Iran, Our “Friend”?

Posted: September 8, 2008 in 2007, Articles
Tags: ,

November 2007:

NOTE: 4 seperate articles are below…

Where the Fighters Are Coming From

US general says Iran helping stop Iraq bloodshed

Lieutenant General James Dubik, who is in charge of training Iraqi security forces, said Tehran was keeping to its pledge of stopping the smuggling of weapons to Iraqi extremists.

“We are all thankfull for the commitment Iran has made to reduce the flow in weapons, explosives and training (of extremists) in Iraq,” Dubik told reporters in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“As a result of that, it has made some contribution to the reduction of violence” in Iraq, he said.

US commanders claim violence in Iraq has dropped by 55 percent since the military’s surge became fully operational in June.

Dubik said it was still early to assess the exact contribution of Iran but “we hope that the commitment stays in effect.”

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates earlier this month said Tehran had assured Baghdad it would help stop the inflow of Iranian weapons into Iraq.

The US military has charged that Iranian-made bombs were being smuggled into Iraq to Shiite extremists and used to kill coalition forces.

Another US commander, Major General Kevin Bergner, expressed optimism that the decision to hold fresh talks between Tehran, Washington and Baghdad over the turmoil in Iraq would further help boost this commitment of Iran.

“It is important here that the commitments that have been made start to see progress that is strategically measurable and sustains over time,” he told reporters in the conference with Dubik.

On Tuesday, Tehran announced it was ready for talks with Washington over the Iraq’s security and stability.

The talks would be held in Baghdad but the final date is yet to be fixed.

Troops Find Iraq Torture House; Iran Helping Stem Weapons Flow

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,311832,00.html
Brig. Gen. James Boozer said forces found execution equipment and chains in the house in the Diyala River Valley, an Al Qaeda stronghold north of Baghdad, as he touted progress in bolstering Iraqi security forces and said Iran seems to be holding to a commitment to thwart the flow of weapons into Iraq.

“I think we’re at here an historical point in the history of Iraq,” said Boozer, commander of Multi-National Division-North in Iraq.

Boozer said it appears Iran is keeping its promise to Iraqi leaders to helping stop the flow of roadside bombs into Iraq, which has contributed to a decrease in attacks.

“We’ve seen no increase in or any indication that the Iranians have stepped up the influx of arms or weapons into Iraq. It looks like they are holding up to their agreement,” he said.

In August, Tehran vowed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to hinder the smuggling of those weapons, called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, and ammunition into the hands of extremists.

Maj. Gen. James Simmons, a deputy corps commander, said that in October, U.S. forces logged 1,560 cases in which bombs were either found and exploded.

That compared with 3,239 incidents in March, he said. The October figure was the lowest since September 2005, he added.

“We believe that the commitments that the Iranians have made appear to be holding up,” Simmons said.

Iranian officials have publicly denied smuggling weapons to Shiite extremists. But U.S. authorities insist penetrator bombs are the signature weapon of Shiite militants.

“There has been, as you know, some finding of some EFP devices, some Iranian arms and ammo in some of these cache sites that we’ve uncovered,” Boozer said. “But it is hard to determine when they got there and how long they’ve been there.”

U.S. authorities said penetrators were used in an attack on Wednesday against a U.S. Stryker vehicle near an entrance to the Green Zone, killing an American soldier and wounding five others. Iraqi police said two Iraqi civilians also were killed.

It was the first major attack against a U.S. military vehicle in that area in the last four or five months, Simmons said.

He said the vehicle was struck by “an array” of penetrators. The attack occurred in one of the most heavily protected areas of the capital, raising questions about how the explosives could have been planted without collusion from Iraqi police or soldiers.

The general said U.S. and Iraqi authorities were investigating.

Simmons said U.S. authorities also were encouraged by an increase in tips from Iraqi citizens about weapons caches, which he interpreted as a sign the public was turning against both Shiite and Sunni extremists.

“We had found more caches by May of this year than in all of 2006,” he said.

Simmons said most of the roadside bomb attacks recently had occurred in Sunni areas north of Baghdad.

Northern Iraq also has seen a spike in violence in recent months as extremists were pushed from strongholds in and around Baghdad.

In Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed city 180 miles north of Baghdad, a homicide bomber rammed his car into a police patrol in Kirkuk, killing six people and wounding more than 20, said police Brig. Sarhad Qadir.

