Archive for the 'Quds Force' Category

Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 5 months ago

Nouri al Maliki has ruled out the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country’s security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq’s security, sovereignty and unity.  Maliki also said that “he wouldn’t allow his nation to be pulled into alignment with Iran, despite voices supporting such an alliance within his government.”

Thus does Maliki imagine fairy tales.  In what is being called the Battle of Palm Grove, the ISF proved just how problematic their tactical disadvantage is in fire fights.

Despite the fact that the U.S. military insists Iraqi security forces are ready to handle their own security as American troops withdraw from Iraq, one U.S. commander says glaring mistakes were made by Iraqis during a recent battle.

Lt. Col. Bob Molinari of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii says the fight in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, now being called the Battle of the Palm Grove, involved hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, U.S. ground troops and American fighter planes dropping two 500-pound bombs — all to combat just a handful of insurgents. And in the end, the enemy got away.

Molinari says the troubles in the palm grove started when local residents reported that insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida had assembled there to build bombs. An Iraqi commander led a unit of Iraqi soldiers in to investigate.

Molinari says Iraqi commanders from a total of seven different units showed up at the scene. Even the minister of defense was there. Molinari says too many commanders meant no coherent plan of action.

Iraqi soldiers were sent into the grove, in single file, each headed by an officer, Molinari says. The insurgent snipers would simply take aim at the officer who was leading each column.

“It was a matter of, as soon as the officers went down, the [Iraqi soldiers] went to ground. They didn’t know what to do next,” Molinari says.

Concerning air space sovereignty, Iraq will be a protectorate of the U.S. for the next decade, and would be vulnerable without U.S. air support and defense.  U.S. control and influence is ebbing, and “even the Green Zone, once an outpost of Americana in a chaotic Iraq, is no longer a US zone of influence. The United States handed over control to Iraqi security forces last June, along with responsibility for issuing the coveted badges that allow access to the walled enclave, relinquishing the ability to control who may come and go.”

But if the diminution of U.S. influence is proceeding apace, the increase in Iranian influence is matching it.  Michael Knights has authored an important analysis in the West Point’s November Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, entitled The Evolution of Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq.  Selected quotes are provided below.

As the unclassified Iraqi government Harmony records collated by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point illustrate, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the business of sponsoring Iraqi paramilitary proxies for 30 years, practically the government’s entire existence. In some cases, the same Iraqi individuals run like a thread throughout the entire story, from Islamic terrorists, to exiled anti-Saddam guerrillas, to anti-American Special Group fighters in post-Ba`athist Iraq. Many of the historical patterns of Iranian support to Iraqi proxies hold true today …

The armed factions that make up the Special Groups have passed through significant changes in the last two years, and they continue to evolve. The government security offensives of spring 2008 caused considerable damage to Iranian-backed networks, and many Special Group operators fled to sanctuaries in Iran. Since the summer of 2009, these groups have been allowed breathing space to recover and begin to reestablish their presence in Iraq.

There are many reasons why recovery has been possible. In June 2009, the U.S.-Iraq security agreement ended the ability of U.S. forces to operate unilaterally in Iraq’s cities, where much of the fight against the Special Groups has been conducted. The U.S. military thereafter required an Iraqi warrant and Iraqi military cooperation to undertake raids against the Special Groups. In the extended lead-up to Iraq’s March 2010 elections, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought to win favor with other Shi`a factions by using his direct operational control of Iraq’s Counterterrorism Command to place a virtual embargo on such raids. Lacking the judicial evidence to hold Special Group detainees transferred to the Iraqi government, and facing pressure from Shi`a groups, the government began to release Special Group prisoners as soon as they were transferred to Iraqi custody by the United States.

Knights goes on to detail the various manifestations of Iranian meddling, including both groups and tactics.  He ends with this warning.

The political situation in Iraq will have a significant effect on the further evolution of Special Groups. If, as seems likely, Moqtada al-Sadr joins key Iranian-backed parties such as Badr in the new government, many elements of PDB, AAH and KH will probably be drawn into the security forces as Badr personnel were in the post-2003 period. Some types of violence (such as rocketing of the government center in Baghdad) may decline, while targeted attacks on U.S. forces would persist or even intensify due to the new latitude enjoyed by such groups. Kidnap of Western contractors or military personnel has been the subject of government warnings during 2010 and could become a significant risk if U.S.-Iran tensions increase in coming years. Sectarian utilization of the Special Groups to target Sunni nationalist oppositionists could become a problem once again. If Iraqi government policy crosses any “red lines” (such as long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq, rapid rearmament or anti-Iranian oil policy), the Special Groups could be turned against the Iraqi state in service of Iranian interests, showering the government center with rockets or assassinating key individuals.

And as Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, Sadr has indeed joined Maliki in forming a new government.

Just before leaving for Baghdad last week, I spoke by phone to my Iraqi driver Salam, who was recently released from prison.

What he told me haunted me during my visit. It made me question what kind of Iraqi regime will emerge after U.S. troops exit by the end of 2011, and what sort of long-term relationship can develop between Washington and Baghdad.

Salam spent two years in jail on false charges brought by relatives of Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. These militiamen, who were killing Salam’s neighbors, were arrested after he tipped U.S. troops. When American soldiers left Baghdad, the killers used contacts inside Iraq’s Shiite-dominated army to get Salam – and his two teenage sons – jailed.

The three were finally freed by an honest judge. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has now made a political deal with the Sadrists in order to finally form a government, nine months after Iraqi elections. The deal, brokered by Iran, required that large numbers of Mahdi Army thugs – like those Salam fingered – be freed from prison. This deal resurrects a fiercely anti-American group that battled U.S. forces until it was routed in 2008.

As I have noted for more than two years, the Status of Forces Agreement under which U.S. troops have operated, combined with the precipitous decline in U.S. presence, has created a power vacuum in Iraq into which Iran has rushed.

