Monday, April 07, 2008

Havng trouble tracking who's up to what?

Juan Cole does some untangling for us:
This fixation on Iran just doesn't make any sense to me. The poor slum kids and Marsh Arabs in Basra who follow Muqtada al-Sadr don't even like Iranians. The primary Iran-linked force in Basra is the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq with its Badr Corps militia, which most Basrans code as Iranian puppets. One of my Iraqi correspondents told me that when the Badr Corps was fighting Marsh Arabs, local Basrans characterized it as 'Iranians fighting Iraqis.' The Badr Corps, according to the Iraqi press, fought alongside al-Maliki's 14th Division against the Mahdi Army. The Badr Corps was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and it is alleged that many Badr Corps fighters are still on the Iranian payroll.

Iranians come through Basra on their way up to Karbala and Najaf on pilgrimage to sacred Shiite shrines, and a handful may have gotten caught up in the fighting. This sort of thing has happened before. [8,000 Iranian pilgrims caught in Iraq because of the fighting have just been recalled home, and a temporary halt on the pilgrimages has been called.) But that Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei of Iran deliberately sent Iranian troops or agents into Basra to undermine ISCI, Badr, and al-Maliki's Da'wa (Islamic Missionary) Party on behalf of the Sadr Movement just strikes me as daft. It flies in the face of everything else we know about the relationship of these groups with Iran.

In fact, the Iranian leadership benefits from a united Iraqi Shiite community and the head of the Expediency Council, Akbar Rafsanajani, expressed concern about the faction-fighting among Iraqi Shiites. Iran brokered the cease-fire. If it wanted Shiite on Shiite fighting, why would it do that?

Neither the US nor Britain any longer has good intelligence on what is happening in the slums of Basra. If Petraeus is getting his information from al-Maliki on all this, he should be careful. The Da'wa and ISCI are perfectly capable of doing propaganda to embroil the US in their fights. In fact, their lies helped draw the US in, in the first place. [Emphasis mine]

Note: nobody in Iraq seems more "Iranian" than the Badr Corps allied with Maliki (the guy the US is backing). So trying to raise an alarm over "Iranian" involvement is rather disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading no matter how you slice and dice it.
--the BB

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