Nytt

Iran har brutt med Muqtadah al-Sadr og foretrekker utbrytere fra Mahdi-hæren som sendes inn i Irak, anført av syv iranske offiserer. Iran ønsker å holde amerikanerne ute av balanse og venter på dagen de drar.

I en oppsummering av the Surge på ettårsdagen, har AP noen interessante opplysninger om dagens iranske politikk overfor Irak.

As the U.S. begins reversing the expansion of troop strength — back to the pre-surge levels of about 130,000 — Iran has quietly placed itself in the control room of Iraq’s future. Tehran has major military and political tools available to it until U.S. forces eventually leave and has sunk deep roots inside the country’s fertile Shiite political power structure.

While the Americans say they have seen a decline in Iranian funding and arming of rogue members al-Sadr’s Shiite militia, six key Shiite figures from across the political spectrum have told The Associated Press that Iran is pressing ahead in several directions.

Iran is gaming its future in Iraq on three fronts, the most public of which has been face-to-face meetings between U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi. Another session could be held in March.

While Crocker has insisted the talks have not veered from topics surrounding Iraqi security, the Iraqi officials, some of whom sat in on the meetings, say their scope has expanded.

The result, the officials said, was Iran’s pledge to stop backing the Mahdi Army in return for the Bush administration lowering its rhetoric about Iran’s nuclear program. The Iraqis who spoke about the talks said they believed the release of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in December was a quid pro quo to Tehran for it having turned its back on the Mahdi Army.
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On the second front, Iran has shunned the Mahdi Army, but has continued sending arms, fighters and money into Iraq. The leaders of these groups of fighters take orders from Iran and are known as the Ettelaat, shorthand for Iranian intelligence.

The Iraqi officials who spoke to the AP said that after al-Sadr announced a freeze on his militia in August, the Iranians sent in seven Ettelaat commanders — Iraqis loyal to Iran who had been training and handling elite Mahdi Army groups in Iran. These at the time had broken with the mainstream militia over the freeze.

The commanders were said to have slowly infiltrated with more than 1,000 men armed and trained by Iran, with orders to continue harassing the Americans with roadside bombings, mortar and rocket attacks — a one-year high of 12 on the Army’s 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in January alone, the military said.

The Ettelaat force in Iraq is recruiting more fighters from among disaffected Mahdi Army foot soldiers and commanders of the so-called «special groups,» not only to keep American forces off balance but also as a sleeper brigade that would open all-out warfare should the United States attack Iran, a real fear in Tehran, the Iraqi officials said.

Politisk har Iran skiftet samarbeidspartner fra Muqtadah al-Sadr til Abdul Aziz al-Hakim og hans parti, SIIC, tidligere SCIRI.

Politically, Iran has now cut ties with al-Sadr, having decided his usefulness as a tactical tool against American forces has run its course. Now, the officials said, Iran has thrown its full backing behind the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the country’s most powerful Shiite political insider.

Ironically, al-Hakim has been a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to build a moderate Shiite political structure in the country. He has been used by Washington as a counterbalance to more radical Shiite tendencies and is seen as more open to sharing some power with the country’s Sunni Muslim minority, which ran Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

The US troop surge, a year later