Iran’s bloody hands
It is getting increasingly difficult to deny Iran’s destructive role in Iraq and the reality that coalition forces have failed to come up with a long-term solution to the problem. According to Col. Donald Bacon, a spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, the elite Quds Force — which is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — has brought in Hezbollah personnel to train Iraqi Shi’ite militia members. Last week, a five-member parliamentary delegation from Iraq visited Iran, reportedly to meet with Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guards, in an effort to persuade him to end the subversion.
But it’s difficult to see how sending Iraqi parliamentarians on pilgrimages to Tehran will persuade the regime to change its behavior for the better. By contrast it’s relatively easy to see how such behavior, when not backed up with a credible threat of action to back it up, could well embolden the regime. The message currently being sent to Tehran is one of vacillation and confusion. Two weeks ago, for example, Iraqi officials went public with complaints of Iranian arms smuggling. Although Tehran last year told Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that it would stop interfering in Iraq, the Baghdad government said that Iranian-made weapons with manufacture dates this year have been found in Basra. But on May 4, Iraqi parliamentarians returning from Iran announced that they believe Tehran wants to end the violence in Iraq.
Yet in an interview May 6 with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Samir Sumaidaie put Iranian behavior in a more negative light, stating that there is “very strong suspicion and a lot of evidence” that Iran is supplying arms to Iraqi militias.”There comes a point when the evidence is overwhelming,“ he said. Mr. Sumaidaie said that Iraqis living in places like Basra and Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood are pleased with the fact that the Maliki government has moved forcefully against militias. Iraqis have become so desperate for action against militias that randomly terrorize them, the ambassador said, that many have adopted an almost fatalistic attitude towards the problem. “Kill us, but kill them, too,” is the attitude that many Iraqis now hold, he told us.
The question now is whether any campaign against militias will achieve long-term success if terrorist bases across the border in Iran continue to be off-limits to reprisal from coalition forces. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is now calling for U.S. airstrikes on Iranian camps where enemy fighters are trained for war in Iraq, something that would be a major step towards military confrontation with Tehran. What is clear is that the status quo — where Iran uses its territory to provide sanctuary for people who kill and maim American GIs without having to worry about a direct response — simply isn’t working.