T Nation

Iran at War With US

Iran’s secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq

Simon Tisdall
Tuesday May 22, 2007
The Guardian

Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

“Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it’s a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces,” a senior US official in Baghdad warned. “They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government].”

The official said US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran’s Shia militia allies, that Iran hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. “We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus’s report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush’s controversial, six-month security “surge” of 30,000 troop reinforcements],” the official said.

“Certainly it [the violence] is going to pick up from their side. There is significant latent capability in Iraq, especially Iranian-sponsored capability. They can turn it up whenever they want. You can see that from the pre-positioning that’s been going on and the huge stockpiles of Iranian weapons that we’ve turned up in the last couple of months. The relationships between Iran and groups like al-Qaida are very fluid,” the official said.

“It often comes down to individuals, and people constantly move around. For instance, the Sunni Arab so-called resistance groups use Salafi jihadist ideology for their own purposes. But the whole Iran- al-Qaida linkup is very sinister.”

Iran has maintained close links to Iraq’s Shia political parties and militias but has previously eschewed collaboration with al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents.

US officials now say they have firm evidence that Tehran has switched tack as it senses a chance of victory in Iraq. In a parallel development, they say they also have proof that Iran has reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban’s campaign against US, British and other Nato forces.

Tehran’s strategy to discredit the US surge and foment a decisive congressional revolt against Mr Bush is national in scope and not confined to the Shia south, its traditional sphere of influence, the senior official in Baghdad said. It included stepped-up coordination with Shia militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Syrian-backed Sunni Arab groups and al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, he added. Iran was also expanding contacts across the board with paramilitary forces and political groups, including Kurdish parties such as the PUK, a US ally.

“Their strategy takes into account all these various parties. Iran is playing all these different factions to maximise its future control and maximise US and British difficulties. Their co-conspirator is Syria which is allowing the takfirists [fundamentalist Salafi jihadis] to come across the border,” the official said.

Any US decision to retaliate against Iran on its own territory could be taken only at the highest political level in Washington, the official said. But he indicated that American patience was wearing thin.

Warning that the US was “absolutely determined” to hit back hard wherever it was challenged by Iranian proxies or agents inside Iraq, he cited the case of five alleged members of the Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds force detained in Irbil in January. Despite strenuous protests from Tehran, which claims the men are diplomats, they have still not been released.

“Tehran is behaving like a racecourse gambler. They’re betting on all the horses in the race, even on people they fundamentally don’t trust,” a senior administration official in Washington said. “They don’t know what the outcome will be in Iraq. So they’re hedging their bets.”

The administration official also claimed that notwithstanding recent US and British overtures, Syria was still collaborating closely with Iran’s strategy in Iraq.

“80% to 90%” of the foreign jihadis entering Iraq were doing so from Syrian territory, he said.

Despite recent diplomatic contacts, and an agreement to hold bilateral talks at ambassadorial level in Baghdad next week, US officials say there has been no let-up in hostile Iranian activities, including continuing support for violence, weapons smuggling and training.

“Iran is perpetuating the cycle of sectarian violence through support for extra-judicial killing and murder cells. They bring Iraqi militia members and insurgent groups into Iran for training and then help infiltrate them back into the country. We have plenty of evidence from a variety of sources. There’s no argument about that. That’s just a fact,” the senior official in Baghdad said.

In trying to force an American retreat, Iran’s hardline leadership also hoped to bring about a humiliating political and diplomatic defeat for the US that would reduce Washington’s regional influence while increasing Tehran’s own.

But if Iran succeeded in “prematurely” driving US and British forces out of Iraq, the likely result would be a “colossal humanitarian disaster” and possible regional war drawing in the Sunni Arab Gulf states, Syria and Turkey, he said.

Despite such concerns, or because of them, the US welcomed the chance to talk to Iran, the senior administration official said. “Our agenda starts with force protection in Iraq,” he said. But there were many other Iraq-related issues to be discussed. Recent pressure had shown that Iran’s behaviour could be modified, the official claimed: “Last winter they were literally getting away with murder.”

But tougher action by security forces in Iraq against Iranian agents and networks, the dispatch of an additional aircraft carrier group to the Gulf and UN security council resolutions imposing sanctions had given Tehran pause, he said.

