Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hezbollah Training the Madhi Army

Great. Hezbollah through Iran, is training the Madhi army. That's certain to facilitate a smooth transition to peace in Iraq.
A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr.

The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said.

Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria.

The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity under rules set by his agency, and discussed Iran’s role in response to questions from a reporter.

The interview occurred at a time of intense debate over whether the United States should enlist Iran’s help in stabilizing Iraq. The Iraq Study Group, directed by James A. Baker III, a former Republican secretary of state, and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic lawmaker, is expected to call for direct talks with Tehran.
Excellent. Wonder where this puts Baker's thoughts on talking with Iran and Syria? Probably won't change a thing.
The new American account is consistent with a claim made in Iraq this summer by a mid-level Mahdi commander, who said his militia had sent 300 fighters to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight alongside Hezbollah. “They are the best-trained fighters in the Mahdi Army,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The specific assertions about Iran’s role went beyond those made publicly by senior American officials, though Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, did tell Congress this month that “the Iranian hand is stoking violence” in Iraq.

The American intelligence on Hezbollah was based on human sources, electronic means and interviews with detainees captured in Iraq.

American officials say the Iranians have also provided direct support to Shiite militias in Iraq, including explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs, and training for several thousand fighters, mostly in Iran. The training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, they say.
The Iraqi theater is more complex than ever. Iran provides terrorist training through Hezbollah, and provides money and supplies. You can be certain that Syria is doing the same for the Sunni populations.

Makes you wonder if Talibani was able to get any help from Iran. I'm still unconvinced that Iran has any interest in seeing Iraq succeed in its present form. Most news reports state that Iran is afraid of instability in the region, but that strikes me as especially odd with the above report on Hezbollah. They are interested in stability only to the point that they gain control, or at least a hegemony, in the region. They might have trouble with all out chaos, but that doesn't look like it's happening, nor does it look to be spreading more than minimally. The Kurds region and the southern Shiite regions are for the most part stable. Baghdad is the center of conflict with the neighboring Sunni areas causing some level of strife.

Iran's provisioning of insurgents and militias isn't stabilizing the region. The NYTimes article provides testimony from General Abizaid with regards to munitions that they are providing.
Among American officials, concern over the purported Iranian, Syrian or Hezbollah role grew recently when an advanced antitank weapon, an RPG-29, was used against an American M-1 tank in Iraq.

“The first time we saw it was not in Iraq,” Gen. John P. Abizaid, the head of the United States Central Command, told reporters in September. “We saw it in Lebanon. So to me, No. 1, it indicates an Iranian connection.”

American intelligence officials said the source of the weapon was still unclear.

I find that a bit questionable. The source would have to be a nation state that has an arms relationship with Russia. It strikes me as unlikely that they were in Iraq for all this time and just arrived into the conflict now. And their arrival in Lebanon is even more indicative of a supporting state providing them to terrorists. The RPG-29 is fairly new, created in 1991. I suppose they could be black market items, but there is a simpler answer.

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