Renegotiation of the SOFA, along with the realization by Maliki that his troops cannot secure Iraq, would be helpful, but the real need of the moment is regime change in Iran.  That may be Iraq’s greatest hope, although not in time for the Christians.

Obama’s Shame: Rewarding Iranian Terror

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 11 months ago

It is no secret that the Iranians continue to supply weapons to Iraqi Shi’a insurgents, and even deploy their own Quds to perpetrate violence inside Iraq.  From the June 2009 issue of the Sentinel at the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point.

On may 6, 2009, Iraqi Army and police auxiliary units supported by U.S. advisers discovered a cache of weapons hidden along the banks of the Tigris River in Amara, the capital of the majority Shi`a Maysan Province. The hoard included 150 copper plates for use in Explosively-Formed Projectile (EFP) roadside bombs, which have the highest per-incident lethality rate of any explosive device used in Iraq. Along with the professionally milled copper cones were 70 passive infrared firing switches used to precisely detonate EFP devices as vehicles enter the killing zone. Fifty rocket launching rails were also located, composed of modified carjacks designed to elevate 107mm and 122mm rockets for relatively accurate long-range attacks.

This is recent indication of the extent and magnitude of involvement of Iranian elements in the affairs of Iraq – and by extrapolation the U.S. because so many U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have died in Iraq.  While this was a weapons cache, a static display of involvement, the kinetic fight against Iranian elements went on on unabated even as late as autumn 2008 according to intelligence reports mined by the Sentinel.

The Hawr al-Howeiza marshes further to the south offer another clear example of insurgent groups seeking to defend their lines of communication and supply to sanctuaries and logistical networks in Iran. The Hawr al-Howeiza has long been a major smuggling route between Iran and Iraq due to the difficulties of policing the maze of waterways that permeate the border. U.S. and Iraqi Army forces have strung a line of border forts across the Hawr al-Howeiza, supported by FOBs north and south of the marshes at Musharrah and Qalit Salih, respectively. U.S. forces met resistance as soon as the process began in the autumn of 2008. Large Iranian-made 240mm rockets were used to attack U.S. FOBs around Qalit Salih, and the frequency of mortar and rocket attacks increased against the U.S. FOB in Majar al-Kabir. Each month since September 2008, two to four EFPs have been laid on U.S. access routes to the marshes. These attacks have borne the classic hallmarks of Lebanese Hizb Allah training in terms of configuration of passive-infrared telemetry, remote-control arming switches and encasement in molded insulation foam “rocks.” Other roadside bombs included 10 well-concealed daisy-chained 155mm artillery shells on the access roads between the FOB in Qalit Salih and the Hawr al-Howeiza field. These attacks confirmed to patterns previously noted by UK explosives ordnance technicians when British forces last patrolled the areas in 2005.

So just how effective has Iranian involvement been in Iraq?  Steve Schippert gives us an important metric.

Immediately, the context you need: Since the beginning of U.S. operations in Iraq in 2003, fully 10 percent of our combat fatalities there have come at the hands of just one Iranian weapon — the EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator), designed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps specifically to penetrate the armor of the M1 Abrams main battle tank and, consequently, everything else deployed in the field. It is how the Iranian regime has been killing your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers serving in Iraq.

I’ll wager you were not aware of that rather damning statistic. How do I know it? Well . . . I asked a friend in the Pentagon in 2007.  If ambitious journalists would like to share this with their readers and viewers, please do. The numbers are not secret; I am sure they have even been updated. Perhaps they were published elsewhere around the same time. If they were, chances are you never saw it. And those who have seen the figure likely saw it right here at The Tank on National Review Online. Because I wrote it. Over and over.

The current number of U.S. warriors who have perished in Iraq is at 4322.  This means that some 430 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have been killed in Iraq either by Iranians or Iranian supply weapons or trained insurgents.  We judge even this number to be likely a very low estimate.  Take note, however, that this doesn’t include the many more thousands or U.S. warriors who have no legs, who have lost hearing or eyesight, or who have lost proper brain function because of Iranian-supplied IEDs.

The previous administration battled Iran in Iraq, while still failing to see and treat this as the regional war that it is.  Democracy programs at the State Department were killed under Condi Rice, and up until late 2008 Iranian elements were given free access to Iraq.  The only success in battling Iranian elements came within Iraq itself, a victory to be sure, but costly nonetheless.

Has Iran learned any lessons from this, and how will the current administration interact with Iran?  If the recent failure even to give verbal and informal support to fledgling freedom fighters on the streets of Tehran wasn’t enough, we now have the Obama administration to thank for one of the the most shameful incidents in American history.

There are a few things you need to know about President Obama’s shameful release on Thursday of the “Irbil Five” — Quds Force commanders from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who were coordinating terrorist attacks in Iraq that have killed hundreds — yes, hundreds — of American soldiers and Marines.

First, of the 4,322 Americans killed in combat in Iraq since 2003, 10 percent of them (i.e., more than 400) have been murdered by a single type of weapon alone, a weapon that is supplied by Iran for the singular purpose of murdering Americans. As Steve Schippert explains at NRO’s military blog, the Tank, the weapon is “the EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator), designed by Iran’s IRGC specifically to penetrate the armor of the M1 Abrams main battle tank and, consequently, everything else deployed in the field.” Understand: This does not mean Iran has killed only 400 Americans in Iraq. The number killed and wounded at the mullahs’ direction is far higher than that — likely multiples of that — when factoring in the IRGC’s other tactics, such as the mustering of Hezbollah-style Shiite terror cells.

