Thursday, February 25, 2010

Iran trying to influence Iraq vote [the horror, the horror]

The WaPo's David Ignatius reports on the extent to which Iranian influence and money are being pumped into the pro-Iran Shii political parties (like ISCI) and pro-Iran political figures (specifically, Ahmad Chalabi) as the March elections approach.  His talking points come straight from General Odierno's briefings to Iraq leaders about Iran's "covert operations":
-- "Iran provides money, campaign materials, and political training to various individual candidates and political parties [in Iraq].

-- "Iran interferes in Iraq's political process, urging alliances that not all Iraqi politicians favor, in an effort to consolidate power among parties supported by Iran. For example . . . Ahmed Chalabi met with IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and Iranian Foreign Minister [Manouchehr] Mottaki in late November to discuss" the merger of two slates of Shiite candidates backed by Iran.

-- "Iran supports de-Baathification efforts engineered by Ahmed Chalabi for the purpose of eliminating potential obstacles to Iranian influence. Chalabi is also interested in Iran's assistance in securing the office of Prime Minister.

-- "According to all-source intelligence, Ahmed Chalabi visited Iran at least three times since last year. Additionally, he met with key Iranian leaders in Iraq on at least five occasions.

The ironies here, of course, are abundant.
  •  It was the US that empowered Chalabi to begin with.  The darling of Dick Cheney and his neocon crowd, Chalabi was to be the fair-haired Saddam-lite whom the US invasion in 2003 was to install as our man in Iraq.   Problem was,  none of the Iraqis wanted him - so he cuddled up to the Iranian leadership to provide himself a new patron.
  • It was the US invasion, followed by the US's support of the Shii political parties (like ISCI, which was then SCIRI = the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and al-Da'wa (one of whose leaders is now the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki), that eliminated Iran's worst threat (Saddam Hussein, who launched the disastrous 1980-1988 war with Iran) and opened the door for Iran to walk in.
Ignatius also notes:
The Iranians allegedly are pumping $9 million a month in covert aid to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite party that has the most seats in the Iraqi parliament and $8 million a month to the militant Shiite movement headed by Moqtada al-Sadr.

The current Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is said to play a delicate balancing game with Iran, opposing some of its moves and acceding to others. According to U.S. intelligence reports, a member of Maliki's staff hand-delivers sensitive documents from Tehran, thereby avoiding electronic communications that might be intercepted.

Another irony, of course, is that Maliki has been "our guy" in Iraq since 2006.  Muqtada al-Sadr, on the other hand, has helped lead the resistance to the US occupation since 2003 - and his Mahdi Army stands accused of spearheading the massive cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad beginning in 2006.

And a final irony here?  Odierno, Ignatius, et al. are horrified, shocked, that another country is infusing so much money and such into the political process of another.  Yet both men are prominent, celebrated citizens of a country
  •  whose Supreme Court only weeks ago unleashed the coffers of corporate interests (many of which will indeed have close links to foreign interests, in our globalized ("flat" - right, Tom Friedman?) world), from which bazillions of dollars may now be infused into our own political process.
  • where political elections have for years been deeply and consistently influenced by the dollars infused - or withheld -  by a pro-Israel lobby (with AIPAC leading the pack, and "reports" from think-tanks like WINEP helping to fill the cash register) whose ears prick up whenever Israel's Likud party speaks.
I doubt that many of us want to see an Iraq where Iran calls all the shots.  But let's think again before we start screaming foul about Iran's attempts to shape Iraq's election outcomes to its benefit.

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