The city has seen a rise in bloodshed ahead of a planned census and referendum to determine the future of the city — whether it will join the semiautonomous Kurdish region on its border, or remain under Baghdad’s control.

The bomber’s apparent target was the six-car convoy of a senior Kurdish police officer, Brig. Gen. Khattab Omar, who heads the city police department’s quick response force, Qadir said.

Three of Omar’s officers were killed, along with three civilians, but the commander survived with serious injuries to his chest and head, Qadir said. Omar was being evacuated to a larger hospital, he said.

Video from AP Television News showed a charred Iraqi Humvee being towed from the scene.

Many of the 21 people wounded were children who had been walking to school when the bomber struck. APTN video from inside a nearby hospital showed a young girl in a school uniform, drenched in blood. A child’s shoe could be seen peeking out from under a tarp covering corpses — suggesting at least one of the dead civilians was a child.

Also Thursday, the U.S. military said a U.S. soldier had been killed a day earlier in an explosion in Diyala province that wounded four other soldiers.

At least 3,865 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an AP count.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials said they were investigating whether U.S. troops had mistakenly killed about two dozen anti-Al Qaeda fighters earlier this week north of Baghdad.

FOX News’ Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Foreign Fighters in Iraq Are Tied to Allies of U.S.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/22/world/middleeast/22fighters.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin
BAGHDAD — Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid’s target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006.

The records also underscore how the insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni. American officials now estimate that the flow of foreign fighters was 80 to 110 per month during the first half of this year and about 60 per month during the summer. The numbers fell sharply in October to no more than 40, partly as a result of the Sinjar raid, the American officials say.

Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed on the records by far — 305, or 41 percent — American intelligence officers found as they combed through documents and computers in the weeks after the raid. The data show that despite increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to clamp down on would-be terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, some Saudi fighters are still getting through.

Libyans accounted for 137 foreign fighters, or 18 percent of the total, the senior American military officials said. They discussed the raid with the stipulation that they not be named because of the delicate nature of the issue.

United States officials have previously offered only rough estimates of the breakdown of foreign fighters inside Iraq. But the trove found in Sinjar is so vast and detailed that American officials believe that the patterns and percentages revealed by it offer for the first time a far more precise account of the personal circumstances of foreign fighters throughout the country.

In contrast to the comparatively small number of foreigners, more than 25,000 inmates are in American detention centers in Iraq. Of those, only about 290, or some 1.2 percent, are foreigners, military officials say.

They contend that all of the detainees either are suspected of insurgent activity or are an “imperative threat” to security. Some American officials also believe that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown insurgent group that claims a loose allegiance to Osama bin Laden, may by itself have as many as 10,000 members in Iraq.

About four out of every five detainees in American detention centers are Sunni Arab, even though Sunni Arabs make up just one-fifth of Iraq’s population. All of the foreign fighters listed on the materials found near Sinjar, excluding two from France, also came from countries that are predominantly Sunni.

Over the years, the Syrian border has been the principal entry point into Iraq for foreign insurgents, officials say. Many had come through Anbar Province, in west-central Iraq. But with the Sunni tribal revolt against extremist militants that began last year in Anbar, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other jihadists concentrated their smuggling efforts on the area north of the Euphrates River along the Syrian border, the officials said.

The officials added that, based on the captured documents and other intelligence, they believe that the Sinjar cell that was raided in September was responsible for the smuggling of foreign fighters along a stretch of the border from Qaim, in Anbar, almost to the border with Turkey, a length of nearly 200 miles. They said that was why they were confident that the cell was responsible for such a large portion of the incoming foreign fighters.

American military and diplomatic officials who discussed the flow of fighters from Saudi Arabia were careful to draw a distinction between the Saudi government and the charities and individuals who they said encouraged young Saudi men to fight in Iraq. After United States officials put pressure on Saudi leaders in the summer, the Saudi government took some steps that have begun to curb the flow of fighters, the officials said.

Yet the senior American military officials said they also believed that Saudi citizens provided the majority of financing for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. “They don’t want to see the Shias come to dominate in Iraq,” one American official said.

The Sinjar materials showed that 291 fighters, or about 39 percent, came from North African nations during the period beginning in August 2006. That is far higher than previous military estimates of 10 to 13 percent from North Africa. The largest foreign fighter hometown was Darnah, Libya, which supplied 50 fighters.

For years American officials included Libya on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. But last year the United States removed it from that list and re-established full diplomatic relations, citing what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described as Libya’s “continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation” it has provided in the antiterrorism fight.

