Iran Focus: London, Nov. 27 The United States Congressional Research Service issued a report warning of Irans dominating influence in neighbouring Iraq. Iran Focus
London, Nov. 27 The United States Congressional Research Service issued a report warning of Irans dominating influence in neighbouring Iraq.
The report, recently posted on the website of the U.S. State Department, cited Iranian support for militant groups and Shiite political parties in Iraq.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has showcased its growing political and economic influence over and mentorship of the Iraqi government, it said, adding that the thrust of Irans strategy in Iraq has been to engineer and perpetuate domination of Iraqs government by pro-Iranian Shiite Islamist movements that would, in Irans view, likely align Iraqs foreign policy with that of Iran.
It identified two groups in particular of being Irans Shiite Islamist protégés in Iraq – the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the most pro-Iranian of the groups, and the Dawa (Islamic Call) party, whose leader is current Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.
According to the report, SCIRI controls a 20,000-strong militia called the Badr Brigades, recently renamed the Badr Organisation. Badr fighters are playing unofficial policing roles in Basra and other Shiite cities. Those Badr members that have joined the national Iraqi police and military forces are widely said to retain their loyalties to Badr and SCIRI.
The Badr Brigades were formed, trained, and equipped by Irans Revolutionary Guard, politically aligned with Irans hardliners, during the Iran-Iraq war, the Congressional report said. A related militia called the Wolf Brigade is a Badr offshoot that is formally under the Ministry of Interiors control. It is led by a SCIRI activist.
The report also noted Irans relations with Moqtada Al Sadr, another Shiite Islamist cleric, stating, Irans strategy thus far apparently has been to build ties to Sadr and attempt to persuade him to work with SCIRI, Dawa, and Ayatollah Sistani in the political process, while tolerating or possibly even encouraging his occasional challenges to U.S. and British forces in southern Iraq.
Irans relationship with Iraqs Moqtada Al Sadr is relatively new, but Iran appears to see him as a growing force in Iraqi politics, and a long term asset to Iran. Many of the alleged Iranian weapons shipments into Iraq appear to have been destined for Sadrs forces.
It added that Sadrs Mahdi Army had the potential to again come into conflict with U.S. forces, possibly bringing Iran or its representatives into conflict with the United States as well.
Referring to the Sunni insurgency in central and northern Iraq, it warned that Iranian support to Sunni Muslim insurgents, such as foreign volunteers commanded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, might be part of a plan by Tehran to cause harm to the U.S. military position in Iraq.
Iran appears to be pursuing multiple options in Iraq. Iran is supporting the U.S.-engineered political process in Iraq because doing so favours pro-Iranian movements in Iraq, which have numeric strength and a degree of popularity. However, Iran is preserving the option of sponsoring militant activity in Iraq either to drive U.S. and allied forces out of Iraq or to raise the costs of U.S. military intervention close to Irans borders.
The report summed up by saying that the significant Iranian influence in Iraq could enable Tehran to retaliate against the U.S. should it succeed in persuading the United Nations to impose economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic because of its nuclear program.