Second, President Bush and our armed forces steadfastly refused demands by Iran and Iraq’s Maliki government for the release of the Irbil Five because Iran was continuing to coordinate terrorist operations against American forces in Iraq (and to aid Taliban operations against American forces in Afghanistan). Freeing the Quds operatives obviously would return the most effective, dedicated terrorist trainers to their grisly business …

Third, Obama’s decision to release the five terror-masters comes while the Iranian regime (a) is still conducting operations against Americans in Iraq, even as we are in the process of withdrawing, and (b) is clearly working to replicate its Lebanon model in Iraq: establishing a Shiite terror network, loyal to Iran, as added pressure on the pliant Maliki to understand who is boss once the Americans leave.

Fourth, President Obama’s release of the Quds terrorists is a natural continuation of his administration’s stunningly irresponsible policy of bartering terrorist prisoners for hostages. As I detailed here on June 24, Obama has already released a leader of the Iran-backed Asaib al-Haq terror network in Iraq, a jihadist who is among those responsible for the 2007 murders of five American troops in Karbala. While the release was ludicrously portrayed as an effort to further “Iraqi reconciliation” (as if that would be a valid reason to spring a terrorist who had killed Americans), it was in actuality a naïve attempt to secure the reciprocal release of five British hostages — and a predictably disastrous one: The terror network released only the corpses of two of the hostages, threatening to kill the remaining three (and who knows whether they still are alive?) unless other terror leaders were released.

Michael Ledeen has reported that the release of the Irbil Five is part of the price Iran has demanded for its release in May of the freelance journalist Roxana Saberi. Again, that’s only part of the price: Iran also has demanded the release of hundreds of its other terror facilitators in our custody. Expect to see Obama accommodate this demand, too, in the weeks ahead.

So this report begs the question: is a free lance journalist so valuable that the President of the U.S. would release terrorists who had managed the killing of well over 400 U.S. servicemen?  The obvious answer to that question is no, which leaves us with only one other alternative.

Finally, when it comes to Iran, it has become increasingly apparent that President Obama wants the mullahs to win. What you need to know is that Barack Obama is a wolf in “pragmatist” clothing: Beneath the easy smile and above-it-all manner — the “neutral” doing his best to weigh competing claims — is a radical leftist wedded to a Manichean vision that depicts American imperialism as the primary evil in the world.

Sadly, McCarthy’s analysis is the only logical one left.  If there is no pragmatic reason to take an action, one must search next for ideological ones.  And the ghosts of hundreds of sons of America haunt us still.

Restoring the Balance

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 6 months ago

We are told that “experts” have now warned President-elect Barack Obama of a nuclear Iran.

Iran poses the greatest foreign policy challenge to Barack Obama, the President-elect, with Tehran on course to produce a nuclear bomb in the first year of an Obama administration, a coalition of top think-tanks gave warning yesterday.

Mr Obama must keep his promises of direct talks with Tehran and engage the Middle East region as a whole if he is to halt a looming crisis that could be revisited on the US, the experts said.

“Diplomacy is not guaranteed to work,” Richard Haass, one of the authors said. “But the other options – military action or living with an Iranian weapon are sufficiently unattractive for it to warrant serious commitment.”

The warnings came in a report entitled Restoring the Balance. The Middle East strategy for the President-elect was drafted by the Council for Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution.

Gary Samore, one of the authors, said that the level of alarm over the “hornet’s nest” facing the President-elect in the Middle East, and the need for the swift adoption of previously untested approach, had inspired the decision to write policy for him. “New administrations can choose new policies but they can’t choose next contexts,” Mr Samore said.

The report paints a grim picture of the problems in the region but asserts that Mr Obama is still in a strong position. For the first time since the Iranian revolution the leadership in Tehran has endorsed the idea of talking directly with Washington, as Mr Obama has suggested. Falling oil prices also provide an opportunity, restricting Iran’s means to sponsor terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that act as its proxy in the region.

The new administration, however, must not fall into the trap of treating Iran in isolation to the rest of the Middle East, as the previous administration did.

Syria, which has shown tentative signs of a desire for better relations with the West and has held negotiations with Israel, could be the ideal test case for a new diplomatic approach.

The full report, Restoring the Balance, is a product of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. The Captain’s Journal is actually a bit surprised to see Michael O’Hanlon associated with the report – he seems a bit too smart to have endorsed it. But it is also worth pointing out that our record of forecasts is thus far impeccable. Three important examples evince the point. First, when Army intelligence forecast that there wouldn’t be a Taliban spring offensive in 2008 because of the alleged split between Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Omar, we predicted that there would in fact be a two-front offensive, one in Pakistan by the Tehrik-i-Taliban and the other in Afghanistan. Second, we accurately predicted the Taliban strategy of interdiction of NATO supplies in Pakistan in March of 2008. Third, we predicted that Joseph Lieberman would be victorious in the Connecticut Senate Race. We seldom make forecasts, but when we do, we’re usually right.

There were no instances of refusal to guarantee our forecasts when we went on record. The Captain’s Journal – although it is tempting to wait until the new year to weigh in on these important issues – will weigh in concerning some of the recommendations of the subject report, and make some forecasts of our own.

First, Richard Haass doesn’t guarantee that diplomacy will work with Iran. Without equivocation or qualification, we guarantee that diplomacy will not work to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran might make a show of allowing IAEA inspectors into certain parts of their facilities, or responding to IAEA inquiries as to the status of special nuclear material (” … this is not the same highly enriched Uranium we tested on such-and-such date, so where did it come from”), or employ any number of other decoys as a subterfuge. But in a truly verifiable and serious way, Iran will not cease and desist the pursuit of weapons grade nuclear material no matter the size of the army of negotiators or lawyers the U.S. deploys or the number of IAEA inquiries with which Iran gets pelted. Again, this is an absolute guarantee, something that The Council on Foreign Relations couldn’t provide.

