Saturday, April 5, 2008

IRAN CALLS THE SHOTS IN IRAQ PEACE DEAL

M K BHADRAKUMAR, ASIA TIMES By all accounts, Iran played a decisive role in hammering out the peace deal among the Shi'ite factions in Iraq. A bloody week of human killing on the Tigris River ended on Sunday. Details are sketchy, however, since they must come from non-Iranian sources. Tehran keeps silent about its role. . . It appears that one of the most shadowy figures of the Iranian security establishment, General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps personally mediated in the intra-Iraqi Shi'ite negotiations. Suleimani is in charge of the IRGC's operations abroad.

US military commanders routinely blame the Quds for all their woes in Iraq. The fact that the representatives of Da'wa and SIIC secretly traveled to Qom under the very nose of American and British intelligence and sought Quds mediation to broker a deal conveys a huge political message. Iran signals that security considerations rather than politics or religion prevailed.

But the politics of the deal are all too apparent. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was camping in Basra and personally supervising the operations against the Mahdi Army, was not in the loop about the goings-on. As for US President George W Bush, he had just spoken praising Maliki for waging a "historic and decisive" battle against the Mahdi Army, which he said was "a defining moment" in the history of a "free Iraq". Both Maliki and Bush look very foolish. . .

The most important Iranian calculation would be not to provoke the Americans unnecessarily by rubbing in the true import of what happened. Tehran would be gratified that in any case it has made the point that it possesses awesome influence within Iraq. Anyone who knows today's anarchic Iraq would realize that triggering a new spiral of violence in that country may not require much ingenuity, muscle power or political clout.

But to be able to summarily cry halt to cascading violence, and to achieve that precisely in about 48 hours, well, that's an altogether impressive capability in political terms. In this case, the Iranians have managed it with felicitous ease, as if they were just turning off a well-lubricated tap. That requires great command over the killing fields of Iraq, the native warriors, and the sheer ability to calibrate the flow of events and micromanage attitudes.

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