This is framed in relation to Iran, but connected with the semi-rumor (repeated in this article) that the Mahdi army is on a significant recruiting drive
, this might be worth a little notice.
US military intelligence sources tell ABC News that large shipments of weapons have been smuggled to Iraqi militia over the past five weeks, including dozens of Iranian supplied EFP's , or Explosive Form Projectiles, highly effective against armored vehicles.
The weapons were sent to Moqtada al Sadr's Shi'a militia, known as "Mahdi’s Army" who control Sadr City, a slum in northern Baghdad with a population of 2 million.
To take a broader point on this, what is the Iranian goal in supporting the Shia militias? It is not simply to kill US troops; it is to shape the political decisions of the current conflict to establish a direction towards their desired future Iraq.
The Iranians are in this for the very long haul. Long after US troops are gone (1 year, 10 years, 50 years,) the Iranians will still be Iraq's neighbors and deeply involved in some way in the Shia dominated politics. What they're trying to do is shape that future to their greatest advantage.
That I think is the real motivator behind the Bush administration's new very provocatory stance towards Iran.
If you take a look at the last round of Iranians who were recently arrested and released, the story is still very murky. According to the British, they were not smuggling weapons, but instead "were on a covert mission to influence Iraq's government." (BBC
) They were meeting with the Shia factions inside al-Hakim's compound plotting a political way forward.
Now, we have reports that another batch of Iranians have been arrested in Kurdistan and the Kurdish appear to have been protecting them. (Although nominally Sunni, the Kurds have a long history of working with the Shia militias from the years under Saddam.)
So, is this an effort by the Iranians to build a very different Iraqi coalition than the "moderate" Sunni-Shia coalition outlined in the Hadley memo? Are the Iranians having enough success that the US is reduced to arresting Iranian diplomats and political operatives to try and stop it?
Notice, if you will, that everytime an administration official makes charges against Iran, the construction is always two part. They are (1) arming the militias, and (2) "destabilizing" Iraq.
"Destabilizing." Is that another word for not making it run the way the US wants it to? Is that why we're suddenly going so hostile, because the Iranians are having more success at their political efforts in Iraq than we are?
Look, I don't know what we should do, and all evidence is that the Iranians are supplying weapons across the border, but what I'm trying to point out is that it's not just the weapons that are crippling the US effort in Iraq, and that the Iranian influence is far deeper than simply "aiding" or arming the Shia militias.
There is a much broader dynamic taking place in Iraq than is being discussed. The Iranians are winning the political battle, and now the US appears to be trying to alter that situation with force.
(By the way, if our focus is on stopping the Iranians from shipping arms into the country, why does "the new way forward" not have any contingency for policing that border?)