Monday, April 7, 2008

Petraeus Testimony to Defend False "Proxy War" Line

Analysis by Gareth Porter

"WASHINGTON, Apr 7 (IPS) - A key objective of the Congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus this week will be to defend the George W. Bush administration's strategic political line that it is fighting an Iranian "proxy war" in Iraq.

Based on preliminary indications of his spin on the surprisingly effective armed resistance to the joint U.S.-Iraqi "Operation Knights Assault" in Basra, Petraeus will testify that it was caused by Iran through a group of rogue militiamen who had split off from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and came under Iranian control......

The idea of Iranian-backed "rogue" Shiite militia groups undermining Sadr's efforts to pursue a more moderate course was introduced by the U.S. military command in early 2007. These alleged Iranian proxies were called "Special Groups" -- a term that came not from Iran or the Shiites themselves but from the Bush administration.....

A pro-war military blogger named Bill Roggio, who maintains close relations with the U.S. command in Baghdad, revealed in February 2007 that the real purpose of the line about Iranian-controlled "Special Groups" was to facilitate Petraeus's strategy of dividing the Mahdi Army. "The 'rogue element' narrative provides Mahdi Army fighters and commanders an 'out'," wrote Roggio. A Mahdi Army unit commander could either "choose to oppose the government and be targeted," he observed, "or step aside and join the political process."......

The Mar. 30 story by McClatchy's Leila Fadel on the ending of the Basra crisis shows that Iran's real strategy in Iraq bears no resemblance to the one portrayed in the U.S. proxy war narrative. Fadel reported that Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of the IRGC, brokered a ceasefire with Sadr after representatives of the Shiite parties now supporting the al-Maliki government traveled secretly to Qom, Iran Mar. 29-30, to ask for his intervention.

Suleimani's role in reducing the violence in Basra underlines the reality that Iranian power in Shiite Iraq is based on its having worked with and provided assistance to all the Shiite parties and factions. Iran's determination to stay on good terms with all the Shiite factions has made it the primary arbiter of conflicts among them.

Iran has no reason to look for a small splinter group to advance its interests when it already enjoys a relationship of strategic cooperation with the government itself.

The Madhi Army has received training in both Lebanon and in Iran and has undoubtedly used financial assistance from Iran to procure weapons. But Sadr revealed in his al-Jazeera interview that he had told Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on a trip to Iran that he did not agree with the "political and military interests" that Tehran had pursued in Iraq. That was an apparent reference to Iran's pronounced tilt toward Sadr's Shiite rivals who remain in power with joint U.S.-Iranian support....."

No comments: