Iraq-Iran Border Still Problematic

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 4 months ago

Courtesy of Global Security:

A senior U.S. military spokesman says Iranian forces have infiltrated Iraq to provide training, money and equipment to Shi’ite extremists and fuel their insurgency. The officer went farther than others have in detailing Iran’s alleged role in Iraq’s violence.

U.S. officials frequently criticize Iran for supporting Iraqi Shi’ite extremists. But in the past they have declined to say whether that support includes infiltration by Iranian forces. At a news conference Wednesday, Brigadier General Michael Barbero made that direct connection.

“I have seen reports of their involvement and presence there as trainers to train these terrorists and extremist groups,” he said.

General Barbero, an operations officer on the staff of the top U.S. generals, also says Iran is providing technology to help Iraqi insurgents build more effective bombs, what the military calls Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs.

“I think it’s irrefutable that Iran is responsible for training, funding and equipping some of the [Shi’ite] extremist groups, and also providing advanced IED technology to them,” he said. “And there’s clear evidence of that.”

The bombs are the insurgents’ most effective weapons, accounting for more than half of the more than 2,500 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, and thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties.

General Barbero says coalition troops have not directly encountered any of the Iranian forces he says have been inside Iraq, and he would not provide any details on the number or specific duties of the Iranians.

Asked what the U.S. military is doing to fight the Iranian influence in Iraq, he said it is mainly a political challenge, but there is at least one thing the military can do.

“Militarily, in the execution of this operation to neutralize the [Shi’ite] extremist groups, we’ll go a long way to removing their direct influence into the affairs of the sovereign country of Iraq,” noted General Barbero. 

This information (General Barbero’s announcement) has been available for several days, but I wanted this to mature and ripen.  I wanted to think about it for a couple of days.

The information about Iran and the support (technological, training and financial) of the IED threat in Iraq has been known for many months.  The link here shows that this information is at least five months old, and this is simply the quickest link I could dig up.  Further, in my post Iran the Terror Master, I cite Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, entitled Bad Neighbor.  It was posted on April 16, 2004, more than two years ago.  The whole piece is so jaw-unhinging that much of it bears repeating here:

By January, the anti-U.S. Badr Corps, trained and financed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, had established a large office on Nasiriya’s riverfront promenade. Below murals of Khomeini and the late Ayatollah Mohammad Bakr Al Hakim hung banners declaring, no to America, no to Israel, no to occupation. Two blocks away in the central market, vendors sold posters not of moderate Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, but of Supreme Leader Khomeini. By January 2004, Zainab Al Suwaij, the granddaughter of Basra’s leading religious figure, was reporting that Hezbollah, which has close ties to the Revolutionary Guards, was operating openly in southern towns like Nasiriya and Basra, helping to stir up violence. The next day, at his daily press briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “No, I don’t know anything about Hamas and Hezbollah in Iraq. … We’ll stop them if we can get them.” Coincidentally, I visited Basra on January 14 without informing the local CPA coordinator. One block from the main market, Sciri and Hezbollah had established a joint office. A large Lebanese Hezbollah flag fluttered in the wind.

The Iranian government has not limited its support to a single faction or party. Rather, Tehran’s strategy appears to be to support both the radicals seeking immediate confrontation with the U.S. occupation and Islamist political parties like Sciri and Ibrahim Jafari’s Dawah Party, which are willing to sit on the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council and engage with Washington, at least in the short term. The Iranian journalist Nurizadeh wrote in April 2003, “[President Mohammed] Khatami [and other Iranian political leaders] … were surprised by the decision issued above their heads to send into Iraq more than 2,000 fighters, clerics, and students [to] the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and al-Dawah Party.” My own experience backed up his claims. This February, I spoke with a local governor from southern Iraq who wanted to meet me after he learned that I lived and worked outside CPA headquarters. The governor complained that the CPA was doing little to stop the influx of Iranian money to district councilmen and prominent tribal and religious officials. The money, he said, was distributed through Dawah offices established after a meeting between Jafari and Iranian security officials.

Twice in the last twelve years, large-scale Iranian destabilization efforts have confronted U.S. military interventions. In Bosnia, after significant internal debate, George H.W. Bush’s administration chose to block Iranian infiltration, risking revenge attacks against the United States by Iranian-linked terrorists. In September 1992, Tehran attempted to ship 4,000 guns, one million rounds of ammunition, and several dozen fighters to Bosnia. An Iranian Boeing 747 landed in Zagreb, where, in response to U.S. pressure, the Croatian military impounded the weapons and expelled the jihadis. Today, there is little threat of radical anti-U.S. Islamism in Bosnia.
Almost a decade later, the current Bush administration identified an Iranian challenge in Afghanistan. Speaking before the American-Iranian Council on March 13, 2002, Zalmay Khalilzad, senior National Security Council adviser for the Middle East and Southwest Asia, declared, “The Iranian regime has sent some Qods forces associated with its Revolutionary Guards to parts of Afghanistan. . . . Iranian officials have provided military and financial support to regional parties without the knowledge and consent of the Afghan Interim Authority.” Rather than combat this Iranian challenge, the Bush administration chose diplomacy. “Notwithstanding our criticism of Iranian policy, the U.S. remains open to dialogue,” Khalilzad continued. Today, visitors to Herat, a main city in western Afghanistan, consider Iranian influence there to be extremely strong.

In the wake of Sadr’s uprising, Washington is faced with the same choice: End Iran’s infiltration through forceful action, or wish it away. How long can we afford to keep choosing the latter?

The Army Corps of Engineers has constructed border forts in order to help secure the border.  Smuggling operations have been ongoing for years, and Iraqi General Nazim stated in June of 2005 that:

“We captured three men and there is proof they blew up oil pipelines near Nuft Khaneh under the orders of Iranian intelligence officers,” he said. “They had people working with them in Baquba too.”

It was known in October of 2004 that the border was porous, and that exchange of vehicular traffic between Iraq and Iran was a routine occurrence with demanding duties of the border guards.

When asked what the U.S. is doing about the Iranian influence, General Barbero stated that this was “mainly a political challenge.”

I hate to be a detractor, but I feel that it is my duty to be one of a red-flag-raisers from time to time, so I continue to run the flag up the pole.  Under what circumstances is the actions of the enemy “mainly a political challenge?”  What would cause such a state of affairs that a General looks to politics to address a country that has produced the IED technology that has caused half of the U.S. troop deaths in Iraq?

What proof is there that this issue could not be addressed militarily?  Is it not possible to stop the flow of personnel, money and equipment across the border?  Why would we not patrol the border with drones and other aircraft, unleashing air-to-ground ordnance upon anyone who crossed the border?  Why is it necessary for anyone to cross the border?

These questions should be addressed.  As it stands at the present, the General looks weak, Iran goes unhindered in their influence in Iraq, the border is porous, and the U.S. looks to politics with the enemy to change conditions in a war on the ground.

It is truly a bizarre set of circumstances.

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You are currently reading "Iraq-Iran Border Still Problematic", entry #246 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iran,War & Warfare and was published August 30th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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