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The Iran Bits…

[ 12 ] October 23, 2010 |

There’s obviously much of interest in the Wikileaks Iraq release; for the moment the Iran stuff holds the bulk of my attention:

But the field reports disclosed by WikiLeaks, which were never intended to be made public, underscore the seriousness with which Iran’s role has been seen by the American military. The political struggle between the United States and Iran to influence events in Iraq still continues as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has sought to assemble a coalition — that would include the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr — that will allow him to remain in power. But much of the American’s military concern has revolved around Iran’s role in arming and assisting Shiite militias.

Citing the testimony of detainees, a captured militant’s diary and numerous uncovered weapons caches, among other intelligence, the field reports recount Iran’s role in providing Iraqi militia fighters with rockets, magnetic bombs that can be attached to the underside of cars, “explosively formed penetrators,” or E.F.P.’s, which are the most lethal type of roadside bomb in Iraq, and other weapons. Those include powerful .50-caliber rifles and the Misagh-1, an Iranian replica of a portable Chinese surface-to-air missile, which, according to the reports, was fired at American helicopters and downed one in east Baghdad in July 2007.

As the article notes, the release doesn’t provide conclusive evidence as to the extent of Iran’s role in Iraq over the past eight years (although I think that both the direct and circumstantial evidence of such involvement is exceedingly strong) because we don’t have Iranian or Iraqi documents; the release is simply the view of the US military. It does confirm, however, that US claims of Iranian influence weren’t simply strategic; the US military really believes that Iran has supported Iraqi militias, conducted operations based on such belief, and isn’t exclusively using such claims to either blame US failures or Iran or lay the foundation for military action against Iran.

This last part is particularly interesting, because as far as I can tell there has been relatively little support within the uniformed military for direct action against Iran. Almost all such calls have been made by hawkish civilians, and not through the channels that the military normally uses to make its views known. I don’t doubt that there are some within the military who believe that direct action within Iraq would be sensible, but there doesn’t seem to have been an institutional consensus to that effect. This is mildly surprising, because in other cases where an insurgency has derived support from actors across international borders (Taliban using Pakistani havens and receiving support from ISI, NLF and PAVN using Cambodian sanctuaries in the Vietnam War) military attitudes on the appropriateness of cross-border strikes have been rather strongly affirmative. Indeed, in a non-COIN case, civilian reluctance to escalate the Korean War across an international border provided the setting for one of the most dangerous civil-military conflicts in American history.

In this case, the military seems to have been resigned to fighting Iran within Iraq, in spite of the presence of a civilian faction strongly in support of direct attacks on Iran. I find that somewhat surprising; if there’s any evidence to the contrary (that the military did support cross-border operations against Iran), I’d like to see it.

…to be clear, while I’d be reluctant to suggest that Iran had a moral or legal right to intervene in Iraq, I consider it utterly unsurprising that Iran did so; attempting to manage the political situation in a neighboring country, while simultaneously weakening a potential enemy, is something that countries do.  Indignation about Iranian intervention is absurd.

Comments (12)

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  1. Oscar Leroy says:

    Who the hell does Iran think they are, interfering in the destiny of a foreign country for their own selfish purposes?!?!? For shame.

  2. Bill Murray says:

    But evidently not so indignant about the role the US played or plays in Iraq

  3. Matt says:

    Who do the Iranians think they are? There’s only one country that’s allowed to supply insurgents with weapons to weaken an occupying superpower, and that’s US! :)

  4. “Indignation about Iranian intervention is absurd.”

    What a tool, Farley, or moral abomination, you might say. I’m sure you have no problem with “humanitarian” aid to insurgents fighting U.S. troops, as did LGM ideological allies Code Pink.

    ‘Iran Still Arming Iraqi Militants, U.S. Claims’.

    • DocAmazing says:

      I’m sure that you worked up a good head of steam over the US arming the Mujahiddeen in Afghanistan and their fighting of Soviet troops, as well, eh, Donald?

      Yeah, I know. The US government killing people is always and everywhere different from anyone else killing people.

  5. Jay C says:

    Indignation about Iranian intervention is absurd.

    Absurd or not, it has still been one of the (few) consistent threads in the trainwreck that was the Bush 43 Admin.’s Middle East policy – and one which the Obama crew have scarcely altered since taking chqarge. Iran-bashing in one form or another – with the concomitant threat of direct action always lurking in the background (where, of course, it has by now lost whatever deterrent value it may have had) – is still a chronic theme in our diplomacy in the region. And ain’t gonna change until the Iranians get over their dependence on rote anti-Americanism as a major prop for their regime. I won’t hold my breath….

  6. DocAmazing says:

    And ain’t gonna change until the Iranians get over their dependence on rote anti-Americanism as a major prop for their regime.

    Do you really think it would change if they put Reagan on their postage stamps and made “Yankee Doodle Dandy” their national anthem? Their regime isn’t the only one that uses fear of auslanders to shut down debate.

  7. patrick II says:

    From Esquire Magazine
    Oct 18, 2007

    …That is putting it mildly. In May of 2003, when the U.S. was still in the triumphant “mission accomplished” phase of the Iraq war, word started filtering out of the White House about an aggressive new Iran policy that would include efforts to destabilize the Iranian government and even to promote a popular uprising. In his first public statement on Iran policy since leaving the NSC, Leverett told The Washington Post he thought the White House was making a dangerous mistake. “What it means is we will end up with an Iran that has nuclear weapons and no dialogue with the United States.”

    Iran had made a peace offer early in the Iraq war through the Swedish ambassador. The U.S. ignored it. Anyone who takes umbrage at Iran trying to influence the outcome of the Iraq war when one of the goals of the war was to have a military presence in Iraq pointed at the throat of Iran is practicing the self-righteous naivete that embodied the foreign policy of the Bush administration.

  8. Simple Mind says:

    Don’t forget that US agents dealt directly with the mullahs prior to the invasion. Our No. 1 boy was a certain Hakim. Maliki an Iranian asset also. Duh.

  9. [...] a lot of ways the most newsworthy stuff in the latest WikiLeaks document dump is this Iran material discussed by Robert Farley that doesn’t particularly serve a specific political agenda. During the period when the Bush [...]

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