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26 January 2007

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Frank Durkee

Great post, I'm sorry I missed the interview. Your numbers re: Iranians in Iraq are striking. clearly they could pose a significant problem, if these encounters 'go hot'. Thanks again for your blog.

zenpundit

I'm becoming quite a fan of your site, Colonel Lang.

Tell me though, in your opinion, have we been killing Iranians for some time now on the pretense that they are Shiite Iraqi militiamen who picked a fight with U.S. personnel ?

arbogast

I am speechless with admiration for Colonel Lang.

The Democrats received a mandate to end this war this past November. They must find the courage to act.

Colonel Lang, who has been at war, has the courage to state the truth. Where are the Democrats?

Where is the courage in the Democratic Party?

COLORADO BOB

Pat ... Joe Galloway's latest column ... The part about the bullhorns .....

http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/special_packages/galloway/16544116.htm

chew2

Colonel,

Hundreds of thousands of Iranian intelligence and revolutionary guard in Iraq? That's the first I've heard anywhere near those figures. With all due respect I don't believe that. Can you cite some sources? The LA Times is reporting that the British in the south do not have any evidence of Iranian military assets in Iraq. So where are these thousands of Iranian troops? How can Persian speaking Iranians hide in Iraq? Sure a few hundreds or maybe even thousands could come in as pilgrims, but they can't bring much with them and they couldn't stay long without being discovered to some extent.

The U.S. military has pointed to no evidence of large numbers of Iranian assets in Iraq, or any Iranian assets for that matter. Only the introduction of shaped IEC's which allegedly originate in Iran, and a few captured Iranian's who are claimed to be revolutionary guards at the SCIRI office. I find it implausible that the 5 Iranian's arrested in Kurdish Erbil could be helping the Sunni insurgents (or the Shia militia's for that matter). There are no Sunni insurgents in Erbil, it's pretty much secured by the Kurdish forces. So attacking this alleged Iranian network in Iraq that is aiding the insurgents sounds trumped up as an excuse to put pressure on Iran.

kovie

Hello Colonol Lang,

I appreciate your coming forth with this information and insight, given the current and growing seriousness of the situation in Iraq and the surrounding region, and have a couple of questions for you.

First, I'm kind of confused by your assertion that there are several hundred thousand Iranian agents and soldiers currently in Iraq. I know that Wolf asked you to confirm this and that you did, but this is an extremely high figure by any measure, let alone for that theater, and I wanted to make sure that this is what you're saying. If it is, why hasn't this been reported until now, at least widely, given how serious it is? This is simply an ASTOUNDING figure.

In your opinion, has the administration, with or without the help of the media, been trying to keep this information from the public, given how massive (and in my mind criminal) a failure this would constitute on the part of the administration and its war strategy if it was true? And if it is true, is there really any point in our remaining in Iraq any longer, since we'd have to at least double our forces there--which we do not have the ability to do--in order to take on such numbers militarily?

And second, I am also confused about your assertion that Iran "has been the principal international sponsor of Islamic terrorism, both Sunni and Shia, ever since its foundation after the revolution against the Shah". I'm sure that this is true with respect to Shiite terrorists, especially Hezbollah in Lebabon and some of the Shiite terrorists in Iraq. But I'm not aware that this has also been true of Sunni terrorists, e.g. Al Qaida, Hamas, Islamic Jihad. I don't doubt that Iran hasn't supported some Sunni terrorists over the years, but I was under the impression that Sunni terrorists' support and funding was coming primarily from Sunni countries and organizations, especially Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and not Iran. Are you saying that this is not true?

David E. Solomon

Colonel Lang,

I am glad to hear that you are out and about giving rational analysis where you have the opportunity.

I am not a fan of Wolf Blitzer, but I do think it is in our national interest to have your voice heard from whatever podium you can muster.

"War Is Bad"!!

Not doubt about it, please keep up the good work.

My question to you is:

What can we sorry citizens do in this developing situation??

As each day passes, I feel more like an average citizen of the the Nazi propaganda machine sitting by and waiting for my post war chance to say "but what could I do".

How do we stop this madness?

Regards,

David

MarcLord

The infiltration attack on the provincial ministry in Karbala, in which 4 US soldiers were kidnapped and killed last week, displayed a startling level of sophistication.

The insurgents got past the gate by driving black GMC Suburbans, wearing US uniforms, and speaking English. The guards waved them through. They stunned the soldiers with a grenade who were meeting with a government official in his office (possibly the governor), and kidnapped the soldiers, drove them 25 miles away, and killed them.

The intelligence required to pull that operation off had to be extremely good. It was an unprecedented, improbable, well-financed stunt. My first thought was, "Iranian retaliation."