Second, the desire to “spin off” Syria from Iran into an ally or even partial or halting ally in Middle East stability is a day dream. Syria is an apparatchik of Iran, and Damascus gets its orders directly from Tehran. Syria will court such negotiations and talks as long as it convinces the battalion of U.S. diplomats that there is something to be gained from it. When it is no longer prudent and efficacious to perform the show, Syria will drop the pretense. The battalion of U.S. diplomats will look like stooges on the world stage.

Third – concerning the recommendation in Chapter 5 of the report that the U.S. encourage Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab actors to pressure Hamas to police the cease-fire agreement with Israel and to convince the Hamas leadership to accept the April 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative – this avenue will fail because Hamas will cease to exist as an effective and viable organization unless it acquiesces to pressure from the surging Salafist movement inside Palestine itself (with religious schools numbering as many as 50,000). Palestine will become more radical, not less. A corollary forecast is that holding Israel to its commitment to freeze settlement and construction in Jerusalem (Chapter 5) will be meaningless to the Palestinian cause. When Hamas refers to the “occupation,” they don’t mean occupation of Gaza or Palestine proper. They mean that they consider the existence of the Jews at all to be an occupation of their land. In other words, Palestine will continue to reject the two-state solution, and no army of negotiators will change that.

Finally, as to some particulars:

  1. Hamas will begin launching rockets at Israel again from Gaza during the upcoming administration.
  2. Hezbollah will attack Israel again during the upcoming administration. The orders will come directly from Tehrah to Damascus and then be relayed to Hasan Nasrallah.
  3. Russia will continue the pressure on the Georgian administration and expand its military presence inside the borders of Georgia.
  4. Russia will (covertly) support the installation of a pro-Russian administration in the Ukraine (which is not the same as forecasting that a pro-Russian administration will actually end up being installed).
  5. Russia will assist Iran in its desire to achieve weapons grade nuclear material.
  6. Without direct action to undermine the Iranian regime (such as democracy programs or even the fomenting of an insurgency to topple the regime), Iranian elements (Quds, IRG) will expand the scope of their operations inside Iraq and Afghanistan and even support Hezbollah as it battles Israel. No amount of diplomacy will change this.
  7. Finally, the State Department will begin the administration will high hopes, excitement and grand ambitions for the role of diplomacy, negotiations and multi-lateral talks. By the end of the administration, a general malaise and confusion will have descended upon the entire State Department, and yet there will still be sparse and shallow understanding of why negotiations have so miserably failed to prevent or ameliorate the various calamities for which they were targeted.

Planning for these exigencies should “restore the balance.” The Captain’s Journal will send a bill to the incoming administration for our consultative services. They will prove to be better than those of the Council on Foreign Relations and well worth the cost.

A Battleground for Intelligence Services

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 6 months ago

Iraq’s defense minister has weighed in with some interesting insights concerning the future of Iraq.

Iraq’s defence minister warned on Saturday that the Gulf would be infested by pirates and Iraq left at risk of attack by its neighbours if US forces leave the country too soon.

“Coalition forces are currently protecting the Gulf, and our navy will not receive its first ships until April 2009,” Abdel Qader Jassem Mohammed al-Obeidi told a press conference in Baghdad.

If those forces “withdraw precipitously, our gulf will become like the Gulf of Aden, where there have been 95 acts of piracy,” he said.

Obeidi was addressing journalists on his support for the controversial military pact that would allow US troops to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011, a deal now being considered by the Iraqi parliament.

The minister did not enlarge on his remarks or explain how the Gulf would become prey to pirates when one of its littoral states, Bahrain, is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

The Gulf, which supplies the bulk of world oil imports, is also bordered by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran, all of whose navies patrol the waterway.

Somali-based pirates have in recent months been plaguing shipping in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.

Obeidi also said Iraqi territory risks being attacked by neighbouring states, referring to Turkey’s bombing of Turkish Kurdish PKK rebels in their mountain hideaways of northern Iraq.

“Today, Iraq is the target of bombing from abroad but it is limited because the (US-led) coalition represents a dissuasion force,” he said.

“If it not there any more, the whole country risks being the target of shooting, even (the southern port of) Basra, and they will justify their actions by referring to information on a PKK base there,” the minister said.

Obeidi also said his country has turned into “a battleground for different foreign intelligence services,” without naming any countries.

“Iraqi security forces, backed by the coalition, must impose a limit on their activities, of which Iraqis are the victims,” the defence minister added.

Iranian Quds, Syrian intelligence, and so on, are in Iraq battling for preeminence – and the Iraqi Defense Minister knows it and makes it clear that there is more that must be done in Iraq. The roles filled by U.S. forces going forward will be fundamentally different that before, with focus on border security (e.g., the Marines in Anbar have their eyes trained on the Syrian border), training, backup of ISF, sea and air space security.

But there is a very real need to continue the high value target campaign that has been going on for months now in Iraq. Whereas in Afghanistan we have incorrectly attempted to employ a strategy of high value targets rather than counterinsurgency, in Iraq the counterinsurgency campaign has now given way to a campaign against high value targets, which is the right order.

This campaign won’t simply employ the U.S. military. The Captain’s Journal has made it clear that U.S. intelligence will engage Iranian intelligence or we will lose the region regardless of what happens in Iraq. Iraq is the primary battleground at the moment as noted by the Iraqi Defense Minister. But the covert war has been going on for years, and we must be willing to play “hard ball” in order to be in the same league with the Iranians.

And what would such U.S. engagement look like? We mustn’t forget Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, who is the primary commander of the Iranian covert war with the U.S., and to whom General Petraeus had to turn to request that the summer 2008 artillery shelling of the green zone be halted.

Bullying, arrests, much better human intelligence and targeting of people like General Suleimani must be employed or the covert war will be lost. The Israeli Mossad understands that they are engaged in a deadly serious effort for self-preservation and behaves accordingly. Thus far in Iraq, the effort has also been deadly for U.S. warriors. The full engagement of all U.S. resources is necessary to finalize the gains in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and this means actions that make some squeamish. But the squeamish should find other things to occupy their attention, and we must do what needs to be done.