Washington analysts and commentators predict that Gen Petraeus’s report to the White House and Congress in early September will be a pivotal moment in the history of the four-and-a-half-year war - and a decision to begin a troop drawdown or continue with the surge policy will hinge on the outcome. Most Democrats and many Republicans in Congress believe Iraq is in the grip of a civil war and that there is little that a continuing military presence can achieve. “Political will has already failed. It’s over,” a former Bush administration official said.

A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported this month that the surge had reduced violence, especially sectarian killings, in the Baghdad area and Sunni-dominated Anbar province. But the adviser admitted that much of the trouble had merely moved elsewhere, “resulting in spikes of activity in Diyala [to the north] and some areas to the south of the capital”. “Overall violence is at about the same level [as when the surge began in February].”

Iranian officials flatly deny US and British allegations of involvement in internal violence in Iraq or in attacks on coalition forces. Interviewed in Tehran recently, Mohammad Reza Bagheri, deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs with primary responsibility for Iran’s policy in Iraq, said: “We believe it would be to the benefit of both the occupiers and the Iraqi people that they [the coalition forces] withdraw immediately.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2085195,00.html

I don’t buy it for a second. Iranians helping the most extremist Sunni group known to mankind, and on their door-step nonetheless.

I call FUD.

[quote]Sloth wrote:
Iran’s secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq

Simon Tisdall
Tuesday May 22, 2007
The Guardian

Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

“Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it’s a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces,” a senior US official in Baghdad warned. “They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government].”

The official said US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran’s Shia militia allies, that Iran hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. “We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus’s report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush’s controversial, six-month security “surge” of 30,000 troop reinforcements],” the official said.

“Certainly it [the violence] is going to pick up from their side. There is significant latent capability in Iraq, especially Iranian-sponsored capability. They can turn it up whenever they want. You can see that from the pre-positioning that’s been going on and the huge stockpiles of Iranian weapons that we’ve turned up in the last couple of months. The relationships between Iran and groups like al-Qaida are very fluid,” the official said.

“It often comes down to individuals, and people constantly move around. For instance, the Sunni Arab so-called resistance groups use Salafi jihadist ideology for their own purposes. But the whole Iran- al-Qaida linkup is very sinister.”

Iran has maintained close links to Iraq’s Shia political parties and militias but has previously eschewed collaboration with al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents.

US officials now say they have firm evidence that Tehran has switched tack as it senses a chance of victory in Iraq. In a parallel development, they say they also have proof that Iran has reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban’s campaign against US, British and other Nato forces.

Tehran’s strategy to discredit the US surge and foment a decisive congressional revolt against Mr Bush is national in scope and not confined to the Shia south, its traditional sphere of influence, the senior official in Baghdad said. It included stepped-up coordination with Shia militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Syrian-backed Sunni Arab groups and al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, he added. Iran was also expanding contacts across the board with paramilitary forces and political groups, including Kurdish parties such as the PUK, a US ally.

“Their strategy takes into account all these various parties. Iran is playing all these different factions to maximise its future control and maximise US and British difficulties. Their co-conspirator is Syria which is allowing the takfirists [fundamentalist Salafi jihadis] to come across the border,” the official said.

Any US decision to retaliate against Iran on its own territory could be taken only at the highest political level in Washington, the official said. But he indicated that American patience was wearing thin.

Warning that the US was “absolutely determined” to hit back hard wherever it was challenged by Iranian proxies or agents inside Iraq, he cited the case of five alleged members of the Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds force detained in Irbil in January. Despite strenuous protests from Tehran, which claims the men are diplomats, they have still not been released.

“Tehran is behaving like a racecourse gambler. They’re betting on all the horses in the race, even on people they fundamentally don’t trust,” a senior administration official in Washington said. “They don’t know what the outcome will be in Iraq. So they’re hedging their bets.”

The administration official also claimed that notwithstanding recent US and British overtures, Syria was still collaborating closely with Iran’s strategy in Iraq.

“80% to 90%” of the foreign jihadis entering Iraq were doing so from Syrian territory, he said.

Despite recent diplomatic contacts, and an agreement to hold bilateral talks at ambassadorial level in Baghdad next week, US officials say there has been no let-up in hostile Iranian activities, including continuing support for violence, weapons smuggling and training.

