October 23, 2006 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - A little noted State Dept. Report Iran's Influence in Iraq, by Kenneth Katzman, updated just a few days ago on September 29, 2006 clearly delineates one of the main challenges in building a stable Iraq - the strong affinity that exists between key Iraqi Shiite political parties, personages, their various militias and one third of the "axis of evil," Iran.
Examination of this document offers much to explain the complexity of the Iraq challenge. It also underlines the paucity in the American press of literate coverage of what is arguably the issue of our times.
The first realization is that the United States' policy up to this point, removal of Saddam accompanied by the process of democratization - empowering of the Shiite majority - is not at all distasteful to Iran.
"Iran's strategy bore fruit with victory by a Shiite Islamist bloc ("United Iraqi Alliance") in the two National Assembly elections in 2005. The UIA bloc, won 128 of the 275 Assembly seats in the December 15, 2005, election. The UIAincludes Iran's primary Shiite Islamist protégés in Iraq ? the Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the most pro-Iranian of the groups, and the Da'wa(Islamic Call) party. Also in the UIA bloc is the faction of Moqtada Al Sadr, whose tiesto Iran are nascent. Like his predecessor as Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jafari, Nuri al-Maliki is from the Da'wa Party, although Maliki spent most of his exile in Syria, not Iran.Most SCIRI leaders spent their years of exile in Iran."
The second realization is that Sadr, though his "Mahdi Army" militia is now running 20,000 strong with approximately 7,000 in Baghdad, and despite his not long ago direct clashes with the Coalition might represent less of a threat long term vis a vis Iran than the powerful Supreme Council for Revolution in Iraq [SICRI] since Sadr is interested in maintaining his power broker role.
"SCIRI controls a militia called the "Badr Brigades" (now renamed the "BadrOrganization"), which number about 10,000. Badr fighters are playing unofficialpolicing roles in Basra and other Shiite cities. Those Badr members that have joined thenational Iraqi police and military forces are widely said to retain their loyalties to Badrand SCIRI. The Badr Brigades were formed, trained, and equipped by Iran'sRevolutionary Guard, politically aligned with Iran's hardliners, during the Iran-Iraq war.
As the Middle East Forum's Michael Rubin noted in an February 27, 2006 Wall Street Journal piece Are We Playing For Keeps? Iran's support of SCIRI is being conducted along the lines of the same template that Iranian proxy Hezbollah so successfully employed in Lebanon.
"Step-by-step, Iranian authorities are replicating in Iraq the strategy which allowed Hezbollah to take over southern Lebanon in the 1980s."
The third point made in the State Dept. study deals with the degree to which Iran is providing financial and material support to Iraq's Shiites effecting a multi-headed strategy that allows them to variously apply military pressure on the United States to effect policy on the ground in Iraq and to counter and or mitigate whatever actions might be taken against Iran because of its nuclear program.
The direct evidence of Iran's aid to Shiites includes supplying IED's to Sadr's Mahdi Army as reference by Tony Blain on October 6, 2005, the use of its Revolutionary Guard especially its QUODS units which operate outside of Iran to supply explosives and munitions to Iraqi insurgents as detailed by Rumsfeld and JCSC Gen Peter Pace in March of 2006 as well as statements by General Abizaid and Barbero regarding Iran training and supply the Iraq insurgency.
It is worth noting that, short lived direct talks between the U.S. and Iran over their aid of the insurgency quickly broke down when Iran demanded that the talks be expanded to include the nuclear issue a broadening of subject matter in contravention of both stated U.S. and European policy.
The conclusion of the study holds that Iraq will remain open to Iranian entreaties and somewhat supportive its foreign policy in direct proportion to the degree to which the Shiite majority retains its dominance, assuming that religious differences do not manifest themselves via the potentially vying Shiite religious power centers - Qom in Iran and Najaf in Iraq and the different organizational principles [secular vs theocratic] separating the two governments.
What the above indicates is that much of what passes for discussion regarding the Iraq war lacks a reasonable appreciation for the tremendous complexity that is involved and the degree to which the future of Iran and Iraq are linked in a withering number of ways.
One outgrowth of such labyrinthine considerations suggests that such oft repeated leftist shibboleths as "Bush lied, people died" offer such little insight into a conflict upon which has such momentous implications for the West that they are actually even less explanatory than their sing-song foolishness might initially indicate.
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