In a recent article, titled, “Why America Needs Iran in Iraq,” former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad cites the rise in power of Shite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as one of his major concerns. It is true that Sheikh al-Sadr has been and continues to be a problem for the future of Iraq.
However, the U.S. government has always applied a double standard to this rebel cleric. Despite Sheikh al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. military personnel and threatens to kill more Americans, neither Sheikh al-Sadr nor his army have been placed on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
Moving beyond Sheikh al-Sadr, we now have the double standard being applied to Iran. Iran has successfully played the United States concerning Iraq since 2002. Iranian agent and financial opportunist Ahmad Chalabi delivered to the State Department and Defense Intelligence Agency volumes on misinformation, which was used by the George W. Bush administration to justify Coalition forces invading Iraq.
Chalabi was even selected to be the U.S. representative in Tehran. His mission was to ensure the planned invasion of Iraq was acceptable to Iran. The United States government was asking an Iranian agent to seek the ayatollah’s approval for disposing of Iran’s long-term enemy, which is what the agent was manipulating the U.S. government to do in the first place. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei must have enjoyed that conversation. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini once stated, “The road to Jerusalem goes through Karbala.” Removal of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government was critical in establishing that road.
As U.S.-led forces commenced military operations, the Iranian government commenced the political takeover of Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran did everything possible to undermine and supporting the killing of Coalition forces. As the senior anti-terrorism officer for Iraq, I continually experienced the work of Iran. Iran was providing funding and intelligence to adversary groups determined to kill Americans and other Coalition members. An active al Qaeda member once described to me the equipment his team was receiving from Iran. The old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” certainly applied to the Shias of Iran in overcoming their differences with the Sunnis of al Qaeda.
Mr. Khalilzad also cites the problem with the Islamic State (ISIS). It was Iran and U.S.-backed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s genocide against the Sunnis that led to the rise of ISIS. Communities now being slowly cleared of ISIS presence by the Iraqi military and Iranian-backed Shia militias continue to face genocide. The presented logic is if the residents survived ISIS occupation, they must be sympathizers and warrant killing.
Communities that once housed large populations are now ghost towns. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and even more have fled — all the way to Europe. In reality, Iran is using ISIS to weaken Sunni regions of Iraq. Iran’s behavior in this regard is reminiscent of the Russians holding position outside Warsaw until the Germans had completed their massacres of the Jewish population.
The Iraqi people have lost faith in the United States for destroying what stability existed in the region. For decades, the Pentagon position was to never destroy that fine balance of power between Iraq and Iran. The entire Middle East was dependent upon that balance. Bush 43 got us into an unjustified war. Through the surge, outreach to Sunni communities, and leading troops to victory, Gen. David Petraeus won that war only to have President Obama lose the peace. For this, 4,488 Americans died.
The Iraqi Parliament cannot bring together enough members to resume business, the executive branch is under the control of Tehran, while the citizens are demonstrating in the streets and burning Iranian flags.
Increasing cooperation with Tehran is not the solution. That’s once again playing into the hands of the No. 1 nation-state exporter of terrorism in the world. It would be as if we expect an arsonist to put out his own fire. For once, the United States needs to learn from its mistakes, not repeat them. The solution is to work with moderates in the region to establish firm governments dedicated to their citizens and to regional stability.
• Wesley Martin, a retired U.S. Army colonel, served as the senior anti-terrorism officer in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 and the senior operations officer for detention operations in from 2005 to 2006.