Basra and Iran

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

Michael Ledeen argues (as he has before) that it will be virtually impossible to achieve a durable peace in Iraq without confronting and dealing with the Iranian presence and influence.  The Captain’s Journal agrees and has advocated for some time that an insurgency be fomented inside the borders of Iran.  There is no end to the gushing reports about success in Basra, in spite of the defections, orders not to fire at the Mahdi militia, and premature stand-down in operations.

The Captain’s Journal has been quite a bit less sanguine about the Basra campaign, and continues to be so.  The gushing reports, in addition to ignoring the poor planning and execution of the operation, ignore both its short duration and broader connection to Iran.  The campaign in Basra must not be seen in the aggregate.  It has now been made clear that Iranian fighters and military leadership -Quds and even Hezbollah – were directing the fight in many areas of Iraq, and that Moqtada al Sadr has become a (militarily) irrelevant mouthpiece for Iran.

The top two U.S. officials in Iraq accused Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Tuesday of fueling recent fighting in Baghdad, saying Tehran and Damascus were pursuing a “Lebanization strategy” in Iraq.

“The hand of Iran was very clear in recent weeks,” U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, said at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But Petraeus told lawmakers that Iran’s Qods Force and Hezbollah were funding, training, arming and directing renegade Shi’ite groups he blamed for recent deadly rocket and mortar attacks in the Iraqi capital.

“Unchecked, the special groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq,” said the four-star general.

Speaking from Iran, al Sadr said ”the government should “protect the Iraqi people from the booby traps and American militias” and “demand the withdrawal of the occupier or a schedule for its withdrawal from our holy land.”  These are the words of Ayatollah Khamenei, and the Mahdi militia is little more than puppets of Iran.

The beginnings of this current campaign apparently came from Iranian concerns over a great many things, including the strength of the Sunni awakening fighters.

For its part, Tehran was angered by the latest American plan based on a ‘divide and conquer’ approach and fears that Iraq will become a US protectorate after the US has discovered a barrier against the Shia-dominated government in the [predominately] Sunni Sahwa (Awakening) protection forces. Tehran’s apprehension was quite considerable; especially after Bush declared that the Sahwa forces presently number 90,000 strong (members receive monthly salary of US $300).

Through an editorial written by Selig S. Harrison in the ‘Boston Globe’, Tehran was able communicate its point across to the US: “Unless [General David] Petraeus drastically cuts back the Sunni militias, Tehran will unleash the Shia militias against US forces again and step up to help al Maliki’s intelligence service, the Ministry of National Security.” This was followed by al Maliki’s attack on the Mehdi army in Basra.

The article written by the stooge Selig S. Harrison is entitled Working with Iran to Stabilize Iraq, a strategy also endorsed by Senator Jim Webb.  But assisting in the stability of Iraq is the last thing Iran can be expected to do.  The failure of the Basra campaign is simply that it stopped far short of what is needed.  Iran has become masters at starting, stopping, delaying, relocating, withdrawing, calling for a truce, hiding in the shadows, and in general conducting surreptitious warfare against the U.S.  This is exactly what has happened in Basra.

The temporary and fragile peace in Basra was purchased through negotiations with none other than Iran.

The Mehdi militiamen withdrew from the streets after six days of fighting, but they appear to have taken their arms with them, defying Prime Minister Maliki’s initial demand that all militia-held medium and heavy weapons be surrendered.

The political leadership of Iraq is saying that there was no deal with the Mehdi militia to stop the fighting.

On Thursday Mr Maliki insisted he had not ordered negotiations with Moqtada Sadr.

And a source close to the prime minister says that Moqtada Sadr’s order to cease fighting came at the instigation of Iran.

The source said that as the bloodshed in Basra began early last week, Moqtada Sadr tried to telephone Prime Minister Maliki from Qom, in Iran – and the prime minister refused to take his call.

But a delegation from the United Iraqi Alliance, the parliamentary bloc that supports Mr Maliki, flew to Tehran, where they told representatives of the Iranian leadership that Iran’s involvement in stirring up the militia violence was unacceptable and would have to stop, the source said.

They pointed out that Iranian munitions were being used in the fighting.

The Iranian leadership, according to the source, then brought Moqtada Sadr to Tehran.

There, late on Saturday night, he crafted the statement that would order his Mehdi Army militiamen off the streets, the source said.

In this version of events, the Iraqi prime minister retains the ability to deny entering talks with Moqtada Sadr. In effect, it appears to have been done for him, with Iranian influence brought to bear.

In order to obtain a victory in Basra and Sadr City proper, Maliki and the Multinational Force must think regionally.  Several important tactics must be pressed.  First, the Mahdi militia must be completely taken out and disarmed.  They can be seen as nothing more than Iranian proxy fighters.  Second, the SIIC (otherwise ISCI) has a great influence in Shi’ite Iraq, and it must be dealt with.  As Fred Kaplan notes, “the Iranians won because Maliki turned to them to mediate the cease-fire with Sadr, thus confirming their status as a major player in Iraqi politics and a dominant power on Iraq’s southern port. (The Iranians probably would have won no matter what happened, because the rival Shiite militia backing Maliki—the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, 10,000 members of which fought alongside the official army—also has ties to Iran. Maliki afterward admitted those 10,000 into the national armed forces. Does this mean that the ISCI militia has been co-opted into the Iraqi government—or that the government is, even more than before, controlled by the militia?).”

In order to cut ties with Iran, the SIIC “members” of the Iraqi Security Forces – who had to fight only rival miltias in Basra this time around – should be forced to rid Iraq of all Iranian influence, including Quds, Hezbollah, IRG and any other proxy Iranian fighters.  Failure to do so, from leadership down to the lowest ranking soldier, should be addressed as treason.  Until the SIIC is forced to fight for Iraq as opposed to fighting against rival gangs, they too are merely Iranian proxy forces.

At the moment, The Captain’s Journal is unpersuaded that any good has come from Basra and Sadr city fighting.  The campaign isn’t over, but with General David Petraeus, we are disappointed in the results so far.


You are currently reading "Basra and Iran", entry #1033 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Badr Organization,Basra,Iran,Iraq,Jaish al Mahdi and was published April 8th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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