Interviewed in the UK’s Times.
Who was behind the kidnapping of five Britons in Baghdad last month and what is being done to free them?
“We think that it is the same network that killed our soldiers in Kerbala in an operation back in January. We killed the head of that network less than a week before the operation that detained those British civilians. It was already planned and carried out by his followers. It is a secret cell of Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) not all of which are under control of Moqtadr al-Sadr. That is the assessment at this point.”
“They are not rank and file Jaish al-Mahdi. They are trained in Iran, equipped with Iranian (weapons), and advised by Iran. The Iranian involvement here we have found to be much, much more significant that we thought before. They have since about the summer of 2004 played a very, very important role in training in Iran, funding, arming.”
“This is lethal stuff, like EFPs (explosively-formed penetrators), mortars, and rockets that are used against Basra Palace (the main British base in Basra). There is also a degree of direction, not in a strategic way but in tactical operations. We captured a wealth of documentation which showed how they account for what they have done, we assume so they can get paid for it, and get additional funding.”
Says Michael Ledeen:
I think this is now on the verge of becoming the conventional wisdom, after years of denial from top Bush-administration officials, including, sad to say, Petraeus’s predecessors. There has long been a desperate attempt to deny Iran’s role in Iraq (and Afghanistan, for that matter), primarily because it was clear to the military that the policy makers back home didn’t want to take the decisive action that the information so clearly demanded. And demands.
Secretary of State Rice seems to have been extremely tenacious in insisting that we must stick to a diplomatic track with the mullahs, even going so far as to recommend the release of the “Irbil 5,” the Revolutionary Guards officers captured in Irbil. I suspect—no inside information mind you—that at least some of what Petraeus has learned came from those Iranian killers, and he has bluntly said that he intends to keep them as long as they can talk, as long as we have food for them.
Ledeen finishes with a paragraph that describes Washington to a tee while netting nearly the entire Democrat party and its supporters as well: The desire not to know trumps all.
The desire not to know doesn’t describe the troops in Iraq at all. In our short time in Baghdad, we must have heard variations on the same question from troops a dozen times: Why doesn’t X (X being the Bush administration, or the press, or the Washington establishment, etc) report the fact that Iran is fueling the violence in Iraq? I think Ledeen has hit on the answer. Knowing and acknowledging that Iran is behind a great deal of the violence forces action. The left would have to acknowledge, as it did briefly after 9-11, that the world is dangerous quite outside the actions of the US. Washington would have to acknowledge that the war in Iraq isn’t a civil war, it’s a regional war being fought inside one country, with smaller but no less important side theaters being fought in Gaza, in Lebanon and in northern Israel. Acknowledging that fact forces some very tough and dangerous decisions. So rather than make those tough and dangerous decisions, it’s easier and more comforting to just feign or enforce ignorance.
Downside: It gives Iran a free hand to drive us out of Iraq.