Khatami’s Charges Provoke Row in Iran; how Important is Iranian and Hizbullah Training

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has caused a firestorm of criticism in Iran. AFP writes:

‘ In his speech, Khatami referred to the ambition of Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to export the 1979 Islamic revolution around the world, but expressed fear this wish was being distorted. “What did the imam (Khomeini) mean by exporting the revolution?” he asked in the speech Friday to university students in the northern province of Gilan, according to the Kargozaran newspaper. “Did he mean that we take up arms, that we blow up places in other nations and we create groups to carry out sabotage in other countries? The imam was vehemently against this and was confronting it,” he added. His speech has been seen by some observers as accusing the Iranian authorities of encouraging militants to destabilize the Middle East, in particular Iraq and Lebanon. ‘

Some hard liners want to try Khatami for treason.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Sunni tribes have offered to mediate between the al-Maliki government and the Sadr Movement.

It also refers to Monday’s Pentagon-provoked story saying that Hizbullah of Lebanon is training Shiite radicals at camps in Iran.

I am suspicious of this story not because it is necessarily untrue (how would I know?) but because it shares with typical Bush administration propaganda the ‘gotcha’ technique in which questions of proportionality, significance and causality do not arise.

Thus, Dick Cheney repeatedly claimed that he had evidence that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom he simplistically linked with al-Qaeda, got hospital treatment in Baghdad. Cheney said that would have been impossible unless Saddam was actively hosting him. And if Saddam was giving hospital treatment to al-Zarqawi, then ipso facto the Baath regime was allied with and supporting al-Qaeda.

But Cheney’s entire argument is false from beginning to end. First of all, the Iraqi secret police put out an APB on al-Zarqawi when they thought he had entered their country, and were clearly afraid of him. There is no evidence that the regime afforded al-Zarqawi hospital care. Even if he had gotten treated, it was not proof of Saddam’s complicity with him or with al-Qaeda. These little tiny details were built up into a narrative that was intended to carry the audience along without their being able to ask any questions about it. How good was the proof for what Cheney alleged? Was al-Zarqawi really al-Qaeda back then? How important was he? How big an impact did his presence in Iraq have?

There were also repeated allegations from Cheney and others that Saddam was training al-Qaeda operatives at Salman Pak. Wrong.

Under torture, Ibn al-Sheikh Libi told the US that Saddam was training al-Qaeda operatives in the use of poison gas. It was a lie. That is the problem with putting people in so much pain that they will tell you anything. Cheney and Rice parroted this falsehood over and over again.

After the war and occupation began, Pentagon spokesmen actually alleged that 90% of the violence in Iraq was committed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group. But what, was he an Arab version of the Flash, able to run from Mosul to Baghdad in a few minutes? And when he was killed, nothing changed, so he wasn’t all that important.

Since Cheney and Rice wanted to go to war with Iraq so as to open its petroleum resources to exploitation by American firms, it really was immaterial to them if the things they were saying were true or not. They have never evinced any shame or regret. They are happy. They accomplished their goal.

We should not allow this sort of thing to happen again. The Pentagon story about Iran is fishy for these reasons:

The main pro-Iran militia in Iraq is the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Iran is happy with Badr’s vast influence. Badr has conflicts with the Mahdi Army. Why should Iran undermine its own client by favoring the latter? And note that the US never condemns Badr, which until recently was actually part of the Iranian military.

The information on the supposed Hizbullah training in Iran seems to have come from two or three captured Lebanese Shiites. That is a very small number. The US has 24,000 accused insurgents in captivity. If it only has a handful of Lebanese Shiites, then they just aren’t very important. The Principle of Proportionality holds.

Moreover, the allegations may have been produced by US torture of the captives and so may not be reliable.

Then even if it were true, how important is it? The Mahdi Army is tens of thousands of slum kids. Sadrism goes back to the 1990s in Iraq and is a mass movement. Iran had nothing to do with them historically. Moreover, how important is all this? Have, like, 4 Lebanese guys really trained all that many Mahdi Army militiamen? How many exactly? How much more effective would they be as a result? Wouldn’t the political support of millions of Iraqi Shiites in the South really be the source of Muqtada al-Sadr’s power and authority?

What is being alleged is too small to produce a really big, nation-wide effect in Iraq. The Mahdi Army fought the US military for two long hard months in spring of 2004, and for another month in August. Iran was not around.

Occam’s Razor dictates that we do not need Iran as a hypothesis for explaining the Sadr Movement or its activities in Iraq. Behind the scenes opinion polling suggests that the Sadr Movement has become more and more popular with the electorate. This, despite Iran’s having helped buy the election for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in 2005. Having gotten their clients in power, why would Iran now try to blow up Badr commanders who have become provincial governors or deputy governors.

The Sadrists are not even very strong in Basra city, which is one reason al-Maliki attacked them there. Iran was backing Badr in Basra.

If training is so important, then why does the Mahdi Army still defeat the highly trained and equipped Iraqi Army, which has had lots more training, often from high powered American and European and Jordanian trainers. Are you saying Iranian trainers are better? How would you fix that?

So, have a few hundred militiamen maybe gotten some basic guerrilla training from fellow Shiites somewhere? That isn’t the right question. The question is, how significant would that be if true. Remember, they are getting real time battle experience against US Marines, which is much more valuable than mere rudimentary boot camp. But, how could you rule it out? And, could such a thing really steer the fortunes of Iraq as a country? I think not.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Monday:

‘ Baghdad

Two policemen were wounded when gunmen opened fire targeting a police patrol in Bab al Sheikh neighborhood in downtown Baghdad on Sunday evening.

At least six civilians were killed and 31 others wounded in the American strikes on Sadr City in northeast Baghdad on Monday morning, medical sources in the hospitals of Sadr city said.

Five people were killed including three members of one family (parents and their child) and eight others were wounded when the American forces bombed Amil neighborhood in west Baghdad. The US military said in an e-mailed statement that the American soldiers responded to an attack from one of the buildings, killing three insurgents.

Two civilians were wounded in a bomb explosion near the oil marketing office in Zayuna neighborhood in east Baghdad around 8:30 p.m.

Police found four unidentified bodies throughout Baghdad in the following neighborhood (1 body in Husseiniyah, 1 body in Palestine Street, 1 body in Bayaa and 1 body in Amil)


Gunmen kidnapped three truck drivers while they were coming from Khanaqin town towards Qara Tabba area, 93 miles northeast of Baquba city on Monday morning.

Seven Iraqi soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb that targeted their patrol in Qara Tabba area around 12:00 p.m.

Three policemen were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion that targeted their patrol in Baladroz town 28 miles east of Baquba around 11:15 a.m.

Three members of the Kurdish security forces known as Bashmarga were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion that targeted their patrol on the road between Qara Tabba village and Hibhib village north of Baquba, lieutenant General Hameed Hussein fro n the Neshmarga brigade said, Clashes took place after the explosion but no casualties reported.

Gunmen attacked a check point of the Iraqi army in al Maiyah area in Mandili city, 40 miles east of Baquba city around 7:30 p.m. the gunmen killed ten soldiers then beheaded them. One civilian was wounded in the incident.


A policeman from Kirkuk Emergency Police was killed and seven others were wounded in a roadside bomb that targeted their patrol near the street leading to the airport on Monday morning.


A roadside bomb exploded in al Masarif neighborhood in downtown Mosul city on Monday afternoon. No casualties reported.

Police found an unidentified body in al Ma’arif neighborhood in downtown Mosul city on Monday afternoon.

Gunmen opened fire randomly in al Mamoun neighborhood in downtown on Monday afternoon injuring one civilian. ‘

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