Saudis re­port Shi’ite ‘state’ inside of Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Sharon Behn

Iran has ef­fec­tively cre­ated a Shi’ite“state­withi­nas­tate”in­neigh­bor­ing Iraq, de­fy­ing both Iraqi Sun­nis and neigh­bor­ing Sunni na­tions, ac­cord­ing­toaSaud­is­e­cu­ri­tyre­port.

Ira­nian mil­i­tary forces are pro­vid­ing Shi’ite mili­tias with weapons and train­ing, Ira­nian char­i­ties are pour­ing funds into schools and hos­pi­tals, and Tehran is ac­tively sup­port­ing­pro-Ira­ni­anIraqipoliti­cians, the re­port said.

“Where the Amer­i­cans have failed, the Ira­ni­ans have stepped in,” said the re­port by the Saudi Na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sess­ment Project, a Riyadh-based con­sul­tancy com­mis­sioned­bytheSaudigov­ern­ment to pro­vide se­cu­rity and intelligence as­sess­ments.

There­port,sub­mit­ted­totheSaudi gov­ern­ment in March, has not been pub­licly dis­trib­uted.

Cit­ing in­ter­views with intelligence and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials in Iraq and sur­round­ing re­gion, the re­port states that the Sunni in­sur­gency num­bers about 77,000, while the Shi’ite mili­tia forces to­tal about 35,000.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Iran also isin­fil­trat­ingIraqthroughit­salQuds forces — the spe­cial com­mand di­vi­sion of the Ira­nian Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC) — which spe­cial­ize in intelligence op­er­a­tions in un­con­ven­tional war­fare.

RAND Corp. se­nior de­fense an­a­lystEdO’Con­nell­saidtheIra­ni­an­in­tel­li­gence­wastry­ing­to­coun­terSad­dam Hus­sein’s for­mer for­mi­da­ble spy net­work, Iraqi Intelligence Ser­vice(IIS),or­theMukhabarat.Un­der Sad­dam’s regime, he said, roughly one of ev­ery six Iraqi adults was a paid or un­paid in­for­mant — a net­work­that­did­not­dis­ap­pear­with­the ar­rival of the U.S.-led coali­tion.

“The real story in Iraq is this be­low-the-sur­face ‘un­con­ven­tional war’ be­tween the old IIS, which could be­come a more overt Saudi proxy — and the al Quds spe­cial di­rec­torate intelligence-coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence,” Mr. O’Con­nell said.

TheSaud­is­e­cu­ri­tyre­port­was­di­rected by Nawaf Obaid — who re­cently was fired for writ­ing an ar­ti­cleinTheWash­ing­tonPost­warn­ing that Saudi Ara­bia would not stand idly by and al­low Iraq’s Shi’ites to de­stroy its Sunni pop­u­la­tion.

Wash­ing­ton diplo­mats and an­a­lysts say Mr. Obaid’s dis­missal was more win­dow-dress­ing than a real puni­tive ac­tion.

The re­port states that the Ira­nian lev­ers of in­flu­ence in Iraq in­clude a broad net­work of in­for­mants, mil­i­tary and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port of armed groups, and so­cial wel­fare cam­paigns.

It adds that Tehran has “sought to in­flu­ence Iraq’s po­lit­i­cal process by giv­ing sup­port to new var­i­ous par­ties, in par­tic­u­lar, to the SCIRI,” or Supreme Coun­cil for Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion in Iraq, the lead­ing Shi’ite party.

An­a­lysts say some Saudi cit­i­zens are rais­ing funds for Sunni in­sur­gents.

“I have heard them say it is not hard to line up a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand­dol­larsand­sendit­tothein­sur­gentsacross­the­bor­der,”saidI­so­bel Cole­man, a se­nior fel­low at the Coun­cil for For­eign Re­la­tions.

De­spite claims by SCIRI leader that the party’s private mili­tia, the Iran-backedBadrOr­ga­ni­za­tion,for­merly known as the Badr Brigade, has sur­ren­dered its weapons, gun­tot­ingBadrmem­ber­sarestil­lvis­i­ble on the streets of Bagh­dad.

TheSaud­is­tudysaystheBadrOr­ga­ni­za­tion is still about 25,000strong, and the party has roughly 3 mil­lion sup­port­ers. Anti-Amer­i­can cleric Muq­tada al-Sadr’s mili­tia, the Mahdi Army, is thought to num­ber jus­tun­der10,000,while­his­par­ty­has the sup­port of about 1.5 mil­lion Shi’ites.

“Ea­chofthe­segroup­sis­be­holden in some way to Iran and has ties to its intelligence and se­cu­rity ser­vices,” the re­port says.

Itadds:“Re­centin­tel­li­gen­ceindi­cates that IRGC of­fi­cers are cur­rently op­er­at­ing in Iraq cer­tain Shi’ite mili­tias and ac­tual army and po­lice units.”

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