Pressuring Iran on Iraq

Another raid & detention of Iranian diplomats

Iran.jpgFollowing President Bush’s speech on a change in strategy and tactics in Iraq, which contained unusually harsh language with respect to Iran and its involvement in the Iraqi insurgency, the United States wasted no time in firing its first shot across the bow of the Islamic Republic of Iran. U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate in Irbil in northern Iraq, and detained five Iranians, along with computers, documents and other evidence the Iranians were colluding with the Sunni insurgency and Shia death squads. Irbil is in the Kurdish north, which is largely Sunni, and home of Ansar al-Islam, which was founded “with funding and logistical support from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden” and is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks in Iraq.

Iran has “demanded an explanation” for the detention of their citizens, and summoned the Iraqi and Swiss envoys to Tehran.” The Swiss represent the U.S. in Iran. While Russia decried the raid on the consulate as “a flagrant violation of the Vienna convention on consular relations,” Iran admitted “the office did not have formal diplomatic status.” The Iraqi and local Kurdish government are pressing for the release of the Iranians, however.

The latest arrest of Iranian diplomats follows the raid on a SCIRI compound, where two Iranians were detained but subsequently released. One of the Iranians was “the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ al-Qods Brigade.” Among the material seized were “weapons lists, documents pertaining to shipments of weapons into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, among other sensitive intelligence information… [and] information about importing modern, specially shaped explosive charges into Iraq.”

Michael Yon, who is currently embedded in Sunni dominated Anbar province, reports that Iranians are involved with moving the deadly shape-charged mines (or Explosively Formed Projectile – EFPs) capable of destroying American armor into Iraq. And Iranian agents are being captured on the battefield. “Apparently many of the EFPs are being factory-made in Iran, and shipped to Iraq. During 2005, I asked many American and Iraqi commanders if they were capturing Iranians. They were capturing foreigners, surely, but what about Iranians? Not a single commander, Iraqi or American, told me that his people were catching Iranians. Times have changed. Today, American commanders talk about capturing Iranians. Not rumored Iranians, but real ones; some of whom are believed to be involved in importing EFP technology into Iraq.”

The U.S. is applying additional political pressure on Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical, Iranian backed cleric whose Mahdi Army comprises of a large portion of the Shia death Squads. Military intelligence officers report Sadr is conducting his own ‘surge’ of fighters, weapons and EFPs. The United States and Iraqi government have received backing for its security plan from Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the powerful Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and competitor of Sadr. “The government should strike with an iron fist against those who endanger the safety of people,” said Hakim on Wednesday. “The great march of reconstruction will begin after guaranteeing security and then all justification for the presence of multinational forces will be removed.”

“We call all groups, parties and political institutions – especially Islamic ones that follow Shiite leaders that sacrificed for the sake of God and the peoples – to support the government’s efforts in this field and especially the Baghdad plan… We affirm our maximum support for the government in its attempts to build state institutions and implement the law by carrying out its plans to guarantee security, on top of them the Baghdad security plan.”

Richard Fernandez notes that all Shia are not automatically loyal to the Iranians. Irbil hosts the only Iranian Consulate in Iraq. There used to be two, with another in the Shia-dominated southern city of Basra. In a little publicized event over the summer, Shiites burned the Iranian consulate in Basra to the ground. “Followers of Ayatollah Mahmoud al-Hassani al-Sarkhi were protesting against the Iranian interference in Iraq’s internal affairs and a program shown on Iranian television that accused their cleric leader of being an Israeli agent, media reports from Basra said.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • C-Low says:

    What is your take on this?
    Claim is that we scooped up the top Iranian
    big brain in tactics to challenge the Anglo alliance as he calls it. US
    Hassan Abbasi
    if true sounds like a freekin whale that we would be criminal in letting this guy go without out at least a labotamy done first. I think I hope this means we will be dooing what we do best again OFFENSE. What is Iran going to do if we stick it to them anyway, support the insrugency and choas in Iraq (already doing it), make a direct attack giving US causi belli (suicide).

  • Michael says:

    Well, this should answer Matt’s question below about Hakim. So, we have different political factions within the State warring with each other based upone feudal relationships going back for eons.
    Iran is meddling, stoking all the fires on both sides – go figure.
    We capture important intel. A “smoking gun” with contacts on both sides of the equation. Question is how much if any connected it to Sadr?
    The war was no mistake. It has helped us uncover all the warring factios within the region better than we’ve ever known in the past. We are gaining vast troves of information through human intel, making new conncections which have been long dead under Saddam, as well as making friends among the Shia.
    We split apart Iran/Syria and surrounded the country on both sides. If you ask me, our military and civilian leaders new exactly what they were doing.

  • Michael says:

    Always like Yon’s writing…
    Bill, that link is incorrect. I think this is the one you intended to post.

