Thursday, February 15, 2007

An important distinction

Judging from Al-Hayat's news from Washington, there appears to be an important difference between two sides of new Iraq security plan, as far as the Americans are concerned, one focused directly on Baghdad security, and the other having to do with tracking down and publicizing anything that could be described as part of a arms-network traceable to Iran.

Al-Hayat quotes an impeccable source for a description of the second part, namely Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute. The reporter describes Donnelly as well-connected and as having given a lot of advice to Bush in preparation of the current plan. The reporter says:
[Donnelly said] the Bush administration [in the recent Iran-arms show] wanted to send a message to two parties, namely to Iran, and also to Iran's allies in Iraq. ... [Washington] is getting ready to carry out more arrests and pursuits of Iranian agents in Iraq [adding that] this is not something that will end in a month or two months, but will be long enough to make all the parties understand that the US is serious about this fight.
In its lead-in to this story, the Al-Hayat reporter refers to "present advisers and and former officials" who said the recent Iran-weapons show was "in the context of an implied warning" to Iran
[And] they expect that more escalating measures will follow, in the form of arrests and the pursuit of arms networks, or the targeting of leaders of militias allied with Iran. A high American official stressed that Washington already has a lot of other evidence, which will be disclosed at the appropriate time. [The official said this is all part of] "a complete file that includes clear proof of the negative role of Iran in Iraq".
And the official repeated that information will be disclosed at appropriate times (suggesting a preoccupation with the PR aspects of this).

Interestingly, the Al-Hayat reporter adds:
Washington is bearing down on the preparation of evidence, but it is taking all the time needed to coordinate between the different agencies in the Pentagon and the CIA, so as to avoid the intelligence lapses that preceded the war. Media reports talk about hesitations and divisions within the administration, specifically between the White House and the CIA on the subject of the recent [Iran weapons show]. The Agency opposed it, and finally there was agreement to go ahead on condition that the identity of the officials not be disclosed.
Getting back to Donnelly, the reporter says he emphasized that the pursuit of Iran-connections is going to stay within Iraq, adding the US isn't about to attack Iran. But the reporter adds: Wayne White of the Middle East Institute and a former US intelligence official, said such operations are going to be necessarily focused on border areas, because the Iranians prefer to minimize their actual presence inside Iraq, and that explains, White said, the relative infrequency of searches relating to this inside Iraq. White's other point was that the US has to take a targeted, arrest-related approach to this, because the troop level, even after the additional 20,000, isn't enough to confront the militias head-on.

It would appear from the above comments that what you could call the "Iran-connections operation" is distinct from the "Baghdad-security operation", and that is exactly what senior cleric and SCIRI politician Jalaladdin al-Saghir said after his mosque-office in Baghdad was raided by US forces yesterday. Saghir told the Al-Hayat reporter:
The forces that raided the mosque yesterday were from US intelligence, and they were looking for personal correspondence...This wasn't part of the [Baghdad] security plan, and they weren't looking for weapons. Rather it was part of the hidden agenda [literally, the implicitly-directed agenda] relating to Tehran".
I think an understanding of the distinction between the two operations (Baghdad security and Iran-connections) can be a help in sorting out likely misinformation. For instance, there is the vast US-sourced rumor-mill about Sadr having fled to Iran. But the point, quite likely, is that to show any connection between the two operations, there is a need to paint Sadr, illogically and un-historically, as somehow Iranian. What better way than to say he is hiding there?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing illogical or insubstantial about Sadr's Iranian connections. They are well known and a fact. What is utterly laughable are his supposed credentials as an Iraqi nationalist. I am also very bemused by the type of allegations being levelled at Iran. It's like seeing the - equally murderous - accomplice of a serial killer accusing him of stealing packets of custard from a corner shop. Iranian agents have been slaughtering thousands of Iraqis every month with the tacit support of the US. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have thoroughly penetrated Iraq's central and local government and security services, and all of a sudden they start making a fuss about a few roadside bombs!! By the way, forget Juan Cole - he is both naive and blinkered. Iran also supports Sunni extremists for unashamedly Machiavellian reasons!

6:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger ... on this issue it is interesting to go to the analysis of Awni al-Qalamji you posted on January 16? His analysis of US intention eg stopping Iran's "encroachments" on their "share" or "quota" seem pretty spot so far, as do his predictions about the Sadrists?

11:56 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I son't think that's right. Qalamji's point was that this whole "new strategy" would involve a full-on military attack by the Americans on the Sunni resistance as a whole, and not just a re-occupation of Baghdad and maybe Ramadi. (Hence the need to unify the resistance, combat temptations to join the political process, etcetera). That doesn't seem to be the case at all. And Qalamji's remarks about Sadr supporting the occupation don't seem to have aged too well either...

(The "Iranian share" or "quota" idea is ambiguous. Qalamji's idea was just that Bush would be using the idea of pushback against Iranian influence as a political talking point with the Sunni Arab regimes).

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting the U.S. would now go after SCIRI cleric al-Saghir on top of sending Sadr into hiding. Obviously, they're trying to purge the Maliki government of growing Iranian influence -- but are'nt they also driving away what remains of Maliki's constituents. Is the U.S. planning on being his exclusive and private political base, army, and tax collector? I dont get this obsession the U.S. has with stripping people of their culture and expecting them to be reborn Jeffersonian secular individualists. Myopic, to say the least.

anna missed

12:48 AM  

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