Iranian Hegemony in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 3 months ago

General Petraeus warned us.  In testimony before Congress in September of 2007, he said “You cannot win in Iraq solely in Iraq.”  He also said that “It is increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Quds force, seeks to turn the Iraqi special groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”

Fast forward to the recent trip by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq.  Alireza Jafarzadeh gives us some sense of what this was like for Iraq

Behind the orchestrated pomp and pageantry during the visit to Baghdad last weekend by the Iranian ayatollahs’ president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was hard to miss the revulsion of Iraqis of all stripes. Adjectives like “historic” could not disguise the frustrating reality for Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs: outside of Iraqi political spheres dominated by Tehran surrogates, they are seen as enemies of a secure, non-sectarian and democratic Iraq.

The greeting parties, in the Baghdad airport and later in various government buildings, were who’s who of Tehran’s proxies in Iraq’s government. They “listened to Ahmadinejad,” according to McClatchy News Service, “without need of translation into Arabic, clearly comfortable hearing his Farsi.” Not surprising; for more than two decades, they were employed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Qods Force, and the Ministry of Intelligence. Learning Farsi was a job requirement.

Outside of the very limited segment of Baghdad where Ahmadinejad visited, there was outrage. A young Baghdad resident told the New York Times, “I think Ahmadinejad is the most criminal and bloody person in the world. This visit degrades Iraq’s dignity.” Up north in Kirkuk, where Arab tribes and political parties rallied against Ahmadinejad’s visit, a tribal leader told the Times, “How can we tolerate this? Today we live under the regime of the clerics. The Iranian revolution has been exported to Iraq.” An Iraqi businessman added, “His visit is intended to reassure his followers here,” but is “provoking and enraging” the rest of Iraq … “Your mortars preceded your visit,” one placard read. Another read, “We condemn visit of terrorist and butcher Ahmadinejad to Iraq,” according to the Associated Press.

But those mortars fell strangely silent during the visit.  Azzaman is reporting what most main stream media is not, when they observe that:

Sunday was perhaps Iraqi capital’s quietest day since the country plunged into violence shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

No car bomb explosions, shelling or kidnapping were reported and analysts attributed the calm to the landmark visit by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Daily bombings, explosions and kidnapping have become part of life in Baghdad.

But the calm that descended on the restive capital on Sunday and Monday night was unprecedented, analysts said.

Many attributed the quiet to government’s decision to cordon off large parts of Baghdad and ban traffic in many districts and over several bridges.

But an Iraqi intelligence source said groups fighting U.S. troops and those responsible for the ongoing violence had put a temporary halt to their activities.

This shows, he said, how influential Iran has become in Iraq and the role it plays in assisting and arming these groups.

It didn’t take long for the bombs to begin again in Iraq after Ahmadinejad’s visit.  “Two bombs went off within minutes of each other in a crowded shopping district in the capital Thursday, killing at least 53 people and wounding 130—a reminder that deadly attacks are a daily threat even though violence is down.”

It isn’t difficult to catalogue actions to begin to hold the radical Ayatollahs and their henchmen accountable.  Here at The Captain’s Journal we have advocated the formulation and funding of an insurgency within Iran to assist in toppling the regime.  Some bolder recommendations from various corners (Newt Gingrich) have involved targeting oil.  For the more faint of heart there is simply political pressure and funding of opposition within Iran.

But even this last option is too much for the State Department.  As we pointed out three months ago, “In an overlooked and almost silent murder, the State Department recently worked directly against both the objectives of the executive branch of the government and the security interests of the United States by killing a program that would have aided democracy in Iran.”

The former director of President Bush’s flagship democracy program for the Middle East is saying that the State Department has “effectively killed” a program to disburse millions of dollars to Iran’s liberal opposition.In an interview yesterday, Scott Carpenter said a recent decision to move the $75 million annual aid program for Iranian democrats to the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs would effectively neuter an initiative the president had intended to spur democracy inside the Islamic Republic.”In my view, this pretty much kills the Iran democracy program,” Mr. Carpenter said of the decision by the State Department to subsume the program. “There is not the expertise, there is not the energy for it. The Iran office is worried about the bilateral policy. I think they are not committed to this anymore.”Mr. Carpenter, who headed the Middle East Partnership Initiative and was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs until he left the Bush administration this summer, predicted the $20 million devoted to supporting the activities inside the Islamic Republic would be relegated to what he called “safe initiatives” such as student exchange programs, and not the more daring projects he and his deputy, David Denehy, funded, such as training for Web site operators to evade Internet censorship, political polling, and training on increasing recruitment for civil society groups.

Within a month or two of General Petraeus reminding us that we cannot win in Iraq if we engage Iraq alone, the State Department killed the sole remaining democracy project for Iran.  This intransigence within professional government employees and recalcitrance of even the administration to deal with Iran would be merely a strategic blunder if so many sons of America had not shed blood on Iraqi soil.  Because of blood, this stubborness has become sin – a failure in righteousness and morality and decency.  The blood of American warriors awaits vindication.

Iranian Militias Continue to Conduct Operations in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 6 months ago

The U.S. strategy in the Anbar province (and in Baghdad and Northern Iraq since Petraeus took over OIF) has relied on force projection as the pretext to successful implementation of concerned citizens, armed neighborhood watches and ad hoc police to provide local security. Contrary to the U.S. model, the British failure in the South continues to haunt the efforts at stabilizing Iraq. Iranian-backed militia still conduct operations not just in the South but in and around Baghdad.

Four members of an Iranian-backed Shiite cell confessed to bombing a public market in central Baghdad, a U.S. spokesman said Saturday. He also blamed Shiites for recent attacks on U.S. bases, raising fears that a three-month truce by the most feared Shiite militia may be at an end.

