Khalilzad and Iran: Guest Comments
An informed observer writes:
‘ Ambassador Khalilzad made statements in Baghdad regarding Iran, perhaps for US and Western consumption and seemingly timed in relation to events in Lebanon, based upon this reported context:
“Privately, some senior U.S. officials are skeptical the Iranian government is doing more than providing money to select Shiite groups. Others insist Iran is providing weapons and training to some Shiite factions.” (AP)
The theories adduced as purposes for the alleged actions of Iran’s Government – “pressure,” “distraction” – do not make entire sense. The claims are inflammatory in the context of a tragically dangerous situation in Iraq.
The regime in Iran, or one or more parts thereof, is either doing something or they are not.
[Iran denied Khalilzad’s charge and said unrest in Iraq is the fault of poor US policy-making.]
It is reported to be generally believed that the regime is providing funds for one or more of the Shia parties. Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim recently spent ten days in Tehran and Qom meeting with the senior leadership of the Iran government. Oil Minister Shahristani is in Tehran now meeting with counter-parts. Muqtada al-Sadr has been there, but not recently, as have others in the Iraqi leadership. There are clear personal and other relationships between the Iraqi Shia leaderships and those in high positions in the Iran Government, many resulting from years of residence in exile. There are clear identifications relating to shared religious doctrine. There is also a clear difference of political-philosophical views with respect to the participation of the clergy in government affairs.
At the moment, most intensely in Basra, there are disputes within the UIA involving SCIRI and the Sadr Movement, and the Sadr spin-off Fadhila, sometimes resulting in violent confrontations, relating to control of Provincial governments.
The remarks of the Ambassador are most clearly consistent with the position and supporting rhetoric of the Bush Administration with respect to the involvement of the regime in Iran in the war in Lebanon. As far as press and media reports show, there is little or no direct evidence of the involvement of the Iran Government in that war, except for a conventional wisdom belief that Hezbollah has been provided financial support of $100 million per year, and weapons which are transported to southern Lebanon through Syria. It is obvious that the advanced weapons deployed by Hezbollah have been purchased from, or provided by, someone. It is publicly known that the US Government provides the State of Israel with approximately $2 billion per annum of military assistance and weaponry. The Israel Air Force consists of US-made fighter aircraft. If Hezbollah were an instrumentality of the Lebanese Government, which it is by intention and demonstrable practice in the case of this war, there would be no legal difference under international law between the weapons contributions of the US Government to the State of Israel and any contributions made by the regime in Iran in Lebanon.
The President of Iran has clearly stated his and his Government’s position on the State of Israel and the nuclear fuel enrichment affair. Other than periodic expressed hopes that the situation in Iraq would become stabilized in the context of the Constitutional institutions that have been established, no public positions have been taken with respect to Iraq politics.
Unless there is more evidence, or a clearer, legitimate purpose, the Ambassador’s remarks in Baghdad regarding Iran appear to be irresponsible. The result of the remarks cannot possibly be positive for the US Government’s position in Iraq, which is probably declining from an already uncertain base.
One would have thought that, by now, it would have been determined that the way to deal with Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sadr Movement is not to attempt to “capture or kill” him and his followers. One would think, now that there has been a clear military defeat of the Israel IDF in Lebanon, that alternative strategies might be considered for dealing with Shaikh Nasrullah and Hezbollah.
Iraq is not proximate to Israel’s borders. From Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani to substantially all of those in the Iraqi government and the leaderships of the major parties, there is clear identification with the position of Shaikh Nasrullah and Hezbollah regarding the State of Israel, but no evidence that any of them intend to do anything serious about that situation.
In the case of Iraq, leave it alone would appear to be the obvious best policy.
It would seem especially odd for the US Government in Iraq to take the side of the loser in Lebanon.
If there is no evidence one way or the other, it is obvious that, notwithstanding the expenditure of more than $2 billion, the CIA and the DIA are not doing effective work in Iraq. ‘