Also striking among the Sinjar materials were the smaller numbers from other countries that had been thought to be major suppliers of foreign fighters. As recently as the summer, American officials estimated that 20 percent came from Syria and Lebanon. But there were no Lebanese listed among the Sinjar trove, and only 56 Syrians, or 8 percent of the total.

American officials have accused Iran, the largest Shiite nation in the Middle East, of sending powerful bombs to Iraq and of supporting and financing Shiite militias that attack American troops. They also contend that top Iranian leaders support efforts to arm Shiite fighters.

But whatever aid Iran provides to militias inside Iraq does not seem to extend to supplying actual combatants: Only 11 Iranians are in American detention, United States officials say.

After the raid on the Sinjar cell, the number of suicide bombings in Iraq fell to 16 in October — half the number seen during the summer months and down sharply from a peak of 59 in March. American military officials believe that perhaps 90 percent of such bombings are carried out by foreign fighters. They also believe that about half of the foreign fighters who come to Iraq become suicide bombers.

“We cut the head off, but the tail is still left,” warned one of the senior American military officials, discussing the aftermath of the Sinjar raid. “Regeneration is completely within the realm of possibility.”

The documents indicate that each foreigner brought about $1,000 with him, used mostly to finance operations of the smuggling cell. Saudis brought more money per person than fighters from other nations, the American officials said.

Among the Saudi fighters described in the materials, 45 had come from Riyadh, 38 from Mecca, 20 from Buraidah and the surrounding area, 15 from Jawf and Sakakah, 13 from Jidda, and 12 from Medina.

American officials publicly expressed anger over the summer at Saudi policies that were destabilizing Iraq. Sunni tribal sheiks in Iraq who risked their lives to fight extremist militants also faulted Saudi clerics.

“The bad imams tell the young people to go to Iraq and fight the American Army, because if you kill them or they kill you, you will go to paradise,” Sheik Adnan Khames Jamiel, a leader of the Albu Alwan tribe in Ramadi, said in an interview.

One senior American diplomat said the Saudi government had “taken important steps to interdict individuals, particularly military-aged males with one-way tickets.” He said those efforts had helped cause an “appreciable decrease in the flow of foreign terrorists and suicide bombers.” But he added that still more work remained “to cut off malign financing from private sources within the kingdom.”

American officials cite a government program on Saudi television in which a would-be suicide bomber who survived his attack urges others not to travel to Iraq. The officials were also encouraged in October when the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdulaziz al-Asheik, condemned “mischievous parties” who send young Saudis abroad to carry out “heinous acts which have no association with Islam whatsoever.”

Armed with information from the raid, American officials say they have used military, law enforcement and diplomatic channels to put pressure on the countries named as homes to large numbers of fighters. They have also shared information with these countries on 300 more men who the records showed were being recruited to fight in Iraq.

Surrounded by desolate prairie and desert, Sinjar has long been a way station for foreign fighters. The insurgent cell raided by American troops was believed to have been smuggling up to 90 percent of all foreign fighters into Iraq, military officials say.

The raid happened in the predawn hours of Sept. 11, when American forces acting on a tip surrounded some tents six miles from the Syrian border. A fierce firefight killed six men outside, and two more were killed when one of them detonated a suicide vest inside a tent, military officials said. All were leaders of the insurgent smuggling cell, including one prominent Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia commander known as Muthanna, they said.

In addition to $18,000 in cash and assorted weapons, troops found five terabytes of data that included detailed questionnaires filled out by incoming fighters. Background information on more than 900 fighters was found, or about 750 after eliminating duplicates and questionnaires that were mostly incomplete.

According to the rosters found in the raid, the third-largest source of foreign fighters was Yemen, with 68. There were 64 from Algeria, 50 from Morocco, 38 from Tunisia, 14 from Jordan, 6 from Turkey and 2 from Egypt.

Most of the fighters smuggled by the cell were believed to have flown into Damascus Airport, and the rest came into Syria overland through Jordan, the officials said.

In some cases, one senior American military official said, Syrian authorities captured fighters and released them after determining they were not a threat to the Syrian government. Syria has made some recent efforts to turn back or detain suspected foreign fighters bound for Iraq, he said, adding, “The key word is ‘some.'”

