How will the administration’s critics handle this one, I wonder. Does it go in the “Bush has handed Iraq to Iran” file, like that McClatchy expose last week about the Quds Force, or in the “Bush is exaggerating Iran’s influence as a pretext for war” file? Since it’s based on military sources and was written by Michael Gordon, Judy Miller’s co-author on the Times’s stories about Iraqi WMD before the invasion, I’m guessing the latter.
Militants from the Lebanese group Hezbollah have been training Iraqi militia fighters at a camp near Tehran, according to American interrogation reports that the United States has supplied to the Iraqi government.
An American official said the account of Hezbollah’s role was provided by four Shiite militia members who were captured in Iraq late last year and questioned separately…
In a possible effort to be less obtrusive, it appears that Iran is now bringing small groups of Iraqi Shiite militants to camps in Iran, where they are taught how to do their own training, American officials say.
The militants then return to Iraq to teach comrades how to fire rockets and mortars, fight as snipers or assemble explosively formed penetrators, a particularly lethal type of roadside bomb made of Iranian components, according to American officials. The officials describe this approach as “training the trainers.”
The training, the Americans say, is carried out at several camps near Tehran that are overseen by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Command, and the instruction is carried out by militants from Hezbollah, which has long been supported by the Quds Force.
I’ve linked these two posts about Hezbollah’s coordination with the Shiite militias so many times before that it’s hard to believe any of our readers haven’t read them yet, but if you haven’t, there you go. Any reason to believe this coordination is going on specifically in training camps outsider Tehran, though? Oddly enough, yeah. Revisit this suddenly prescient entry from last March; the same Iranian dissident who exposed the mullahs’ enrichment facility at Natanz in 2002 offered names, maps, and satellite photos of what he claimed were the training facilities. A few weeks later, Gen. Caldwell also accused Iran of training militias.
How seriously is this being taken? If the Times of London is right, the Pentagon’s already drawing up plans to attack one of the camps in what I assume will be a hit-and-run along the lines of what Israel pulled on Syria’s reactor last year. The goal ostensibly is to get the Quds Force to back off but it sounds like they’re also treating it as a shot across the bow of the nuclear program in lieu of an attack on Iran’s reactors, which would demand a response in a way that hitting a secret terrorist facility wouldn’t. Take it with a grain of salt, but on the other hand it sure is curious to see Iran suddenly warm to the idea (at least publicly) of disarming Iraq’s militias. Have they ever taken that position vis-a-vis Hezbollah?
question quotation via the NYT: “According to their interrogation reports, the militiamen believed that militants from other countries were also being trained at the camp, an impression based on hearing snippets of conversations in other dialects and languages. But the group was kept separate and was not allowed to mingle with others.” Who else is at the camps?