I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Iranians owe us a big thank you

I have written several posts over the post few days regarding the growing influence of Iran among the dominant Shiite political forces in Iraq and the quite likely prospect that an elected Iraqi Shiite government will be a close ally of the Iranian ruling mullahs -- certainly closer to them to the U.S. This danger seems to have profound, perhaps even dispositive, implications for whether this war turns out to be a good idea, as Iran, a card-carrying Axis of Evil member, seems to be our most serious threat at the moment, at least in the Middle East.

If we end up creating a governmental system that produces an Iranian puppet government in Iraq -- and ironically, at this point, the only thing that seems capable of stopping us from doing exactly that is our own failure in stabilizing that country enough to allow anyone to govern it -- will anyone really be able to say with a straight face that this war has been worth it or, on balance, has advanced U.S. interests? It's quite hard to see how anyone could.

Two new stories today add fuel to this Iran fire. The first is from the Bush-protecting Washington Times, which cites a former Iraqi general, Gen. Muntazar Jasim al-Samarrai, who claims that "a senior Iranian intelligence officer was in charge of a network of detention centers [in Iraq] where suspected insurgents were routinely tortured and sometimes killed." The article says that the Iranian official, ominously known as "The Engineer,"worked in multiple Iraqi prisons and managed the Jadriya facility, which is the prison the U.S. raided last month and "found 166 prisoners, many emaciated and bearing obvious signs of torture."

The second, and even more disturbing and far-reaching, story, is from Knight Ridder, which reports that the Iranian Government is basically funding and controlling the Shiite militias which are running Iraq's Interior Ministry, which seems to be quickly turning into a vicious secret police that is "running death squads and operating a network of secret prisons":

The Iranian-backed militia the Badr Organization has taken over many of the Iraqi Interior Ministry's intelligence activities and infiltrated its elite commando units, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

That's enabled the Shiite Muslim militia to use Interior Ministry vehicles and equipment - much of it bought with American money - to carry out revenge attacks against the minority Sunni Muslims, who persecuted the Shiites under Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, current and former Ministry of Interior employees told Knight Ridder.

The Iranian-controlled Badr militias are not some marginalized fringe group. To the contrary, they are an integral component of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the victorious party in January's Iraqi Purple Finger elections, comprised of the Shiite contingents likely to rule Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Put more simply, Iran is funding and controlling crucial parts of the Iraqi government. And the Badr contingent isn't even trying to deny it any longer:

Allawi receives money from America, from the CIA, but nobody talks about that. All they talk about is our funding from Iran," he said, raising his voice. "We are funded by some (Persian) Gulf countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran. We don't hide it."

Badr was formed and trained in Iran in cooperation with the Iranian government, and its members staged raids into Iraq during the war between the neighboring countries in the 1980s.

This presents a rather suffocating dilemma. The more the democratic processes advance, the more power these Shiite factions will obtain. And that means that the control exerted by our enemy Iran over sizeable portions of the Iraqi government will continue to increase, especially when and if we begin some sort of reduced presence in Iraq.

Did we think about this before we invaded? Does anyone have a solution to this problem now? Is anyone even talking about it? How are we going to prevent Iraqi Shiites from electing a government which forms a close alliance with Iran, and similarly, how are we going to prevent Iran from exerting substantial control over Iraq's internal affairs?

What an odd thing we did here. Our most serious enemy had at the top of its wish list the elimination of Saddam Hussein's hostile Sunni regime (which, by the way, waged bloody war against Iran for 8 years), and in Iran's wildest wet dreams, that regime would be replaced by Iranian-friendly Shiite clerics and militia figures which it has long controlled.

And we spent a huge amount of money and sacrificed thousands of lives -- still counting, in both areas -- trying to achieve exactly that. And if we are successful in achieving the goals which the Bush Administration says that we now have, it means that we will leave Iraq under Iran's influence as soon as possible.

I don't think that more lofty paeans to liberation and democracy and purple inked-fingers are going to compensate for that rather disastrous and dangerous result.

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