Monday, May 5, 2008

Building The Case To Attack Iran

The case for attacking Iran's Qods Force (see here and here) as a means to stop their proxy war and attempts to “Lebanize” Iraq is picking up ever greater evidentiary support as new revelations of Iranian arms shipments and training of militias using Hezbollah surrogates is making the news. This is no longer an “American” issue. It is now recognized by at all levels of Iraqi government and society as a major threat.

The NYT reports today:

Militants from the Lebanese group Hezbollah have been training Iraqi militia fighters at a camp near Tehran, according to American interrogation reports that the United States has supplied to the Iraqi government.

An American official said the account of Hezbollah’s role was provided by four Shiite militia members who were captured in Iraq late last year and questioned separately.

The United States has long charged that the Iranians were training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran, which Iran has consistently denied, and there have been previous reports about Hezbollah operatives in Iraq.

But the Americans say the reports of Hezbollah’s role at the Iranian camp offer important details about Iranian assistance to the militias, . . .

Material from the interrogations was given to the Iraqi government, along with other data about captured Iranian arms, before it sent a delegation to Tehran last week to discuss allegations of Iranian aid to militia groups.

It is not known if the delegation confronted its Iranian hosts with the information, or how the Iranians responded. . . .

In fact, the delegation did meet with officials in Tehran over the weekend and presented their evidence. Iranian officials refused to acknowledge the evidence, claimed that they were not responsible, and once again, as they did in 2006 and 2007, gave assurance that they would respect Iraqi sovereignty.

To continue from the NYT article.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government announced Sunday that it would conduct its own inquiry into accusations of Iranian intervention in Iraq and document any interference.

. . . President Bush and other American officials, in public castigations of Iran, have said that Iran has been consistently meddlesome in Iraq and that the Iranians have long sought to arm and train Iraqi militias, which the American military has called “special groups.”

In a possible effort to be less obtrusive, it appears that Iran is now bringing small groups of Iraqi Shiite militants to camps in Iran, where they are taught how to do their own training, American officials say.

The militants then return to Iraq to teach comrades how to fire rockets and mortars, fight as snipers or assemble explosively formed penetrators, a particularly lethal type of roadside bomb made of Iranian components, according to American officials. The officials describe this approach as “training the trainers.”

The training, the Americans say, is carried out at several camps near Tehran that are overseen by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Command, and the instruction is carried out by militants from Hezbollah, which has long been supported by the Quds Force. . . .

. . . According to American officials, the four Shiite militants who provided the information on Hezbollah’s role were captured between last September and December after they had returned from training in Iran. They were questioned individually and provided similar accounts, the American officials said.

. . . An American official said that an Iraqi who facilitated the militiamen’s travel to Iraq was also captured and confessed that he had been paid by an Iranian. . . .

Other evidence of Iranian involvement that American officials have provided to Iraqi officials involves details of captured Iranian arms, like 81-millimeter mortars and 107-millimeter rockets that American officials say bear markings indicating that they were made this year. The weapons have a particular type of fuse and are painted in a way that American experts say is unique to Iran.

The Iraqi military also seized Iranian-made weapons with 2008 markings during their offensive last month in the southern port of Basra, according to American officials.

The reports of Iran’s training program and the discovered weapons caches are politically very significant. When Mr. Maliki visited Iran in August, the Iranians sought to reassure the Iraqis that they were not intervening in Iraq’s internal affairs.

The Bush administration, which has sought to draw attention to Iran’s support for militias, has cited the interrogation reports and evidence of recently made Iranian arms as an indication that the Iranian officials were not keeping their word.

“We don’t want to be at war with Iran, and we will not allow anyone to settle their scores with Iran on Iraqi soil,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser to Mr. Maliki, said Saturday in an interview. “But at the same time, we don’t want Iran to settle their scores with the United States on Iraqi soil.” . . .

Read the entire article. As to the quote in the last paragraph by the Iraqi National Security Advisor, Jules Crittenden gets to the heart of the matter:

Bad news, Mr. al-Rubaie. Humiliating the Great Satan and driving the infidels out of Iraq is only Job One for Tehran. If you don’t care to be a province of Iran, then you do want to be at war with Iran, especially now when you have the United States around to do the heavy lifting.

Meanwhile, officials in Karbala discovered a huge shipment of Iranian arms recently and are highly concerned with Iranian efforts to destabilize their city. This from Voices of Iraq.

Karbala operations commander said on Saturday that Iranian intervention is disturbing the city's security.

He noted that huge quantities of Iranian made weapons were seized throughout different locations in the province.

"There is Iranian intervention, and an Iranian 'touch' in Karbala," Major General Ra'id Shaker Jawdat said in a press conference at Karbala operations command's building, after showing a large quantity of Iranian-made weapons.

"This touch is attributed to the presence of Iranian made weapons, especially roadside bombs," Jawdat said.

