Is Iran Running Militias in Iraq?

Is Iran Running Militias in Iraq?
August 25th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Is Iran Running Militias in Iraq?

Is Iran Running Militias in Iraq?
Date: August 25, 2006
Iraqi politicians say the growing U.S. claims of a clear link between
Shi'ite militias and Tehran is pure scapegoating. And renewed Tehran-bashing
in Washington could further complicate its efforts to end the civil war

Iraq's most powerful politician has dismissed claims by U.S. officials and
generals that Iran is interfering in Baghdad's affairs. Abdul-Azziz al-Hakim
has told TIME that despite repeated requests from him and other Iraqi
politicians, American officials have failed to show any reliable evidence of
Tehran's interference. " [The U.S.] has been making such claims for a long
time," he said, "and for three years we've told them, 'Show us proof.' But
they never have."

Hakim heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or
SCIRI, the largest of Iraq's political parties. SCIRI has close ties to
Tehran, and many of its leaders - including Hakim - spent many years in
exile in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era.

Many Shi'ite politicians dismiss as scape-goating the statements by
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and generals at the Pentagon that Iran is
actively arming and training Sh'ite militias in Iraq. "They are looking for
somebody to blame for the failure [of the U.S. military to halt the
sectarian killings in Iraq] and it is easy to blame Iran," said Hadi
al-Amiri, who heads the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee,
while also running the Badr Organization, a Shi'ite militia.

Even political observers not affiliated to the Shi'ite parties are likely to
be surprised by Brig. Gen. Michael Barbero's claim, at a press conference
Wednesday, that there was "irrefutable" evidence of Iranian collusion with
Iraqi militias. That is the exact opposite of what U.S. military officials
in Baghdad have been saying. Less than two weeks ago, the top U.S. military
spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, told journalists that there
"is nothing that we definitively have found to say that there are any
Iranians operating within the country of Iraq." He added that although "some
Shi'ite elements have been in Iran receiving training... the degree to which
this is known and endorsed by the government of Iran is uncertain."

There is an ironic echo in Barbero's claim that Iran was helping the
militias with technology to make improvised explosive devices, or IEDs; last
year, U.S. officials said Tehran was supplying IED know-how to Iraq's Sunni
insurgents. Several Sunni insurgent leaders - whose hatred of Iran compares
with their animosity toward the U.S. - have told TIME they have no need of
such outside help since their ranks include many explosives experts from
Saddam's military.

With the spiraling of sectarian violence in Iraq, each side has taken to
accusing the other of getting outside help. Sunni leaders claim Shi'ite
militias are trained by Iran, and Shi'ite leaders say Sunni terrorists are
funded by Saudi Arabia and Syria. Although U.S. officials shy clear of
fingering Riyadh, they have frequently accused Damascus of aiding and
abetting the Sunni insurgency.

Renewed Tehran-bashing in Washington is unlikely to sit well with Iraqi
Shi'ite politicians, who make up the dominant block of parliament. Like
Hakim and al-Amiri, many leading figures in the Iraqi government are
beholden to Iran for its support of the anti-Saddam movement. The Dawa party
of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (and former Prime Minister Ibrahim
al-Jaafari) also owes its survival during the Saddam years to Tehran.
Antagonizing the Shi'ite block could complicate U.S. efforts to end the
civil war and draw down American troops in Iraq.

Even Shi'ite leaders who didn't live in Iran have close ties to their
co-sectarians and have condemned U.S. efforts to pressure Tehran into
abandoning its nuclear program. The radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has
warned that if the U.S. launches a military campaign against Iran, his
militia, the Mahdi Army, will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iranians.

Leaders like Hakim say that rather than blame Iran or the Shi'ite militias,
the U.S. military - and Iraqi security forces - should be focusing its
energies on defeating the mainly Sunni insurgent and terrorist groups. "The
main cause of the violence in Iraq are the Saddamists and [jihadi
terrorists]," Hakim said. "We should not be distracted from our main task,
which is to destroy these forces. "

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