Different Clue

I suspect the Iranian response you warn of is precisely the Iranian response which the Bush Administration hopes to elicit. Gleiwitz, only with
real Iranians taking the bait, not fake Iranians in Iranian uniform.
I hope the Iranian leadership chooses not to take the bait. But if they don't, the Bush administration will keep poking them ever harder with
ever-sharper sticks.
I remember reading somewhere that the ancient Persians invented chess. Is
that true? If it is, would that be such a point of pride to the present day Iranian leadership that the Iranian Leadership would just keep grinding its teeth
through all the dangling baits and sharp-stick-pokes to see who takes Cheney/bush's place at the chessboard?

bob randolph

Pat, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Blitzer show. However, I do not see how there could be 200,000+ Iranian Republican Guards and Intelligence agents in Iraq. That's more Iranians in Iraq than Americans post-surge. How could there be that many Iranians without the US having more adversarial contact with them?

Bob

ali

Qods force is not what is stirring the pot in Iraq, we have there a very Iraqi struggle, they are merely adding some spice like the increasingly active Saudis.

Tehran reaps short term defensive benefit from having the US land army mired in Iraq but in the longer game they want as big a slice of Iraq to be under the rule of their Shi'a brethren as possible. If Iraq implodes it will be a disaster for Tehran.

DC does not have the decades long attention span to carry this ill considered political project through. It is already an embarrassing failure eager to be forgotten. Tehran is the only viable longterm protector of the new Shi'a ruling elite and their Kurdish allies. The Iranians have little choice in this; it's in their vital interest.

We should deal with the reality that the Iranians are a substantial power in Iraq. This is not just because of their militaries decades old infiltration of the South; it is for the simple reasons of geography, sect and trade.

Having repeatedly failed to seize the diplomatic initiative DC power over Iran is in precipitous decline. When DC negotiates it will do this from a position of weakness. It would be wise to act while some leverage remains. As DC's grip slips on Baghdad it could be enough to limit Tehran's dominance in the region. It is worth considering that a deepening entanglement in Iraq may thwart advancing Persian imperialism just as it has the PNAC version.

Instead the POTUS has pointed an accusing finger at Tehran and attempted to intimidate them once again. Whether he recklessly courts it or not the danger is that an incident will trigger an escalation; typically how war start.

Tehran is ruled by cold calculating men who won't easily be drawn. In 98 after the Taliban (fat with Saudi funds) butchered thousands of Shi'a at Mazar-i-Sharif and lynched the staff of their consulate Tehran did not impetuously strike back. They carefully sought Clinton's permission to retaliate and eventually restrained themselves. However the Mullah's apparatus of power is not a monolithic machine like DC. There are elements including their windbag President that may see domestic advantage in war and have means to act independently.

jr786

Great post. Dumb question: Why on earth don't we negotiate with Iran and Syria? I can't believe it's just truculence on the part of the administration. Is there some legitimate strategic reason behind this, such as fear of elevating Iran's status, etc.? Or is really just crackpot realism? Baffling.

Rider

I only wish there would be someone there to make those recommendations, Col. Lang.

Al Jazeera ran a piece on the Mahdi Army this week which reported it at about 60,000 members also, for whatever that's worth.

I am disturbed by reports of an appalling attempt to exploit The Holocaust to justify pre-emptive attack on Iran by the U.S. as proxy for Israel:

http://www.upi.com/InternationalIntelligence/view.php?StoryID=20070102-125318-7565r

W. Patrick Lang

ir786

The Bush Administration sees these two countries as the main obstacles to revolutionary change in the Islamic World. It seeks their radical transformation or removal. It sees them as EVIL. Therefore it does not want to deal with evil except to arrange the surrender of evil. This has nothing to do with realism. pl

W. Patrick Lang

All

You are excessively literal in regard to my remark about hundreds of thousands of Iranian agents in Iraq. If I gave the impression that I mean Iranian SOLDIERS in every case then I was not sufficiently precise. What I mean is that the Iranians have pushed large cadres of IRGC across the border. These cadres are present with all the major militias on the Shia side as advisers, trainers, logistical helpers, communications staff, etc. In addition to that the Iranian government has "sponsored" the migration of literally hundreds of thousands of Iranians to Shia Iraq to shift the demographic balance there and create what the Israelis call "facts on the ground."

It would be a serious self deception to think that Iran has not been "interfering" with the development of history in Iraq. In that, the Bush Administration is correct. The question should be - why are they now making a fuss over it?

Incidentally, my postings are in the nature of editorials not reportage. I don't have to proove anything to anyone. If you are bothered by that, then, don't read it. pl

confusedponderer

jr786,
first you have to understand the the Iranians are evil men. That is achieved through moral clarity. Evil men cannot be trusted. They lie. Always. Thus, there has to be regime change.

America is such a force of good, that talking with evil men will give them legitimacy, which is bad for regime change. THus there are no talks.

The basic idea that for evil men there is no approach other than regime change has remained unchanged in the Bush doctrine, reality be damned. And they stick to it, and do it by the book.

W. Patrick Lang

Bob

They have been avoiding contact with US forces with the help of their "friends"
among the Shia. It is a big country, full of Shia and our intelligence is terrible. pl

Frank Durkee

Col. Do you have a reaction to General Odum's presentation to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? My sense is that he has hold of at least a good portion of what we need to think through and act on. I got the text from a post on Josh Marshalls blog. sory I can't do the appropriate computer stuff.

