Lebanon’s newspaper The Daily Star today by an AFP report confirms a story first carried in The New York Times last week that two Iranians, described by the U.S. as senior military officials, have been arrested in Baghdad on grounds of illegal activities, including attacks against American forces and involvement in shipments of weapons to illegal armed groups in Iraq.
General William Caldwell on Wednesday confirmed that there had been an operation on the morning of 21st December, acting on intelligence received. Goods confiscated during the operation on a site in Baghdad were maps, videos, photos and other documents. Although it is denied, the tip-off may have come from someone in the party of Abdel-Aziz Al-Hakim, known by its acronym SCIRI, short for the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq, founded by Tehran in the 1980s to mobilize Shiites against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. A spokesman for the party denied that the raid had taken place at its compound.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani meanwhile is not amused, as the Iranians were in Baghdad on his invitation as part of a bilateral agreement to improve security in Iraq. The NYT reports intense internal negotiations within the Iraqi government how to handle the delicate situation.
It does show however the value of cooperation with Tehran and Damascus when it comes to improving the security situation in Iraq, as advocated by the Iraq Study Group.
In a separate but related article in The Daily Star Syrian dissident author and blogger Ammar Abdulhamid warns of the delusion of a dialogue with Syria. By the term “survival is more important than sovereignty” it describes how far the two countries, Iran and Syria are interlinked, financially and politically and to what great extent Bashar Al-Assad relies on Iranian assistance to remain in the saddle.
In the meantime Iran is throwing its (nuclear) weight about in a bid for becoming the strongman of the Middle East, resulting in nervousness and apprehension on the side of the Sunni Arab neighbours.