“Iran is perpetuating the cycle of sectarian violence through support for extra-judicial killing and murder cells. They bring Iraqi militia members and insurgent groups into Iran for training and then help infiltrate them back into the country. We have plenty of evidence from a variety of sources. There’s no argument about that. That’s just a fact,” the senior official in Baghdad said.

In trying to force an American retreat, Iran’s hardline leadership also hoped to bring about a humiliating political and diplomatic defeat for the US that would reduce Washington’s regional influence while increasing Tehran’s own.

But if Iran succeeded in “prematurely” driving US and British forces out of Iraq, the likely result would be a “colossal humanitarian disaster” and possible regional war drawing in the Sunni Arab Gulf states, Syria and Turkey, he said.

Despite such concerns, or because of them, the US welcomed the chance to talk to Iran, the senior administration official said. “Our agenda starts with force protection in Iraq,” he said. But there were many other Iraq-related issues to be discussed. Recent pressure had shown that Iran’s behaviour could be modified, the official claimed: “Last winter they were literally getting away with murder.”

But tougher action by security forces in Iraq against Iranian agents and networks, the dispatch of an additional aircraft carrier group to the Gulf and UN security council resolutions imposing sanctions had given Tehran pause, he said.

Washington analysts and commentators predict that Gen Petraeus’s report to the White House and Congress in early September will be a pivotal moment in the history of the four-and-a-half-year war - and a decision to begin a troop drawdown or continue with the surge policy will hinge on the outcome. Most Democrats and many Republicans in Congress believe Iraq is in the grip of a civil war and that there is little that a continuing military presence can achieve. “Political will has already failed. It’s over,” a former Bush administration official said.

A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported this month that the surge had reduced violence, especially sectarian killings, in the Baghdad area and Sunni-dominated Anbar province. But the adviser admitted that much of the trouble had merely moved elsewhere, “resulting in spikes of activity in Diyala [to the north] and some areas to the south of the capital”. “Overall violence is at about the same level [as when the surge began in February].”

Iranian officials flatly deny US and British allegations of involvement in internal violence in Iraq or in attacks on coalition forces. Interviewed in Tehran recently, Mohammad Reza Bagheri, deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs with primary responsibility for Iran’s policy in Iraq, said: “We believe it would be to the benefit of both the occupiers and the Iraqi people that they [the coalition forces] withdraw immediately.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2085195,00.html[/quote]

Sloth,

I’m curious about your predictions regarding Presidential candidates in 2008. How high on the agenda will this undeclared war go?

Is there anyone on the scene that is capable of making the case against iran?

Do we unleash the Israeli’s?

I have more questions than answers on this one.

Again, iran makes me quite nervous.

JeffR

I am not sure if I buy the whole working with sunni part, al qaeda maybe.

That and its liable to backfire, al qaeda is starting to get disliked as much as us in some places of iraq. I don’t see them taking kindly to anyone who is offering those people support.

Another article from the Guardian. To read the whole thing go to the link further below.

"…The Iranians

You can’t move far in Basra without bumping into some evidence of the Iranian influence on the city. Even inside the British consulate compound visitors are advised not to use mobile phones because, as the security official put it ,“the Iranians next door are listening to everything”.

In the Basra market Iranian produce is everywhere, from dairy products to motorcycles and electronic goods. Farsi phrase books are sold in bookshops and posters of Ayatollah Khomeini are on the walls.

But Iranian influence is also found in more sinister places. Abu Mujtaba described the level of cooperation between Iran and his units. His account echoed what several militia men in other parts of Iraq have told me.

Sitting in his house in one of Basra’s poorest neighbourhoods, he told me: “We need weapons and Iran is our only outlet. If the Saudis would give us weapons we would stop bringing weapons from Iran.”

He went on: “They [the Iranians] don’t give us weapons, they sell us weapons: an Iranian bomb costs us $100, nothing comes for free. We know Iran is not interested in the good of Iraq, and we know they are here to fight the Americans and the British on our land, but we need them and they are using us.”

Despite this scepticism about Tehran’s motives, he said some Mahdi army units were now effectively under Iranian control. “Some of the units are following different commanders, and Iran managed to infiltrate [them], and these units work directly for Iran.”

Most of the Shia militias and parties that control politics in Basra today were formed and funded by Tehran, he said.

His assessment was shared by both the general and the intelligence official. “Iran has not only infiltrated the government and security forces through the militias and parties they nurtured in Iran, they managed to infiltrate Moqtada’s lot, by providing them with weapons,” the general told me. “And some disgruntled and militias were over taken by Iran and provided with money and weapons.”

