Iran har i all stillhet skaffet seg stor innflytelse i Irak. Det må være bittert å svelge for amerikanerne. «The insurgents», sunni-opprørere og jihadister, kan aldri vinne i Irak. Men innflytelsen de skaffer seg gjennom shiaene er vanskelig å motvirke.
Uroen britene opplevde i Basra denne uken henger direkte sammen med Iran. De to SAS-agentene skulle forsøke å hindre innsmuglingen av en ny type avanserte bomber. Det er samme typer bomber som Iran leverte til Hizbollah. De er spesialdesignet for å sprenge istykker stålet i panservognene. SAS-agentens oppdrag var å uskadeliggjøre smuglerne, om nødvendig drepe dem.
Akkurat disse forholdene hører vi ikke om fra offisielle medier. De kommer først frem i etterkant, og da er de ikke interessante. Men de blir neppe lest, og blir heller ikke benyttet ved neste korsvei.
En som tok opp Irans voksende innflytelse var den avgåtte forsvarsministeren, Hazim al-Shalan, som har flyktet tilbake til London, hvor han bodde i eksil i mange år. Shalan forsøkte å advare amerikanerne om faren. Det er muligens derfor han ble anklaget for å ha underslått nærmere 300 millioner dollar.
Ifølge Shalan var Iran inne med agenter før Saddam hadde falt. De kjøpte seg innflytelse: betalte folk for å stemme på deres folk og sørget for å få dem inn i nøkkelposisjoner.
«The Iranians decided there was an opportunity to send large numbers of people very quickly into Iraq. Thousands of Iranians and Iraqi exiles who had joined the militia in Iran began arriving with money to buy houses,» said Shalan.
They sought positions of influence on the new councils and other bodies being formed.
«I talked to the Americans about it, told them trouble was building,» said Shalan, who was at the time a governor in charge of the city of Diwaniyah, with 1m residents. «But the Americans said the Iranians were not effective and not a threat.
«They had received assurances from Tehran that Iran was not trying to get involved.»
Dette var første fase. Iran følte seg trygge, og nå ble de mer dristige. De tilbød trening inne i Iran, og flere politioffiserer og offiserer fra hæren har vært inn og blitt trent. De tar dermed ordre fra Teheran.
The Iranians began taking people to camps just over the border in the Diyala desert region,» he said. «In these camps the Iraqis were being taught military or terrorist techniques; but there was also a very strong religious element. Thousands of men from Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Basra were being brainwashed, turned into extremists and taught to fight. They were paid between $100 and $200 a month.»
Shalan said he set up an undercover team to infiltrate the camps and report back. He compiled evidence that recruits returning to Iraq were joining the local police forces and army. He said he sent the analysis to his contacts in American military intelligence.
During 2004, according to Shalan, the «situation developed more». The Iranians began targeting Shi’ite officers in the army and police who were offered payments of $300 a month to attend courses with the Iranian army in Tehran.
Shalan was by now the defence minister on the interim Iraqi governing council and infiltrated the courses with undercover agents. They discovered 15 Iraqi army officers from Basra, three from Nasiriya and 20 from Amarah undergoing training. «In September 2004 I sent the information to American military intelligence,» said Shalan. «I warned them: they are being trained to attack you.»
Tredje fase er innsmugling av våpen, og mest sensasjonelt: avanserte bilbombefabrikker rett over grensen!
«It was incredibly sophisticated,» said Shalan. «They were using cars with two fuel tanks and converting one tank into a bomb.»
At the end of 2003, a captured Iranian colonel revealed another factory near the border in southern Iran which made remote-control bombs. He claimed that more than 3,000 had been smuggled into Iraq. This was corroborated by other intelligence, said Shalan.
Men hva er iranerne ute etter?
He believes that the Iranians have two aims: to ensure Iraq becomes a religious state over which they have influence or control, and to keep the Americans under pressure.
«The insurgency is a diversionary tactic by Iran to keep the American army busy,» he said. «The Iranian mission is to tie up the Americans for as long as possible so they can develop nuclear weapons.
«However, if the Americans pull out of Iraq my assessment is that the Iranians would be able to take control very quickly.
«Then there really would be a serious threat to world peace. Can you imagine the Iranians controlling all that oil?»
Dette er et syn som deles av en forsker, Gareth Stasfield, som går så langt som til å si at Iran er den fremste «player» i Irak, ikke USA.
Det er sterke ord.
Gareth Stansfield, an expert in Middle East politics at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and Exeter University, believes the Iranians are already the real winners from the Iraq war.
«Iraq has been delivered to Iran on a plate by the coalition,» he said. «It sits there as a powerful neighbour, with very complex and strong links in the south . . . and politically with the Kurds in the north.
«I would go so far as to say that the pre-eminent foreign force in Iraq is not the US, it is Iran. It has succeeded in its geopolitical aim — Iraq will never threaten them again — and it has tied up the US in a swamp of insurgencies.»