Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Iran in the Petraeus-Crocker hearings

As expected, Iran received a significant amount of attention at the Petraeus-Crocker hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) yesterday.

In his report to the committees, General David H. Petraeus focused much of the blame for failure in Iraq on Iran. Here are specific claims against Iran from Petraeus’ report:

“Though a Sadr standdown order resolved the situation to a degree, the flare-up also highlighted the destructive role Iran has played in funding, training, arming, and directing the so-called Special Groups and generated renewed concern about Iran in the minds of many Iraqi leaders. Unchecked, the Special Groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.” (page 1)

“Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way, through its lethal support to the Special Groups.” (page 2)

“Together with the Iraqi Security Forces, we have also focused on the Special Groups. These elements are funded, trained, armed, and directed by Iran’s Qods Force, with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government two weeks ago, causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital, and requiring Iraqi and Coalition actions in response. Iraqi and Coalition leaders have repeatedly noted their desire that Iran live up to promises made by President Ahmedinajad and other senior Iranian leaders to stop their support for the Special Groups. However, nefarious activities by the Qods Force have continued, and Iraqi leaders now clearly recognize the threat they pose to Iraq. We should all watch Iranian actions closely in the weeks and months ahead, as they will show the kind of relationship Iran wishes to have with its neighbor and the character of future Iranian involvement in Iraq.” (page 4)

“External actors, like Iran, could stoke violence within Iraq, and actions by other neighbors could undermine the security situation as well.” (page 5)

“The strategic considerations include recognition that…a failed state in Iraq would pose serious consequences for the greater fight against Al Qaeda, for regional stability, for the already existing humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and for the effort to counter malign Iranian influence.” (page 6)

“It clearly is in our national interest to help Iraq prevent the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the heart of the Arab world, to help Iraq resist Iranian encroachment on its sovereignty, to avoid renewed ethno-sectarian violence that could spill over Iraq’s borders and make the existing refugee crisis even worse, and to enable Iraq to expand its role in the regional and global economies.” (page 6)

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker also pointed the proverbial finger at Iran. Here are some of his statements:

“A wildcard remains the Sadrist Trend – and whether the Iraqis can continue to drive a wedge between other elements of the Trend and Iranian-supported Special Groups.” (page 6)

“Iran continues to undermine the efforts of the Iraqi government to establish a stable, secure state through the authority and training of criminal militia elements engaged in violence against Iraqi security forces, coalition forces and Iraqi civilians. The extent of Iran’s malign influence was dramatically demonstrated when militia elements armed and trained by Iran clashed with Iraqi government forces in Basrah and Baghdad. When the President announced the Surge, he pledged to seek out and destroy Iranian-supported lethal networks inside Iraq. We know more about these networks and their Quds Force sponsors than ever before – and we will continue to aggressively uproot and destroy them. At the same time, we support constructive relations between Iran and Iraq and are participating in a tripartite process to discuss the security situation in Iraq. Iran has a choice to make.” (page 12-13)

“And it is not only Al-Qa’ida that would benefit [from a major U.S. departure] -- Iran has said publicly it will fill any vacuum in Iraq, and extremist Shi’a militias would reassert themselves. We saw them try in Basrah and Baghdad two weeks ago. And in all of this, the Iraqi people would suffer on a scale far beyond what we have already seen. Spiraling conflict could draw in neighbors with devastating consequences for the region and the world.” (page 14)

During the question and answer session in SASC, Senators Martinez, Lieberman, Graham also focused their line of questioning on blaming Iran for the events in Basra. Senator Jack Reed pointed out that Iranians are actually supporting all of the various Shi’a groups in Iraq, including the government.

In the SFRC hearing, Ambassador Crocker claimed U.S. has conducted a “diplomatic surge.” Senator Chuck Hagel retorted that such claims are thin and a real diplomatic surge would involve Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates or a special envoy reaching out to Iraq’s neighbors to talk not just about Iraq, but also a range of regional issues.

And, of course, one of the other highlights was Senator John McCain once again confusing Sunni and Shi’a.

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