The blast Friday in the al-Ghazl pet market killed at least 15 people, wounded 56 and shattered a growing sense of public confidence that has emerged following a sharp decline in the bombings and shootings that once rattled the Iraqi capital daily.

During overnight raids, U.S. and Iraqi soldiers arrested four members of an unidentified Shiite “special groups cell,” who confessed to the bombing, U.S. spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith told reporters.

“Based on subsequent confessions, forensics and other intelligence, the bombing was the work of an Iranian-backed special groups cell operating here in Baghdad,” Smith said, adding that he was not accusing Iran itself of ordering the blast.

The market is located in a Shiite area and has been targeted before by Sunni extremists. But Smith said the attackers wanted people to believe that the bomb, packed with ball-bearings to maximize casualties, was the work of al-Qaida in Iraq so that residents would turn to Shiite militias for protection.

He also said Shiite “special groups” were believed responsible for a series of rocket and mortar attacks against American bases in eastern Baghdad on Nov. 18.

Even Shi’ite leaders know the destabilizing role that Iranian forces (Quds) and Iran-backed miltia plays in Iraq, and propose complete eviction of these militias as the only solution to Iraq’s problems.

The leader of a prominent group representing tribes in southern Iraq is calling for “the eviction of the Iranian regime from our homeland.”

Sheik Jasim al-Kadhim, president of the Association of Nationalist and Independent Iraqi Tribes from the south, condemned what he called Iran’s meddling in Iraq by those affiliated with Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The United States accuses the Quds Force of aiding Shiite militias in Iraq and has designated it as a terrorist group.

Al-Kadhim, speaking by phone Friday, said evicting the Iranian regime — in particular from the southern Iraqi provinces — is “the only solution and hopeful prospect for Iraq.”

Al-Kadhim’s comments represent another kink in the relationship between the two nations, who share the Shiite faith and whose friendliness toward each other has raised U.S. concerns.

Additionally, 300,000-plus Iraqi Shiites signed a petition calling for an end to what they call “Iranian terrorist interferences” and demanding the United Nations investigate the Islamic republic’s involvement in Iraq.

It was a fool’s errand to trust Sadr as the British did, and equally a fool’s errand to force the 3/2 Marines to release Sadr in 2004 as Paul Bremer did at the behest of the British. The Badr corps is so deeply embedded into the government of Iraq that it will be difficult to excise them regardless of whether the will is mustered to do so. But these things are necessary for the peace and stability of Iraq.

Western Anbar Versus the Shi’a South: Pictures of Contrast

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 7 months ago

Much discussion has ensued on Eastern Anbar in and around Fallujah, but RCT-2 is seeing steady improvement in Western Anbar Province.

Marines have seen a 75 percent plunge in “enemy incidents

Planning for war with Iran

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 9 months ago

In testimony before congress, General Petraeus was clear in his warning over Iranian intent to have a Hezbollah-like force deployed within Iraq.  He also made the point very clearly that the war in Iraq could not be won solely in Iraq.  Since then it has been reported that Iranian arms have made their way into Afghanistan, with senior NATO leadership both confirming and then demurring on this shipment interdiction.

General Dan McNeill, head of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), confirmed a report in Sunday’s Washington Post which said the shipment had been discovered last week.

“The geographic origin of that convoy was clearly Iran but take note that I did not say it’s the Iranian government,” the US general told AFP in an interview.

“In that convoy there were explosive materials that could be made into more advanced improvised explosive devices,” he said, refusing to make any further comment on the shipment, as it was still being analysed.

“It is not the first convoy that we have intercepted that had geographical origins from Iran, but it is one that has my attention.”

Turning back to Iraq, it didn’t take Secretary of Defense Gates long to downplay the Iranian threat.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that the United States can contain the Iranian threat to Iraq without going to war with the Islamic republic.

Iranian attempts to influence events in Iraq can be dealt with “inside the borders of Iraq” and there is no need for U.S. forces to take action inside Iran, Gates said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The administration believes that continuing to try to deal with the Iranian threat through diplomatic and economic means is by far the preferable approach,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has a major news story concerning hawks in the military and administration who are carefully crafting an escalatory campaign with Iran to justify full blown military action, drawing up a list of 2000 strategic and military bombing targets inside Iran.  Concerning those hardened bunkers containing the centrifuges being used to create high enriched Uranium, plans were made and enacted long ago to develop weapons that could penetrate and destroy those installations.

The U.S. has a 14-ton super bomb more destructive than the vacuum bomb just tested by Russia, a U.S. general said Wednesday.

The statement was made by retired Lt. General McInerney, chairman of the Iran Policy Committee, and former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

McInerney said the U.S. has “a new massive ordnance penetrator that’s 30,000 pounds, that really penetrates … Ahmadinejad has nothing in Iran that we can’t penetrate.”

He also said the new Russian bomb was not a “penetrator.”

On Tuesday, the Fox News television channel said: “A recent decision by German officials to withhold support for any new sanctions against Iran has pushed a broad spectrum of officials in Washington to develop potential scenarios for a military attack on the Islamic regime.”.

Commenting on the report, McInerney said: “Since Germany has backed out of helping economically, we do not have any other choice. … They’ve forced us into the military option.”

McInerney described some possible military campaign scenarios and said: “The one I favor the most, of course, is an air campaign,” he continued.

He said that bombing would be launched by 65-70 stealth bombers and 400 bombers of other types.

“Forty-eight hours duration, hitting 2500 aimed points to take out their [Iranian] nuclear facilities, their air defense facilities, their air force, their navy, their Shahab-3 retaliatory missiles, and finally their command and control. And then let the Iranian people take their country back,” the general said describing the campaign, adding it would be “easy.”

Exactly how bombing Iran will help the “Iranian people take their country back” is not made clear by McInerney.  At TCJ we are in favor of letting the fly-boys do what needs to be done if it comes to that.  However, regarding this claim of being “easy,” perhaps it would be good to rehearse the consequences of such an air war before we start it.

