Iran Brokers Basra Deal
Events on the ground in Iraq continue to defy the Bush's administration's ongoing misrepresentation of the Iranian threat there. Just one day after Republican Senator Lindsay Graham wrongly claimed Iran was backing just one of the three Shiite forces in Basra comes word that Tehran brokered a deal aimed at halting the carnage there.
As McClatchy, USA Today, the New York Times and others are reporting, Iraqi lawmakers traveled to Qom where a general of the Iranian Qods force helped negotiate the agreement to try to end the fighting between the Maliki government, his allies in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Basra's Fadhilla party and Moqtada Al-Sadr' Mahdi Army. (Sadr has been pursuing his religious studies in the Iranian city.) As McClatchy reported:
There the Iraqi lawmakers held talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and signed an agreement with Sadr, which formed the basis of his statement Sunday, members of parliament said.
Ali al Adeeb, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's Dawa party, and Hadi al Ameri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, had two aims, lawmakers said: to ask Sadr to stand down his militia and to ask Iranian officials to stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq.
All of which suggests the complexity of the American position in Iraq, one which President Bush and his allies can't - or won't - acknowledge . Contrary to McCain ally Graham's statement about Sadr's Madhi Army ("The militias that we are fighting are backed by Iran"), Iran is providing arms, training and logistical assistance to all of the Shiite factions involved in the recent fighting. (And the Qods force is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States.) As ThinkProgress noted Sunday, no Shiite military/political group is a bigger beneficiary of Iranian largesse than the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council of Sayyed Abdul Azziz al-Hakim. And Hakim isn't merely an ally of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. He also happens to have had high-profile meetings with both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Regardless, the agreement is fragile, to say the least. An unnamed Iraqi official worried, "I will not be surprised if the whole thing collapses." Osama al Nejafi, a legislator from an Iraqi parliamentary committee created to address the Basra crisis, concluded, "Iran was part of the problem and an effective part of the negotiations."
Back in Washington, no doubt, the Bush White House only heard the first part Nejafi's assessment.
UPDATE: As I noted above, the Iranian Qods force is on an American list of terrorist organizations. McClatchy is now reporting that Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani mentioned above appears by name on U.S. Treasury and United Nations terrorism and nuclear materials watch lists.