaks for the faction associated with Mohsein Rezai, former Revolutionary Guards commander, deputy head of Iran’s most powerful governing council and a man very close to top intelligence circles in Tehran

The Iranian general’s arrival at Ataturk international airport on a flight from Damascus is recorded at border control, but he never reached the hotel.

Instead, he booked himself into the more modest and cheaper Hotel Ghilan. He left his luggage in the room, walked out of the hotel – and vanished.

A police official in Istanbul said: “We are trying to find out whether he left or was taken. Clearly the reservation made for him at the luxurious Ceylan Hotel was made to mislead. Tehran’s application to Interpol, which has issued a yellow bulletin, means that the Iranians are not treating Asquari’s disappearance as a defection but as involuntary.

DEBKAfile adds: Tehran sees the hand of US undercover agencies or contract gunmen and believes Washington has stepped up its war against Iranian officers running Tehran’s clandestine operations in Iraq. The kidnapping of an Iranian general outside Iraq would expand President Bush’s permission for the capture or killing of Iranian agents helping Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda murder Americans in Iraq.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly 288 reported on Feb. 2 that the gunmen who abducted the American soldiers in Karbala – and then shot them dead execution-style – belonged to a special commando team of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, which was sent to Iraq especially for this mission.

DEBKAfile continues by describing the Iranian action that led up to this.

The team was made up of intelligence officers who speak American English and were trained to masquerade as US troops, kidnap US soldiers and hold them as hostages for bargaining.

These officers are from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab countries, who studied in the US and can talk like Americans – even in the idiom of US troops. Teams of these masqueraders roam at large in Iraq, clad in American uniforms, armed with US weapons and driving stolen American vehicles.

Tehran’s plan was to snatch a group of US soldiers and hold them hostage against the release of the 8 Revolutionary Guards paratroops in American custody. However, according to our intelligence sources, the plan went awry for some unknown reason and the Iranian commandos decided to execute their captives before making a fast getaway from the Karbala region.

Tehran views this operation as a fiasco because it did not achieve its goal. At the same time, Iranian intelligence has not been put off its plan to take American soldiers hostage in Iraq. Its chiefs are determined to do whatever it takes to obtain the release of the third top man of the Revolutionary Guards al Quds division, Col. Fars Hassami, who DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports is not the only high-profile Iranian officer in American hands. Another is Mohammad Jaafari Sahra-Rudi, who was the kingpin of Iran’s terrorist operations in large parts of Iraq. His long record includes leading the Iranian death squad which assassinated Iran’s Kurdish Democratic Party leader Dr. Abdol-Rahman Qasemlou in Vienna in 1989.

Austrian security services caught the assassin but sent him back to Iran as part of a secret transaction between the two countries.

Qasemlou operated in Iraq under his real identity and even met with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani just a few days before he was captured in the American raid of the Iranian “liaison office? in Irbil Jan 11.

The Iranians have explored every channel they can think of to break the agents out of American custody. When they realized that the United States was adamant about holding on to them, the heads of the Revolutionary Guards decided to go ahead with their campaign of abductions against US troops in Iraq. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad approved.

While this engagement in the covert war with Iran might be too little, too late, it is certainly warranted.  Engagement with Iran must take multiple forms, including the Mullah’s proxy fighters in Iraq.  But it is a mistake to believe that seeing this as a regional war means only that areas outside the Iraqi borders are included.

Sadr’s organization, while symbiotic and idealogically connected to Iran, has now become a dangerous and more self-sufficient group than they were even a few months ago, and should be seen in international terms.  It is no less idealogically driven than al Qaeda, and given the diminution of AQI’s capabilities in Iraq, probably poses a more significant threat to region stability and is just as unlikely as AQI to work towards an Iraq that is a U.S. ally in the global war on terror.  Remember that it was Sadr who organized the pro-Hezballah rally where tens of thousands of supporters shouted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”  Final peace in Iraq with the Sadrists will come at the price of U.S. withdrawal and further ethnic cleansing.  But final peace will never be negotiated with those who seek our destruction because of religious beliefs.

**** UPDATE ****

The always informative and clear-headed Omar Fadhil at Pajamas Media gives us a view of the Baghdad security operations, and this excerpt discusses the role of the Mahdi army:

The Mehdi army is not responding to the raids with fire, but they are trying to undermine the security plan by spreading rumors about alleged crimes committed by US soldiers, specifically against the Shia. The latest of these rumors was a ridiculous one I heard yesterday from a taxi driver from Sadr city. His story, quite similar to one told by a Sadr city council member, is that US soldiers are raiding Shia homes, arresting innocent civilians, and then dumping them at night near strongholds of Sunni insurgents, blindfolded and handcuffed so that the insurgents would find them defenseless and slaughter them!

The Mahdi army knows that they cannot win a toe-to-toe fight with the U.S., and neither do they want to deplete their men, munitions or equipment.  Rather, they will do as we have predicted and just wait out the surge, saving their forces for later, all the while undermining the security effort.  They are undermining the security effort for one simple reason: they do not want security for Baghdad.  They want to continue their mission of ethnic cleansing and to retain control over Baghdad and beyond.

Reports that the Mahdi army is being divided into those elements that are reconcilable versus those who aren’t, are profoundly unimpressive and even troubling.  This strategy amounts to “kicking the can down the road.”  The Mahdi army has made it clear where they stand, and they stand opposed to a unified and reconciled Iraq, regardless of what some of them say to representatives of the MNF.

  • Sando

    “Disbanding militias” is the type of thinking that is developed by non-serious people.

    In terms of wealth redistribution, I find this idea linked to by Austin Bay to be worthwhile: http://austinbay.net/blog/?p=1650
    I’ve been considering it for a couple days and it’s the kind of thing that makes perfect sense to me. I think the average Iraqi is much like the average American – he wants to make a living and provide for a family. Perhaps the sense of ownership in the society and bettering their circumstances for future generations will counter the desire of that element that wants to destroy us because of our religious beliefs.

  • Dominique R. Poirier

    I see that as a good find, Sando. Austin Bay made a good point. Arable land accounts for 13.12% of the Iraqi soil, according to the World Fact Book.

    So, such a solution would address to a part of the Iraqi people which would make a living from agriculture revenues, then.

    Since Austin Bay based his idea upon the example of Japan under the supervision of General Douglas McArthur, I am inclined to make a comparison with arable land in this last country which accounts for 11.64%, according to the same source. United States gets 18.01%.

    Perhaps some special legal provisions should have to be envisaged, at the beginning, since one may forecast that many of those new landowners might be encouraged to resale their property, either in the hope to move elsewhere in the country or beyond, or because compelled to do so under threat, or else. But this last point does not question the value of this suggestion, in my own opinion.


You are currently reading "Important Undercurrents in Iraq", entry #475 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iran,Iraq,Islamic Facism and was published March 5th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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