  1. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Forces would carry out attacks against U.S. interests, including embassies, throughout the world.
  2. The same forces would carry out attacks against U.S. troops within Iraq.
  3. Oil prices would skyrocket.
  4. Due to oil prices, the American and possibly world economy would likely go into a phase of hyperinflation, followed by recession.
  5. Some U.S. pilots will be shot out of the sky, captured, tortured and run in front of TV cameras to “recant their attrocities.”

Again, if this is all necessary, then air power is the solution.  But no one yet is talking about Michael Ledeen’s solution, which is to avoid both the negotiations (in which we have engaged for two decades to no avail) and war (which would certainly be costly), by fomenting revolution and regime change from within.  Such a moderate and sensible approach, yet not courted or advocated by either side at the moment.

But make no mistake about it.  The Iranian problem will not go away, and it must be faced sooner rather than later.  A recent speech before the U.S. congress has received far too little attention.

In a video message to a meeting at the U.S. Congress on September 11, 2007, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance said, “The undeniable reality is that the policy of appeasing the Iranian regime with the aim of bringing about gradual or behavior change or containing it has failed. For the mullahs the only way to deal with the tide of democracy in Iran and global developments is repression, nuclear weapons, domination of Iraq and spread of Islamic fundamentalism.

Petraeus on Iran

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 9 months ago

In testimony to Congress on Monday, General David Petraeus called out Iran for aspirations of regional hegemony in a way not heretofore heard from him or the Multinational Force.  “It is increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Quds force, seeks to turn the Iraqi special groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”

This warning isn’t dissimilar to the counsel we gave on March 27, 2007, discussing the return of Moqtada al Sadr from his Iranian vacation:

Sadr will be received back as not just a hero, but as someone almost divine, who stood down the U.S.  Any capture of Sadr and turnover to the courts of Iraq would have the opposite outcome of that intended, because no Iraqi court will convict Sadr of crimes, thus exhonerating and codifying him in his rule of his followers.

Iran will then have their forces deployed in Lebanon, headed by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and in Iraq, headed by Moqtada al Sadr.  Only confident actions by the administration – rather than acquiescence by the State Department – will avert such an outcome.

We followed this up with The Rise of the Jam, in which we documented the creation and growth of the Jaish al Mahdi, including the criminal-like behavior of its members.  There is no dearth of evidence concerning the actions and intentions of the JAM, including its support base, Iran and the IRG (Quds).  A quick reading of the introduction to Michael Ledeen’s new book The Iranian Time Bomb will disabuse the naive of the notion that Iran is merely protecting its interests.  Iranian interests have nothing whatsoever to do with Iran, a notion not grasped by those who think of Iran as a nation-state.  As stated by Khomeini:

“We do not worship Iran.  We worship Allah.  For patriotism is is another name for paganism.  I say let this land [Iran] burn.  I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”  Ledeen comments of its more recent history, “Without exception, their core beliefs are totally contrary to the notion they are a traditional nation-state.”

Yet Ryan Crocker hedged Monday night speaking to Brit Hume on Foxnews, saying that the involvement of Iran in Iraq was “self-limiting” due to historical bitterness over the Iraq-Iran war and the fact that the Iranians are “Persians.”  Crocker is a smart man, and this hedging is inexplicable given the robust statement by General Petraeus.

Baby steps are being made to address the Iranian issue.  A U.S. base is currently being constructed along the Iraq-Iran border to interdict Iranian elements (see also here).

BARDA, Iraq — The Pentagon is preparing to build its first base for U.S. forces near the Iraqi-Iranian border, in a major new effort to curb the flow of advanced Iranian weaponry to Shiite militants across Iraq.

The push also includes construction of fortified checkpoints on the major highways leading from the Iranian border to Baghdad and the installation of X-ray machines and explosives-detecting sensors at the only formal border crossing between Iran and Iraq.

The measures come as the U.S. high command in Iraq has begun to recalibrate the overall American mission in the country to focus less on the Sunni Muslim radicals who were long the primary U.S. targets of pacifying the country and more on the Shiite Muslim militias suspected of maintaining close ties to Iran …

Gen. Petraeus is expected to warn that Iran is expanding its attempts to destabilize Iraq by providing Shiite extremists with lethal weaponry such as advanced roadside bombs capable of breaching even the strongest U.S. armor. U.S. commanders say that Iranian-made weaponry is used in an increasing percentage of attacks on U.S. forces, and that Shiite extremists are now responsible for as many anti-American attacks as Sunni radicals.

Iran denies supplying weapons to Iraqi militants, but the accusation is at the center of escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran that have sparked talk of a possible American military strike on Iran.

“We’ve got a major problem with Iranian munitions streaming into Iraq,” said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. “This Iranian interference is troubling and we have to stop it.”

He said advanced roadside bombs — a type the U.S. says are made in the region only in Iran — have been used against his forces in central and southern Iraq, killing nine American soldiers. Gen. Lynch also said the U.S. stopped a planned attack on an American base that would have made use of Iranian-made rockets.

U.S. officials acknowledge the difficulty of stemming the flow of weapons across a border that is unfenced and thinly patrolled in many parts. But they hope that forcing smugglers off the main roads will make it easier to spot the militants through aerial surveillance.

Gen. Lynch says the new effort to curb the flow of Iranian weaponry will have several components: stationing U.S. soldiers at a new base to be built close to the border; building six fortified checkpoints to be manned by troops from the former Soviet republic of Georgia on the highways and major roads leading from the Iranian border to Baghdad; and installing better detection equipment at the Zurbatiya border crossing to make it harder for militants to hide weapons in the hundreds of trucks that pass into Iraq from Iran every day.