"Those weapons entered Karbala to destabilize security, but accurate intelligence tips enabled us to reach the weapons and confiscate them, in different places of the province," he added. . . .

Jawdat demonstrated the seized weapons: 400 roadside bombs – developed net type, 170 roadside bombs – adhesive type, 180 ignition circuits, 9 mortars, 2 Strella air-defense missiles, 4,000 AK-47s, 1300 kg of different explosive materials, 45 RPGs, 800 RPG missiles, 12 Katyusha missiles, 9,000 bullets, 4,000 different cannon and mortar shells, 700 different grenades, 150 anti-tanks roadside bombs, 700 roadside bombs – normal net type, 300 photocells for explosion purposes, 700 remote-control devices, 130 wireless triggers, and 400 different pistols.

Read the entire article. (H/T Gateway Pundit)

Writing in the WSJ, Johns Hopkins professor Fouad Ajami argues that it is past time to strike at Iran for the dual purpose of punishing their transgressions and to disabuse the theocrats of their firm belief, reinforced of the past thirty years, that they could do anything without the West responding:

We tell the Iranians that the military option is "on the table." But three decades of playing cat-and-mouse with American power have emboldened Iran's rulers. We have played by their rules, and always came up second best.

Next door, in Iraq, Iranians played arsonists and firemen at the same time. They could fly under the radar, secure in the belief that the U.S., so deeply engaged there and in Afghanistan, would be reluctant to embark on another military engagement in the lands of Islam.

This is all part of a larger pattern. As Tehran has wreaked havoc on regional order and peace over the last three decades, the world has indulged it. . . .

Over the course of its three decades in power, this revolutionary regime has made its way in the world with relative ease. No "White Army" gathered to restore the lost dominion of the Pahlavis; the privileged classes and the beneficiaries of the old order made their way to Los Angeles and Paris, and infidel armies never showed up. Even in the face of great violation – the holding of American hostages for more than 400 days – the indulgence of outside powers held. . . .

. . . Many thought that the Iranian moderates would turn up in the fullness of time. In his inaugural speech, George H.W. Bush offered an olive branch to Iran's rulers: "Goodwill begets goodwill," he said. A decade later, in the typical Clintonian spirit of contrition and penance, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave Iran's rulers an outright apology for America's role in the coup that overthrew the nationalist leader Mohammad Mussadiq in 1953. The coup "was clearly a setback for Iran's political development," she said, part of a flawed American diplomacy that aided the Shah's government as it "brutally repressed political dissent."

But the clerics have had no interest in any bargain with the U.S. Khomeini and his successors have never trusted their society's ability to withstand the temptations of normal traffic with America. Furthermore, oil wealth granted Iran's rulers an exemption from the strictures of economic efficiency. They would pay the price of economic sanctions and deny their country the benefits of access to the American market, because their hold on political power trumped all other concerns.

At any rate, the market was forgiving. The European Union, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and China in later years, would supply Iran with all the technology and imports it needed. Oil revenues enabled the regime to defy the power of outsiders.

Tehran has never needed to remake itself into a warrior state. The skills of the bazaar and the ways of terror have seen it through. They could feud with the United Arab Emirates over small contested islands while turning Dubai into a veritable extension of the Iranian economy. They have been painfully good at probing the limits of tolerable conduct abroad. They have harassed Arab rulers while posing as status quo players at peace with the order of the region.

There were also proxies willing to do Tehran's bidding: Hezbollah in Lebanon, warlords and militias in Iraq, purveyors of terror for the hire. To be sure, there is enough American power in the region – and enough Arab resources – to balance that of Iran. But the Iranian state has had a feel for stepping back from the brink when it truly mattered.

The leaders who oversee the American project in Iraq now see Iran as the principal threat to our success there. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, a diplomat with a thorough knowledge of the region, has spoken of an Iranian attempt to "Lebanonize" Iraq – to subvert the country through the use of proxies.

In Iraq, the Iranians have been able to dial up the violence and dial it down, to make promises of cooperation to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while supplying Shiite extremists with weapons and logistical support. "Lebanonization" may be an exaggerated fear, because Iraq is much larger and wealthier than Lebanon, and more jealous of its own sovereignty. But the low-level warfare against American soldiers by Shiite groups – aided and abetted by Iran – may be responsible for hundreds of American deaths.

The hope entertained a year or so ago, that Iran would refrain from playing with fire in Iraq, has shown to be wishful thinking. Iran's nuclear ambitions are of a wholly different magnitude. But before we tackle that Persian menace, the Iranian theocrats will have to be shown that there is a price for their transgressions.

Read the entire article. Indeed, responding to Iran's acts of war in Iraq would go far to legitimizing in the theocrats eyes a threat of force on the much more existential issue of Iran's race towards a nuclear arsenal. Mere negotiations with Iran have proven less than fruitful as the theocracy has not acted in good faith. And indeed, this should be an abject lesson in the sophmoric position taken by Obama, that he would forego the threat of force in favor of negotiations with the Iranian regime.

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