A few days ago McClatchy published an exposé on an Iranian General they called the most powerful man in Iraq. A short selection will be reproduced below.
One of the most powerful men in Iraq isn’t an Iraqi government official, a militia leader, a senior cleric or a top U.S. military commander or diplomat,
He’s an Iranian general, and at times he’s more influential than all of them.
Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani commands the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, an elite paramilitary and espionage organization whose mission is to expand Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
As Tehran’s point man on Iraq, he funnels military and financial support to various Iraqi factions, frustrating U.S. attempts to build a pro-Western democracy on the rubble of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
According to Iraqi and American officials, Suleimani has ensured the elections of pro-Iranian politicians, met frequently with senior Iraqi leaders and backed Shiite elements in the Iraqi security forces that are accused of torturing and killing minority Sunni Muslims.
“Whether we like him (Suleimani) or not, whether Americans like him or not, whether Iraqis like him or not, he is the focalpoint of Iranian policy in Iraq,” said a senior Iraqi official who asked not to be identified so he could speak freely. “The Quds Force have played it all, political, military, intelligence, economic. They are Iranian foreign policy in Iraq.”
McClatchy reported on March 30 that Suleimaniintervened to halt the fighting between mostly Shiite Iraqi security forces and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in the southern city of Basra. Iraqi officials now confirm that in addition to that meeting, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani personally met Suleimaniat a border crossing to make a direct appeal for help.
Iraqi and U.S. officials told McClatchy that Suleimani also has: [i] Slipped into Baghdad’s Green Zone, the heavily fortified seat of the U.S. occupation and the Iraqi government, in April 2006 to try to orchestrate the selection of a new Iraqi prime minister. Iraqi officials said that audacious visit was Suleimani’s only foray into the Green Zone; American officials said he may have been there more than once, [ii] Built powerful networks that gather intelligence on American and Iraqi military operations. Suleimani’s network includes every senior staffer in Iran’s embassy in Baghdad, beginning with the ambassador, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials, and [iii] Trained and directed Shiite Muslim militias and given them cash and arms, including mortars and rockets fired at the U.S. Embassy and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, the sophisticated roadside bombs that have caused hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi casualties.
At Abu Muqawama, Dr. iRack read this report and said:
The story is part of the growing drum beat of Iran stories Dr. iRack has pointed to this week (see here and here). There is clearly a concerted effort underway by the Bush administration (which began during the April Petraeus/Crocker testimony and President Bush’s April 10th speech) to prime the media pump and ratchet up the perceived threat posed by Iran’s “malign” activities in Iraq.
To which The Captain’s Journal responds, rubbish. We have had twenty five years of experience reading Knight-Ridder / McClatchy due to it being the exclusive supplier for our very own hometown newspaper. It is unapologetically and unabashedly biased and leftist. This has consistently been the case for well over a quarter of a century, which is the amount of time we have invested in this rag and pitiful excuse for news.
It might take on the trappings of erudition to critique the McClatchy report as part of the “growing drumbeat on Iran,” but erudite it isn’t. If they thought that this report would even be perceived as shilling for the administration, they would have killed it even if sourced better than any story even done at McCatchy. In fact, this might be only the second instance of actual reporting we have ever seen from McClatchy (the first being a good report on snipers in Ramadi).
Along with this same theme, NBC News’ Richard Engel had an interesting post today about the role of Iran in Iraq, sourcing his information to “senior U.S. military officials,” duplicated below.
Over a meal this weekend at a Green Zone chow hall (chicken salad and Baskin-Robbins pralines and cream ice cream, a KBR delight), I had a revealing conversation with two senior U.S. military officials.
“We’ve pretty much defeated al-Qaida here,” one of the military officers said. “If Iran stopped doing what it’s doing, things would dramatically change.”
“You think that would be it, a turning point? If Iran stopped backing militias, you think things would get much better?” I asked.
“No doubt. It would be dramatic,” replied the officer.
For many military commanders there is a feeling of euphoria that the U.S. troop “surge” and the top commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus managed to reduce violence, especially in Sunni areas.
The surge has become something sacred for the military in Iraq. It was a plan that worked. It has been entered into the annals of history – at least here – as a success, not to be questioned. The commanders I spoke to this weekend were angry Iran, they claim, is trying to ruin their surge.
The frustration is understandable. Sunni radicals have gone quiet, thanks in part to the “Sons of Iraq” program in which former insurgents (mostly Sunnis) are paid to fight al-Qaida. (Critics say the program is just arming the insurgents to fight another day).
Anbar province, once considered a lost region overrun by Sunni radicals, is now mostly calm. It is the Shiite areas, especially where Iran is strong, like in Basra and Sadr City, which are now in revolt.
U.S. military commanders deduce that if Iran stopped stoking the fires of conflict, both Sunnis and Shiites would stop fighting long enough for Iraq to blossom into the prosperous nation that U.S. officials promised and that the U.S. military needs to prevent failure in Iraq.
Perhaps they are correct. It would be logical to assume that if both sides stop fighting, there would be less bloodshed and more room for dialogue.
He goes on to wonder if this is the “flavor of the month” enemy in Iraq. Contrary to this fear and Dr. iRack’s diminutive analysis of the McClatchy report, we vote that Iran is a powerful actor in Iraq – but then, we were saying this before it became popular. Perhaps our warnings were prescient.
But the reader will not detect rumblings of war at The Captain’s Journal. Rather, we will advocate as we always have, i.e., full engagement in the covert warfare in which Iran has engaged against the U.S. for twenty five years. The U.S. is so powerful and resourced so well in this type of warfare, yet engages so poorly in it, that it can only be the fault of the CIA.
In this case, there is a solution for General Suleimani. It is selective targeting, analogous to the same for Mughniyeh. It will get their attention far more effectively than deployment of yet another carrier to the Persian gulf.