The new U.S. base, to be located about four miles from the Iranian border, is meant to be a central component of the expansive American effort to hinder the weapons smuggling. U.S. officers say they plan to use the new base for at least two years, though they say it is unclear whether the outpost will be among the small number of facilities that would remain in Iraq after any future large-scale U.S. withdrawal from the country …

The challenge of preventing Shiite militants from smuggling weaponry and explosives across the largely porous Iraqi-Iranian border was apparent on a recent visit to Wasit, a sparsely populated Iraqi province that abuts the long border between the two countries. There is no fence or wall separating Iran and Iraq, and the border itself is unmarked.

The only Iraqi government presence is a string of primitive border forts, which lack power and running water. The Iraqi officers who command the forts say chronic fuel shortages mean that they and their men don’t have enough gas to drive along the border looking for infiltrators from Iran.

Compounding the challenge, the province is populated by Shiite tribes that have profited for decades by smuggling items to and from Iran. U.S. commanders say the tribes are adept at using the deep gorges and wadis that crisscross the desert to pass into and out of Iran undetected.

“The tribes used to use these same routes to bring in weapons for the Shiite groups fighting Saddam in the 1980s and 1990s,” says Col. Mark Mueller, who commands a military advisory team working with Iraq’s poorly funded border guards. “They’ve been doing this a long, long time.”

Nevertheless, U.S. commanders believe the new checkpoints will boost their interdiction efforts by forcing militants to avoid using the major highways where the checkpoints are situated and instead travel on small dirt roads or across the open desert, where the smugglers’ vehicles stand a better chance of being spotted by American satellites, drones and surveillance airplanes.

“You want to separate the sheep from the wolves, and push the wolves to alternate routes that are easier to interdict,” Col. Mueller says.

Further, regarding the stand-down of the Mahdi army, it should be pointed out that Sadr is using this opportunity to overhaul his armed forces.

Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militia leader is turning to his commanders who distinguished themselves fighting U.S. troops in 2004 to screen fighters, weed out criminals and assume key positions in an effort to build a more disciplined force, two of his key lieutenants say.

That suggests the goal of Muqtada al-Sadr’s temporary freeze of Mahdi Army activities, announced Aug. 29 following deadly Shiite-Shiite clashes in Karbala, is to bolster the militia to intimidate his Shiite rivals as the anti-American cleric pursues his political ambitions.

A stronger and more efficient Mahdi Army could embolden al-Sadr to take on the rival Badr militia, a move that could fragment and weaken the country’s majority Shiites as gunmen battle for control of Shiite towns and cities …

The task of weeding out militiamen with suspect loyalty and screening new recruits already has begun and will take months to complete, according to the two al-Sadr lieutenants, who also are militia leaders who fought the Americans in Najaf in the summer of 2004 and in Sadr City in the fall …

“The (Mahdi) army will be stronger and better organized,” said one of them.

Both said the screening and reorganization process will be supervised nationwide by a 12-man council hand-picked by al-Sadr …

If the reorganization goes according to plan, the new Mahdi Army should emerge as a more disciplined and organized force – similar to its main Shiite rival, the Badr Organization, which is linked to the biggest Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

Tension between Mahdi and Badr has been steadily rising and a showdown between them is widely expected for domination of the Shiite south, which includes most of the oil wealth and major religious shrines. Control of the shrines brings millions of dollars in donations from Shiites worldwide.

Al-Sadr is not likely to risk a head-on confrontation with the U.S. military as in 2004. But a stronger Mahdi Army would enable him to resist Washington’s repeated calls to disband the militias, blamed for the wave of sectarian bloodshed that escalated last year.

A Mahdi Army firmly under al-Sadr’s control could reduce what the U.S. military says are attacks by rogue Shiite militiamen controlled by Iran.

Last June, those rogue militiamen accounted for nearly 75 percent of the attacks against U.S. troops in the Baghdad area that caused casualties.

Both the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a one-time close ally of al-Sadr, and the U.S. military welcomed the decision to take the Mahdi Army out of action.

However, there are worrying signs that the freeze is only a cover to buy al-Sadr time to overhaul the militia, improving its mobility and combat readiness.

Al-Sadr’s supporters in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, did not sign a “charter of honor” reached by representatives of 30 groups and militias there to keep the peace after British troops completed their withdrawal from the city last week.

Residents say the Mahdi Army says it is now entitled to Basra, arguing that it was its almost nightly shelling of British bases in the city and other attacks that forced them to leave. Al-Sadr’s representatives in Basra have also warned they would fight U.S. troops if they move into Basra in the case of a security vacuum.

“They say they fought the British, so Basra is theirs,” said Dagher al-Moussawi, a Shiite lawmaker.

In Sadr City, armed Mahdi Army militiamen stayed off the streets soon after al-Sadr made his Aug. 29 announcement but several were seen in the district over the weekend with some carrying what appeared to be U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles, the type used by American troops.

There have been reports in the United States that some of the weapons destined for Iraq’s security forces have disappeared and remain unaccounted for.

Another Shiite lawmaker, who demanded anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the freeze was designed in part to spare the militia the ongoing campaign by U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies against militiamen suspected of involvement in attacks or sectarian violence.

“He wants to save the Mahdi Army by taking it out and use the time to improve it,” he said.

Ryan Crocker, for all of his intelligence, did us no favors on Monday by demurring on Iran’s role in the region.  Iran has a direct role, and the base being constructed for purposes of interdiction points to an attempt to halt that direct effect.  Iran also has an indirect effect, the military forces it has deployed throughout Iraq, Badr and the JAM.  It is irrelevant that they currently fight each other for Basra.  They both belong to Iran.  Petraeus spoke in clearer terms than Crocker, pointing to what will be the most significant obstacle to pacification of Iraq: Iran.

Three Day Blitz Planned for Iran?

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 9 months ago

The London Times makes claims concerning Pentagon plans for a coming air war against Iran.

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes

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