The largest unauthorized disclosure of classified government documents in U.S. history confirms a long-standing assertion of President George W. Bush at the start of the 2007 troop surge: Iran was orchestrating one side of the Iraqi insurgency.
Field reports made public by the website WikiLeaks on Friday show that U.S. military intelligence agencies had many strands of evidence revealing that Iran provided paramilitary training to Shiite Muslim insurgents at the height of the civil war in Iraq.
In one case, the military circulated a Dec. 22, 2006, warning that a group known as Jaish al-Mahdi planned to kidnap U.S. soldiers. The man planning the operation, Sheik Azhar al-Dulaimi, was trained by Hezbollah terrorists near the Iranian city of Qom, the document stated. Hezbollah is a Lebanon-based militia that was founded, trained and funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“This confirms the degree of operational involvement the Iranian Revolutionary Guard used in anti-U.S. operations in Iraq,” said Kenneth Katzman, a Gulf affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service. “It confirms the degree to which Iran was involved in operations that directly targeted U.S. forces.”
The disclosures about Iran’s role in the Iraqi insurgency were first reported by the New York Times. That newspaper, along with the Guardian and Al Jazeera, were given access to the Iraq war logs before the documents were placed on the Internet on Friday.
Analysts today generally do not dispute Iran’s role in providing covert political and weapons support to insurgents in Iraq, but it was a major political issue in 2007. In September 2007, Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, proposed a resolution condemning the Iranian role in subversion in Iraq. The amendment called for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to be officially designated a foreign terrorist group, something Mr. Bush did in 2008.
Barack Obama, as a Democratic senator from Illinois, opposed the resolution at the time but also used the vote in support of the measure by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then a Democratic senator from New York, to attack her anti-war credentials during public debate in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.
In a letter to Iowa voters from October 2007, Mr. Obama said the resolution was dangerous because “George Bush and Dick Cheney could use this language to justify keeping our troops in Iraq as long as they can point to a threat from Iran. And because they could use this language to justify an attack on Iran as a part of the ongoing war in Iraq.”
Other disclosures from WikiLeaks include reports showing that U.S. troops intervened in some cases to halt abuses of detainees by Iraqi security forces.
In Iraq, the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the release of the documents was politically motivated.
“There are some political interests behind the media campaign who are trying to use the documents against national leaders, especially the prime minister,” Mr. al-Maliki said in a statement.
Iraq’s high court ordered the Iraqi parliament to convene on Sunday to try to break the political deadlock in choosing a new government. Last month, Iraq’s United Iraqi Alliance, comprising major Shiite parties not affiliated with Mr. al-Maliki, reluctantly agreed to give Mr. al-Maliki a second term as prime minister.
Nick Clegg, British deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the BBC that some of the disclosures from WikiLeaks warranted investigation.
Pentagon officials stressed that the disclosures did not reveal new information about the Iraq war and condemned the unprecedented leak of classified data.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on his Twitter account: “Another irresponsible posting of stolen classified documents by Wikileaks puts lives at risk and gives adversaries valuable information.”
WikiLeaks’ last major release of documents was related to the war in Afghanistan and included the names of Afghans who helped coalition forces, potentially endangering their lives. Although the Taliban has said it was combing through the documents to find those Afghans, an assessment from the Pentagon provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee found that no one had been killed as a result of the WikiLeaks disclosure.