  • hamidreza says:

    Iraqi Sunnis: ‘The jihad now is against the Shias, not the Americans’
    Time to attack Sadr and eliminate him and other IRGC agents.

  • Luke Willen says:

    Invading Iran, if this becomes necessary, would be a difficult military proposition. Iraq and Afghanistan could be used but there is no gauruntee that their governments would let us use their country as a base.In any case Afghanistan and Iraq are not exactly what you would call a secure base to launch an invasion from.
    Then you would have to fight your way through the Zagros Mountains before the heavy western armoured forces could be deployed to their best effect and blitzkrieg to Tehran.There might be some limited assistance from indigenous pro Western Iranians but I would not count on it.
    And, as events in Iraq show, the conventional invasion might turn out to be the easy part.
    Hasving said all that, Iranian ambitions and actions may well lead to war sooner or later.

  • sangell says:

    That was an interesting article hamidreza and I,
    for one, don’t think we should alienate Iraq’s
    Shi’ites by doing any deal with the Sunni. They
    are in no position to bargain now. They’ve made
    their bed and are going to have to lie in it.
    As to Iran. It is the problem but also the only
    solution. While clearly the current government
    there is unacceptable the idea of Iranian hegemony must not be. Back in the Shah’s days it
    was precisely what we desired. Somehow, we have
    to find a way back to that relationship or our
    problems in the region will never end.
    Iran is not a psuedo state like Iraq nor is it a
    family run enterprise like Saudi Arabia and the
    rest of the gulf statelets. It is the only real
    nation in the region. It also means there is a
    chance for ‘regime change’ without creating chaos as happened in Iraq.
    Since we are not in a position to even attempt
    ‘regime change’ by military means at this time
    but face an even more pressing need for it than
    we did in Iraq in 2003 we are just going to have
    to find another way or face the consequences.
    Nothing should be off the table except the end
    of the current Iranian government. If we can
    induce the Iranian armed forces to remove the
    regime by withdrawing our opposition to their
    nuclear program or by allowing them to have the
    influence they seek in Iraq so be it. We can
    revisit that stuff later.
    Right now it is more important to get Iranian
    nuclear power under control than in preventing
    it from happening. If we can live with a nuclear
    Pakistan we can live with a nuclear Iran as long
    as it is not Ahmedinejad in control of it.
    For the same reason if giving Iraq’s Shi’ites a
    free hand to deal with the Sunnis would earn a
    successor regime in Iran some popular support it
    won’t reduce me to tears. The Sunni have only
    themselves to blame.

  • C-Low says:

    We are at war with Iran right now. The only difference is the iranians have a safe zone and are pushing all of thier resources into ours & allies battle zones. If we use the Air/Navy who are barely even tapped so far in this WOT they can hammer that safe zone. That will allow US to crumble the Iranian nuke program over time degrade thier military enough to contain the regiem, and most importantley force them to redirect a large portion of those resources to either defending or rebuilding the homeland. Not to mention it will send our allies a message we are in this thing for keeps and wse are the strong horse.
    At first it will be a real mess Iran playing a all out retaliation but once degraded it will settle with US in a no fly over Iran bombing at will and Iran doing more of the same of what they do now.
    We cannot win a war of atrition in Iraq against Iran our will and heart is not there. We must go to win even if that mean expansion.

  • CharlesC says:

    So, instead of focusing on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the people who actually attacked your country, The United States has provoked war with both Baathist Iraq and Shiite Iran (both of which were enemies of Osamam Bin Laden). Osama couldn’t be any more happy.

  • hamidreza says:

    Charles C, Iranian hardliners (IRGC – Ahmadinejad) are collaborating with al-Qaeda. Osama’s son along with another 100 top al-Qaeda operatives are VIPs living in Tehran. The IRGC (Iranians) are building IEDs and training al-Qaeda in bases inside Iran, and dispatched to Iraq. Your information is suspect.

  • hamidreza says:

    sangell, if you want to effect regime change in Iran, then you need to destroy the economic infrastructure in Iran, so that the Iranian people can use that to mobilize themselves and attack the regime.
    The oil, gas and power infrastructure, refinaries, pipelines, pumping stations, petroleum storage tanks, transmission lines and substations, generators, the nuke plant under construction, etc. should be taken out. Ports should be blockaded. The hardship induced will make many Iranians realize that the regime’s strategy to challenge the region and trump up Islamic nationalism and hegemony is playing with fire and a dead end.
    In the meantime, IRGC bases in Kurdistan and Azarbaijan should be taken out, and Iranian Kurds and Azaris should be assisted in their quest for self-determination.
    Appeasing the regime will gain nothing but stability and longevity for the ruling establishment.