In his office, littered with weapons bearing Iranian markings, Samer showed me footage his men had shot of a weapons smuggling operation after they captured six brand new Katyushas.

“In Basra, Iran has more influence than the government in Baghdad,” he said. “It is providing the militias with everything from socks to rockets.”

But, like many he was philosophical about Iranian interference. “Unlike the US and the UK, Iran invested better. They knew where to pump their money, into militias and political parties. If a war happens they can take over Basra without even sending their soldiers. They are fighting a war of attrition with the US and UK, bleeding them slowly. We arrest Iranian spies and intelligence networks but they are not spying on the Kalashnikovs of the Iraqi army - they are here to gather intelligence on the coalition forces.”

But others cite evidence of Iranian influence being used to pursue less strategic aims. A businessman in Basra, who regularly imports soft drinks from Iran, told me he once had a dispute with his suppler in Iran over price. When he refused to pay, gunmen from a pro-Iranian militia stormed his shop and kidnapped him. He was only released after paying all of what he owed to the Iranian dealer.

Nasaif Jassem, a city councillor for the Fadhila party that controls the governorship and the oil industry in Basra, was critical of Iranian interference. Fadhila, widely seen as backed by the British, split from the main Shia alliance in Baghdad after accusing it of having a sectarian agenda.

“This British occupation will go but the other occupation, that of Iran, will stay for a long time,” he said. “They want to have an agent in Iraq that they can move every time they want, just like Hizbullah in Lebanon. Iran is sending a message to the west: don’t you dare come close to us because we can burn Basra and its people.”

Fear of the Iranians runs through the city. I saw it in the offices of the general as we sat in his office one late one night. His two mobile phones had just rung, each with someone asking for a wrong number. The general’s face turned pale and he said: “They have located me - the militia control all the transmission towers for the mobile network and now they have located my position.”

Were ‘they’ the Iranians or a militia, I asked. “They are all the same.” He called on his guards to send more men outside and ran to the window to check that the sandbags behind the glass were well stacked. “Do you think I or the British commander can walk freely in Basra?” he asked. “No is the answer, but the Iranian charg? d’affaires runs around freely.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2083387,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=12

Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?[/quote]

I don’t mean to downplay the danger coming from Iran, but historically, they have been a LOT more peaceful than the US. American weapons killed MANY MANY more lives than Iranian ones. The US invaded MANY MANY more countries than Iran did.

The choice is therefore, not as clear cut as you make it seem.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?[/quote]

You’ve spent the last 4 years showing how competent the US is at running part of the region, so it should be a pretty easy choice for them.

[quote]pookie wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?

You’ve spent the last 4 years showing how competent the US is at running part of the region, so it should be a pretty easy choice for them.
[/quote]

pookie,

You’ve spent the last four bemoaning democracy in Iraq.

I don’t know how much clearer 70% voting turnout and their subsequent elected government asking the U.S. to stay could be.

There’s no question what they would and have chosen.

JeffR

[quote]lixy wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?

I don’t mean to downplay the danger coming from Iran, but historically, they have been a LOT more peaceful than the US. American weapons killed MANY MANY more lives than Iranian ones. The US invaded MANY MANY more countries than Iran did.

The choice is therefore, not as clear cut as you make it seem.[/quote]

lixy,

Friendly advice coming: If you are trying to change minds of Americans, it’s a very poor tactic to try to make the case that iran > U.S.

Even MOST democrats are going to anger to the point of not listening to your propaganda when you do this.

Remind me again how many countries iran has lifted off their feet, liberated from tyranny, and how many Somalia’s they have invaded to provide food?

I’ll answer for you, zero.

I’m not going to teach you how to debate effectively. I worry that your central message would become more palatable.

However, I will point out your more aggregious and obvious shortcomings as they cause me actual physical pain.

JeffR

Iran is NOT more peaceful than the U.S… Are you claiming the citizens and government of their country are generally more civilized than Americans?

The U.S. has invaded more countries than Iran because they have been asked for assistance in a lot of situations. Iran doesn’t have the military power to help out much and I’m not sure how many would expect them to lend a hand.

[quote]lixy wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?