The Al Qaeda Exaggeration

http://www.atlanticfreepress.com/content/view/2917/81/
The foreign fighter and Iranian myths blew up in the Bush Administration’s face in a big way this week. Despite repeated declarations over the last year that the violence racking Iraq is the result of Al Qaeda operations and influence and Iranian meddling, the facts on the ground do not support these claims. The U.S. Army confirmed this week that the foreign fighters constitute a small fraction of the insurgent activity and that most of insurgent activity is the handiwork of Iraqi Sunnis. The New York Time’s Richard Oppel wrote:

The . . . insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni. American officials now estimate that the flow of foreign fighters was 80 to 110 per month during the first half of this year and about 60 per month during the summer. The numbers fell sharply in October to no more than 40, partly as a result of the Sinjar raid, the American officials say.

Oppel’s article contains three critical facts:

Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials. . . .

In contrast to the comparatively small number of foreigners, more than 25,000 inmates are in American detention centers in Iraq. Of those, only about 290, or some 1.2 percent, are foreigners, military officials say. . . .

About four out of every five detainees in American detention centers are Sunni Arab, even though Sunni Arabs make up just one-fifth of Iraq’s population. All of the foreign fighters listed on the materials found near Sinjar, excluding two from France, also came from countries that are predominantly Sunni.

For years the Bush Administration has insisted that there was a direct operational tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Once Saddam was no longer around, Bush and company continued to cite Al Qaeda as the culprit behind most of the murder and mayhem in Iraq. You know, fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here.And in September 2006 President Bush added the bogeyman of Iran to his litany of terrorism, Al Qaeda, and Iraq (see Bush’s speech, September 6, 2006) . Just last July George Bush, during a speech at the National War College, mentioned al-Qaeda 27 times.:

McClatchy’s Jonathan Landley reports, “Bush called al-Qaeda in Iraq the perpetrator of the worst violence racking that country and said it was the same group that carried out the 9/11 attacks.”

I understand the politics of terrorism and the need to trot out Al Qaeda as the ultimate threat in order to rally public support. But, if we are honest with ourselves, it is a very anemic threat. Remember the Cold War? By God we knew how to scare the bejesus out of folks back when we faced the threat of International Communism. Those were the good old days of fear mongering. The “reds” were seeking world domination. They hated God. They didn’t believe in God. I guess you can’t hate what doesn’t exist.Oh, did I mention nukes, naval armadas, nuclear subs, million man armies, long range bombers, and sleeper agents.

Whoops. Forgot about the KGB, the GRU, and their varied success in convincing Americans to betray their country for the great good of helping the Commies take over the world.Those were the good old days. Now? We have the Global Caliphate that the crafty old Al Qaeda is Allah bent on establishing. Global Islamic rule. Sound familiar? I like to think of it as Lenin on crack with a religious bent.Violence in Iraq? Al Qaeda of course. Why should we let the fact that the so-called leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq last year — Abu Musab Al Zarqawi — was too extreme for even Bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri? We should not worry about truth when we are committed to a propaganda message whose central theme is feeding the American public a steady diet of fear.Some in the press are complicit in this charade. Note a story in Reuter’s today hyping the Al Qaeda threat:

Three suspected al Qaeda militants, including two sisters, beheaded their uncle and his wife, forcing the couple’s children to watch, Iraqi police said on Friday.

The militants considered that school guard Youssef al-Hayali was an infidel because he did not pray and wore western-style trousers, they told police interrogators after being arrested in Diyala province northwest of Baghdad.

Let me see if I got this straight. Two nieces, who are apparently religious fanatics, murder their aunt and uncle. But they are Al Qaeda? Really? Did they have a membership card? A video of them swearying bayat to Bin Laden? No and no. It would appear that Al Qaeda now is a convenient shorthand for a muslim extremist.Let’s just act like George Bush and label all violence as Al Qaeda. Let’s continue to remind folks that Al Qaeda attacked us on 9-11. Let’s just hype the shit out of Al Qaeda. Make them 10 feet tall, with a massive global network capable of maintaining sleeper cells intact in the United States, and just biding their time to launch a nuclear strike. Make sure we are so afraid that we will lose any ability to do critical thinking and will willingly surrender our civil liberties just to be safe from the threat of the Global Caliphate.

Or, here’s an alternative. Let’s recognize that the threat posed by Islamic extremists, while real and potentially lethal, is something we can contain without losing our minds, our lives, and our freedoms. But to take that approach requires we rediscover reason and analysis. Oppel’s fine article is a step in that direction.

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