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The Building Blocks of War
The Petraeus report could be the tipping point. But can we really trust it?
Chris Gelken (chrisg)     Print Article 
Published 2008-04-06 01:01 (KST)   
Just how much is Iran involved in, or indeed responsible for, the instability in Iraq? The answers to this question are often vague, ambiguous and frequently tainted by self-interest.

Last week General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, declared that the mortars and missiles fired on Baghdad's fortified Green Zone were of Iranian manufacture. He further asserted that they were supplied by Iran and fired by Iranian-trained insurgents.

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As for the provenance of the weapons, that is for a forensic ballistics expert to decide. Regarding the rest, well, it depends on who you trust, doesn't it?

And next week, Petraeus is going to tell Congress that everything that has gone wrong in Iraq is Iran's fault.

By contrast, many Iraq watchers are of the opinion that the recent Baghdad government assault on Basra and the subsequent nation-wide surge in violence was inspired by Vice President Dick Cheney during his recent visit to the region -- another of the building blocks, apparently, in plans for military action against Tehran. The aim, they say, was to destroy any support base the Iranians might have among the Shia militias to prevent effective retaliation in the event of a wider conflict.

Many of those same experts also point to Iran as being largely responsible for brokering a ceasefire.

Obviously, Iran has some influence in Iraq, but is it a positive or a negative influence?

It would be ridiculous for anyone to suggest that there are no Iranian-manufactured weapons in Iraq. One cannot imagine the number of Iranian weapons that were captured in the course of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War -- weapons that had been stored in ammunition dumps that were inexplicably left unguarded after the US-led invasion of 2003 and subsequently looted.

But proving a link between the weapons used against the Green Zone and the official sanctioning of their positioning in the hands of insurgents by the Tehran government is rather tricky.

Having said that, one cannot say with absolute conviction that certain Iranian government agencies are not turning a blind eye and allowing modern weapons across what is a very long, porous and virtually impossible to police border. But the question remains whether this is official policy, are the responsible agencies acting under direct orders from government leaders in Tehran?

Still again, was there nothing more than a discreet nod, a surreptitious wink? Perhaps.

Or are the accusations entirely without basis in fact, a deliberate attempt to justify an attack on Iran?

The fact is that no conclusive evidence has been presented to prove the case either way. One can read reams of authoritative text on the subject -- text that boldly asserts Iran's interference and equally paints Tehran as a maligned victim. The fact is, everything is possible, but exploring those alternatives is often inconvenient, especially when the ultimate aim is to find an excuse to launch military action against Tehran.

Accusing Iran of being responsible for the death of American troops in Iran is not without a similar and chilling precedent in recent US history.

There are still plenty of Irish-Americans who remember stuffing their dollars into the Noraid collection tin knowing full well they would be used to buy explosives and Armalites for the boys back home in Ireland -- explosives and Armalites they used against British civilians and British soldiers. Let us not be naive.

Of course, there are going to be Iranians who hold the same "noble" convictions of their Irish-American counterparts. There are doubtless Iranian officials who would also turn a blind eye. And with no doubt whatsoever there will be criminal elements who would be delighted to organize the purchase and transportation of weapons across a border as leaky as the one between the US and Mexico. Whether motivated by political conviction or a handsome fee, it really makes little difference in the end.

While Washington could have acted a little more proactively to clamp down on Noraid activities, none of this suggests that the White House actively and officially sanctioned the murder of British civilians and soldiers, does it? And if one can accept that premise, one also has to accept the possibility that the Iranian weapons that have found their way into Iraq did not necessarily get there with the blessing of the Tehran government.

Perhaps Tehran, like Washington, is being deliberately ambivalent. And really, you do not go to war with a country for being ambivalent.

There is another interesting aspect to the "Iranian" involvement in Iraq that has not been adequately explored by the mainstream media. It is worth taking note of the fact that many Sunni Iraqis commonly refer to Shia Iraqis as Iranians. It is a religious, racial thing. They do not consider the Shia Iraqis to be real Arabs, so they refer to them as Iranians, who are Persian.

Given the general lack of understanding that Western countries have of the Middle East, despite their decades of interference here, isn't it conceivable that the frequent reports of "Iranian" activity cited by Sunni Awakening Councils that are now allied with the US military might in fact be misidentifications? It could be widespread, or it could have happened only occasionally. It could be deliberate, or it could be an innocent mistake, but one with far reaching consequences.

There is a precedent. During the Balkan wars, Muslim jihadists, or just plain mercenaries, fought on the side of the Bosnian army. They were commonly referred to as Afghans, when in fact most of them were not. Actually, many of them were Saudi.

Some of these "Afghans" might now be in Iraq. There is ample opportunity for confusion, and ample opportunity for deliberate trouble making.

Iraq is a mess. Any semblance of law and order is but a distant memory of the really old folks who can remember when the British ran the place. Persecuted by Saddam Hussein, then bombed, starved and bombed again, occupied and abused, it is a land of opportunity for the unscrupulous and those wishing to settle a score.

Courtesy of the mayhem and mismanagement following the 2003 invasion, Iraq is the perfect venue for those with a grudge to play out their fantasies of revenge or advance their geopolitical ambitions.

But the point this article is trying to make, probably very badly, is that creating new scores to settle will not resolve anything.

The Petraeus report next week will possibly be one of the last building blocks in Washington's attempt to build a case for military action against Tehran.

In one way or another, he will cite many of the things referred to in this article, though obviously not in quite the same way. It will be up to Congress and the American public to prevent what has already been a disaster for the United States and this region from becoming something far, far worse.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Chris Gelken

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