Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ignatius: The Rise of Iran in Iraq

One of David's columns that should have gotten more attention:

Behind the Carnage in Baghdad
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

As security deteriorates in Baghdad, there's a new cause for worry: The head of the U.S.-trained Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) has quit in a long-running quarrel with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- depriving that country of a key leader in the fight against sectarian terrorism.

Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, the head of Iraqi intelligence since 2004, resigned this month because of what he viewed as Maliki's attempts to undermine his service and allow Iranian spies to operate freely. The CIA, which has worked closely with Shahwani since he went into exile in the 1990s and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars training the INIS, was apparently caught by surprise by his departure.

The chaotic conditions in Iraq that triggered Shahwani's resignation are illustrated by several recent events -- each of which suggests that without the backstop of U.S. support, Iraqi authorities are now desperately vulnerable to pressure, especially from neighboring Iran.

An early warning was the brazen July 28 robbery of the state-run Rafidain Bank in central Baghdad, apparently by members of an Iraqi security force. Gunmen broke into the bank and stole about 5.6 billion Iraqi dinars, or roughly $5 million. After a battle that left eight dead, the robbers fled to a newspaper run by Adel Abdul Mahdi, one of the country's vice presidents.

Abdul Mahdi, once an American favorite, has admitted that one of the robbers was a member of his security detail but denied personal involvement, according to Iraqi news reports. Some of the money has been recovered, but the rest is believed to be in Iran, along with some members of the robbery team.... (more)

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