W. Patrick Lang

kovie

The Islamic Republic of Iraq has provided "material support" (in the language of US law) to a number of Sunni zealot (terrorist) groups in Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere.

In the struggle against the "kuffar" (unbelievers) they are quite willing to make common cause with the Sunni. The situation would be quite different if the interests of a twelver Shia group were involved. pl

W. Patrick Lang

zenpundit

I would think that IRGC men embedded with Shia militias would be difficult for American troops to identify as Iranian.

I have seen many occasions in which american troops were unable to identify different nationalities of Arabs and there are a lot of Iranians from the border country who speak Arabic quite well. pl

ali

Along similar lines:
"The increasingly common arrangement for sick or wounded Iraqis to receive treatment in Iran is just one strand in a burgeoning relationship between these two Persian Gulf countries. Thousands of Iranian pilgrims visit the Shiite holy cities in southern Iraq each year. Iran exports electricity and refined oil products to Iraq, and Iraqi vendors sell Iranian-made cars, air coolers, plastics and the black flags, decorated with colorful script, that Shiites are flying this week to celebrate the religious holiday of Ashura. But when President Bush and top U.S. officials speak of Iran's role in Iraq, their focus is more limited. U.S. officials accuse Iranian security forces, particularly the al-Quds Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards, of funneling sophisticated explosives to Iraqi guerrillas."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/25/AR2007012502087_pf.html
This is a symbiotic relationship like the one Tehran has with Southern Lebanon and Hamas ruled Palestine but set to be far deeper.

That's soft power at work, insidious and multifaceted, not intimidated by carrier groups, not vulnerable to laser guided bombs.

Qods Force are just a nail in a very big stick.

No wonder the plump Saudis are terrified; Khomeni's morbid revolution could be snuggling up to the downtrodden Shi'a who live on top of the Ghawar field within a decade.

taters

Dear Col. Lang,
Welcome back, sir.
I subscribe to the Situation Room specifically to get a head's up when you are on. Wouldn't you know that yesterday I didn't read it. I'm sorry I missed it.
Wolf is at his best when you are on.
Not that the Decider is interested, but what would do you think are starting points that are mutually beneficial to the US and Iran if we were able to talk?
Pardon me if this overly naive but just for starters,I believe the taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, leading to a narco terrorist state would be something neither of us want. From what I've read, Iran fas a few million drug addicts already - that many junkies is a drain on any society. Thank you for posting this and kudos to you for the Athenaeum.

jr786

Col. Lang and confusedponderer: Thanks. I'll just have to remain baffled since the Administration's Manichean world view is beyond my ken. Have we ever had a government that wore such an ideological straitjacket? Where did it come from? Where does it end?

Got A Watch

Inside the Shia death squads:
"If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad meets the commander of a Shia death squad ."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1999916,00.html
Insightful article on what is really happening in Shiite Baghdad now, worth a read. They do admit receiving substantial aid from Iran, not because they are allied with Iran necessarily but because they all hate America so much they co-operate.

The Yorkshire Ranter quite handily debunks the "IED's from Iran" story the Bushies keep repeating:
"So how do you build an EFP anyway?"
http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/

Just heard a financial analyst on the radio here talking about a "confidential" ING Bank (one of the world's largest banks, Netherlands based) report sent this week to their "high net worth" customers (probably have at least $1M US$ equivalent minimum on deposit). This report apparently states (he was reading from it)that they have it from "reliable inside sources" (NATO?) that Israel and/or the USA intend to attack Iran within the next 60 days. They are predicting stock market declines, large spikes in oil/precious metals etc. The key quote was something like "Extent and duration of the damage is dependent on the amount of Iranian retaliation".

In other words, they (the neos) expect Iran to absorb the attacks and not retaliate much. Seems a classic neo-con strategy, and like all else they do, it depends on the other side taking it lying down. Given the many recent statements from various Iranian authorities promising "massive rataliation", somehow I don't see any sunny outcome here.

"Does SPR Increase Foretell Iran Strike?" Ashraf Laidi, Chief FX Analyst at CMC Markets NA
http://www.safehaven.com/article...rticle- 6764.htm

key quote: "the aggressive approach on beefing up SPR may reflect heightened possibility of a US military strike against Iran as early as March or April, at a time when US navy ships are piling up in the Persian Gulf. Yesterday, markets were filled with chatter of a Kuwait-based newspaper article reporting that the US will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, citing "reliable sources". According to the article, the strikes will be launched from US ships with Patriot missiles guarding all oil-producing countries in the region. The attacks would be planned in April, the last month of British PM Blair in office. The immediate result of such an attack is a protracted run up in oil prices, which could reach the $70 per barrel mark in less than a week."

Better start cleaning and stocking that fallout shelter.

Nindid

Col. Lang,

In response to a question about Ahmadinejad's political prospects you say:

LANG: No. I think probably if you go around the academic community and the think tank community in the United States, talk to people in New York and in California and here, academics who deal with Iran, you'll probably have a better, clearer idea of what is actually happening politically in Iran.

Do you mean the academic community would not agree with the intelligence estimate or that it would?

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