  • Jim Rockford says:

    CharlesC — Iranian acts of war against the US:
    Invading our embassy and holding our diplomats hostage for 444 days.
    Beirut Bombing in 1983 killing hundreds of US Marines and blowing up our embassy there.
    Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi 1996.
    Helping 9/11 by not stamping the Muscle Hijacker’s passports as they transited through Iran (suggesting Iran KNEW of 9/11’s overall objectives). Such an action would have to be approved by the very top.
    Attacking US flagged vessels in the Gulf in the 1980’s.
    Any and all of these are acts of war. Iran has been at war with the US since 1979. About time they got payback.
    However, Dems/Media can’t wait to surrender to Iran. I’m sure it’s in the cards. Neville Chamberlain was VERY popular back in the day.

  • Pressuring Iran on Iraq

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    Another raid & detention of Iranian diplomats
    Following President Bush’s speech on a change in strategy and tactics in Iraq, which contained unusually harsh language with respect to Iran and its involvement in…

  • Riceball says:

    Hello? Earth to ChuckieC.
    The Iranians have been waging war against the U.S. since their revolution in 1979. The Embassy takeover in 1979, the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut by Hezbollah, and the 1998 Khobar Towers Bombing are the most direct evidence of their outward aggression agaisnt the U.S.
    In Iraq, Iran is playing both sides against the middle. Iran supports Sadr and his Mahdi Army in their sectarian killings and kidnappings of Sunnis and supplies and finances Al-Qaeda miltants in their car bomb attacks against Shia civilians and IED attacks against U.S. and Coalition Forces.
    The only real question is when is the U.S. going to strike hard against Iran. The B-2s, B-52s, F-22s, Tomahawks and F-117s have already planned their missions. Hopefully, Bush and Gates will soon make the decision to force the Iranians onto the defense, because they have been on offense for the past 25 years.

  • Luke Willen says:

    C Low
    Airpower has never yet won a war. Even in Kossovo NATO was working with an indigenous ground force in the shape of the KLA.
    Yes, Iran could certainly be bombed flat and the USA certainly has the power to do this, but at what cost in public and world opinioo?
    Hamidreza’s idea of destroting Iraq’s economic infrastructure would likewise be non productive for us and, even after victory, would leave a big rebuilding job and much anti western feeling.
    If we agree that a large scale ground invasion of Iran is not a viable option right now then we need to develop a viable indigenous force within Iran to effectively combat the regieme. US Airpower should be used to target Government Ministeries/bunkers and military targets (airfields, naval faciilities like Bandar Abbas, ground forces particularly armour and possibly strategic communications routes) Above all, Iranian naval assets and anti shiop missile sites will need to be targetted in the first instance to prevent attempts to close the Staits of Hormuz.It might be neccessary to commit some US ground forces to help the resitance at some stage once the ground has been better prepared.
    And learning the lessons of Iraq, this time there needs to be more careful consideration of what happens after regieme change.
    What is needed firsdt is a good Casus Belli. Provoking Iran into closing the Straits of Hormuz might be one way of doing this. Or they could be caught doing something incredibly stupid in Iraq. Given events of recent months and years it may be that someone is constructiong just such a case.

  • sangell says:

    Hamidreza and Luke,
    Airpower may not be able to win a war but it can
    do some interesting things that don’t involve a
    lot of colateral damage or even kill people.
    Short circuiting Iran’s electrical grid is one
    ‘thing’ that might be considered. If the Council
    of Experts wants to return to the dark ages the
    US Air Force and Navy could easily supply the
    Such an air campaign would expose Ahmedinejad as
    a big mouth unable to even keep the electricity
    on and irritate the hell out of the Iranian
    people without causing casualties or even much
    property damage.
    By knocking down transmission lines or dropping
    conductors across them US airpower could bring
    Iran to a standstill. You can’t operate gas
    centrifuges without electricity and Iran can’t
    ‘harden’ its power supply. I don’t think the
    regime would last very long once we made it
    clear the power would stay off until Ahmedinejad
    as removed.

  • Luke WIllen says:

    True enough and this would have to be part of a wider strategy.
    Taking a step back and looking at the situation from a more geopolitical standpoint would it be worth attempting to detach Syria from its Iranian alliance.
    Damascus would have to give up its alliance with Iran support for Hezbollah and stop supportng Hammas. It would also have to give up any attempt to interefere in Lebanon other than extablishiong cultural and economic ties. In return however it would be offered US economic aid and would increas its chances of getting the Golan Heights back as part of a peace treaty with Isreal. Indeed, this would serve to isolate the extremists among the Palestinians making a peaceful settlement of that problem more likely which helps us on the Arab street.
    Military action against Iran would become easier if it is still neccessary at this point.
    Of courxe, if the Syrians do not play ball them there is always the possibility of letting the IDF take care of the problem for us.


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