I don’t mean to downplay the danger coming from Iran, but historically, they have been a LOT more peaceful than the US. American weapons killed MANY MANY more lives than Iranian ones. The US invaded MANY MANY more countries than Iran did.

The choice is therefore, not as clear cut as you make it seem.[/quote]

Yea, they are real peaceful, as long as you are dressed properly.

Right, because Iran wasn’t financing, outfitting, and supporting proxy armies before Iraq.

[quote]pat36 wrote:
lixy wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?

I don’t mean to downplay the danger coming from Iran, but historically, they have been a LOT more peaceful than the US. American weapons killed MANY MANY more lives than Iranian ones. The US invaded MANY MANY more countries than Iran did.

The choice is therefore, not as clear cut as you make it seem.

Yea, they are real peaceful, as long as you are dressed properly. [/quote]

And worship allah and never question them.

[quote]pookie wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Either Iran will run the region or a democratic Iraq will, backed by the USA. Who should the people in the MIddle East choose?

You’ve spent the last 4 years showing how competent the US is at running part of the region, so it should be a pretty easy choice for them.
[/quote]

So you favor the Iranians then…interesting…

Did you move here from the Middle East?

[quote]JeffR wrote:
I don’t know how much clearer 70% voting turnout and their subsequent elected government asking the U.S. to stay could be.[/quote]

Doofus,

I didn’t mention which choice they’d make, I simply observed that you’ve been in the region 4 years, so the people near it can judge how well the US operates with the locals.

Are you accusing the US of incompetency?

Are you presuming that they wouldn’t pick your side if given the choice?

As for your 70% turnout, it means nothing when you have phony candidates, no real debates because the situation is to volatile, etc.

They had a higher turnout under Saddam. Surely you think Saddam was more democratic then?

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
So you favor the Iranians then…interesting…

Did you move here from the Middle East?[/quote]

I never said who I favored. Shouldn’t teachers be able to read?

I simply observed that the people of the region have seen the US helping in the region for the past 4 years, and that their judgment would take that into account.

You’re the second mental midget to reach, on your own, the conclusion that they’d kick your sorry ass out of there and go it alone.

Don’t attribute to me your own conclusions.

[quote]JeffR wrote:
Friendly advice coming: If you are trying to change minds of Americans, it’s a very poor tactic to try to make the case that iran > U.S. [/quote]

Yet, the number of innocent people who were killed by American troops exceeds the number of innocents killed by Iranians.

It’s an observation.

I don’t give a rat’s furry ass about what Democrats or Republicans think. I’m adressing humans with of common sense.

[quote]Remind me again how many countries iran has lifted off their feet, liberated from tyranny, and how many Somalia’s they have invaded to provide food?

I’ll answer for you, zero. [/quote]

Fair point. But does that make up for the other horrors commited by Americans or American-backed proxies?

I’ll answer for you, no.

Your problem not mine.

[quote]Jason Voorhees wrote:
Iran is NOT more peaceful than the U.S… Are you claiming the citizens and government of their country are generally more civilized than Americans?

The U.S. has invaded more countries than Iran because they have been asked for assistance in a lot of situations. Iran doesn’t have the military power to help out much and I’m not sure how many would expect them to lend a hand. [/quote]

Again, my observation is simple. A lot more innocents have died because of the US than because of Iran. Infer from it what you will.

Did anyone ask you to invade Iraq? Did you see any Vietnamese referendum asking for your intervention in the 60’s? Did the Cubans ask you to starve them? Did the Palestanians beg you to arm Israel so they can be oppressed? How about the Contras? El-Salvador? Guatemala? The Somalians you bombed in January?

Yes, the US did some good things. I can’t argue against that. But it doesn’t make up for the other bit.

I maintain that historically, Iran has proven to be a lot less belligerent than the US. Their secret services don’t topple elected officials. Their army isn’t present in 120 countries across the globe. Their arsenal is very small compared to yours. It has nothing to do with civilization; it’s a foreign policy issue.

Numerous polls have been taken, and the US always tops the ranks as the biggest threat to world’s peace. That’s gotta say something!

US seen as a bigger threat to peace than Iran, worldwide poll suggests.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1797771,00.html

What did you guys expect? You invaded Iraq, let’s not discuss the reasons here, but than you complain that Iran is interfering.

Again, what did you guys expect?

Wouldn’t you interfere if, and I’m playing your paranoia here, if Cuba invaded Mexico?