By Robert Dreyfuss
"Since President Bush’s State of the Union address last Tuesday, the White House has manufactured a crisis that pits the United States against Iran. In what looks like the military and diplomatic equivalent of a full court press, Washington has unleashed a barrage of threats, maneuvers and limited military actions that seem calculated to set the United States on a collision course with Iran in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. All in all, it is an exceedingly risky and dangerous gambit.....
That’s not to say that Iran does not have multiple, and powerful, ties to virtually all of Iraq’s Shiite political elite and to some Kurdish warlords. Iran provides cash, arms and assistance to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose Badr Brigade militia operates as a death squad on behalf of the U.S.-allied government of Iraq. It has a vast presence in Iraq’s Shiite south, building ties to private militias, tribes and urban political machines. It has massive economic ties to Iraq, and, in a recent New York Times interview, Iran’s ambassador in Iraq announced that his country would open a branch of Iran’s leading bank in downtown Baghdad and “offer Iraqi government forces training, equipment and advisers for ‘the security fight.’” Iran has hosted visits from Iraq’s president, prime minister, foreign minister and other top Iraqi officials. But, it must be stressed, it is richly ironic that nearly all of Iran’s ties in Iraq are with Iraqi political forces who are America’s nominal allies – not to the armed resistance fighting the U.S. occupation.
Were this not so deadly serious, it would be farcical. One goal, apparently, of U.S. threats and bluster against Iran in Iraq is an attempt to break ties between Iran and, say, SCIRI – even though SCIRI is organically tied to Tehran and even though it was created in 1982 by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini. Though SCIRI is happy to receive U.S. support as well (its turbaned leader recently visited the Oval Office), there is no question that the Shiite leaders in Iraq know that one day the United States will leave, while Iran, Iraq’s giant neighbor to the east, will always be there. Those realities seem not to have registered with Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, who told The Washington Post that even though SCIRI and Iran had close ties in the 1980s, “Now it’s a different situation, so there is a need for adaptation of what’s appropriate in terms of a relationship.” Perhaps, by invading the compound of SCIRI’s leader and seizing several officers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard there last month, Khalilzad thought he was sending the “appropriate” message that SCIRI needs to break its ties to Iran. Not likely....."