In today's NY Times, I was left with some questions about what really do we know about Iran's actions, and, who are they supposedly training and arming? Further along, as Sen. Feinstein states: “This is not a new thing,” she said of Iran’s involvement. “Why all of a sudden do the sabers start to rattle?” A very good question!
Some intelligence and administration officials said Iran seemed to have carefully calibrated its involvement in Iraq over the last year, in contrast to what President Bush and other American officials have publicly portrayed as an intensified Iranian role.
It remains difficult to draw firm conclusions about the ebb and flow of Iranian arms into Iraq, and the Bush administration has not produced its most recent evidence.
But interviews with more than two dozen military, intelligence and administration officials showed that while shipments of arms had continued in recent months despite an official Iranian pledge to stop the weapons flow, they had not necessarily increased.
So what's the deal? As the article claims repeatedly, Iran's Quds forces is training and arming Shiite militias, what it fails to do is say which militias they're training... Is it Dawa, Sciri's Badr Brigades, or Sadr's JAM/Mahdi Army, amongst several others?
Iran seems to have focused instead on training Iraqi Shiite fighters inside Iran, though the exact number remains unclear. Some officials said only handfuls of fighters at a time had recently trained in Iran. At the same time, Iran has sought to retain political and economic influence over a variety of Shiite factions, not just the most extremist militias, known as “special groups.”
“They don’t want to be identified with activities that might be seen by the international community as illegitimate,” a senior official familiar with the intelligence about Iran said in an interview.
Iran has sought to spread its influence inside Iraq not only by its support to militias, officials said, but also through legitimate economic assistance, in particular across the oil-rich Shiite south.
The Iranians also support a number of Shiite parties and militias — including providing weapons to militias fighting the Shiite-led government in Baghdad as well as to militias supporting that government.
Rather generic and inconclusive in my book... Where's the beef? Or rather, the Dossier...
At the White House, the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies and the military headquarters in Baghdad, officials declined to detail publicly the extent of Iran’s support for fighters in Iraq, referring instead only in broad terms to training, equipping and financing Shiite militias.
But in the wake of his briefings to Congress on April 8 and 9, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior commander, ordered his subordinates to prepare a public dossier on Iranian involvement as part of the administration’s efforts to expose Iran’s covert activities and sustain support for the war, which is increasingly unpopular at home.
Publication of the dossier — which includes pages of charts and photographs of seized Iranian-made weapons — has been widely expected but has now been delayed while the government of Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, confronts Iran diplomatically with new evidence of Iranian assistance to Shiite militias, one of the officials said.
The administration’s focus on Iran has raised alarms among the war’s staunchest critics, who accuse the White House of overstating the threat and laying the groundwork for military action against Iran.
I definitely concur with the overstating part... The last thing we need to do is bomb Iran...
Here's another look at what is in play with Basra and the tangled web created by Maliki, the US, and Iran...
Ultimately, the Basra battle has multiple political dimensions in addition to the oil dimension. These include the conflict between the Shiite parties in the south (Supreme Council, Sader's Movement, al-Fadeela Party, and al-Da'wa Party and its different branches), the powerful militias engaged in stealing and smuggling oil, and the disagreement over whether or not the Basra province will support the proposal made by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council to form a southern district that includes the province of Basra (a proposal vehemently rejected by other Shiite parties) and other southern and central provinces. Moreover, the battle represents a significant confrontation between the US and Iran which has been expanding its influence in Basra through its multiple intelligence agencies. This battle is therefore part of the struggle between Washington and Tehran in the Middle East as the case is in Lebanon and Gaza.
The Sadr Movement claims that the timing of the battle of Basra was determined by its decision to participate in the upcoming provincial elections and the attempt to prevent its candidates from winning them. It is worth mentioning that the Sad Movement had previously boycotted these elections allowed the candidates of the Supreme Council and Al-Fadeela Party to win those elections.
What a tangled web, indeed...