Operation Swarmer and Sudden Iran-US Talks on Iraq: Connection?
Yesterday, two major unexpected events took place: Operation Swarmer commenced to clear the Samarra area of insurgents and terrorists in the largest single operation since early in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and just as suddenly, Iran asked for and the United States agreed to face-to-face talks on the situation in Iraq.
But of far greater importance could be the potential that the American/Iraqi operation and the sudden Iranian calls for talks may not be merely coincidental in timing, but quite possibly directly related.
One potentially revealing quote came from Iraqi presidential security adviser Lt. Gen. Wafiq al-Samaraei, who said the operation was targeting “a bunch of strange criminals who came from outside the county [sic] and among them a bunch of Iraqi criminals who help them.”
American and British officials have long stated that Iran has maintained far-reaching tentacles into Iraq, injecting money, munitions, manpower and malicious intent.
“Tehran’s intention to inflict pain on the United States and Iraq has been constrained by its caution to avoid giving Washington an excuse to attack it,” said John Negroponte, director of national intelligence during a Senate hearing.
In the latest proof of Iran ‘inflicting pain’ with attacks on US military personnel came in the form of milled and shaped copper IEDs. They were not captured from a warehouse and presumed from Iran. They were captured in transit crossing the Iran-Iraq border headed into Iraq.
Iran’s activities in Iraq have been reported by various media outlets as well, as noted by Dan Darling in his October 2005 Weekly Standard column on Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Suleimani and his Qods Force.
The Anti-American activities of Qods Force aren’t simply limited to protecting the al Qaeda leadership. According to a report in Time, as early as September 2002 Ali Khamenei placed General Suleimani in charge of organizing various Iraqi groups as part of an Iranian plan to dominate the country following Saddam’s removal. Among these targeted groups were the Badr Brigades military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI is now a key member of the Iraqi ruling coalition), the Mujahideen for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (MIRI), Thar-Allah, and Iran’s favorite proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah. […]
As reported by the London Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, al-Sadr visited Iran in late 2003 and met with General Suleimani. At the onset of al-Sadr’s uprising, the paper reported that Qods Force had set up training camps at Qasr Shireen, Ilam, and Hamid in southern Iran along the Iraqi border to train the radical cleric’s Mahdi Army and financed his campaign to the tune of $80,000,000.
Fast forward to this past month and the implications remain. Consider the direct words from Donald Rumsfeld barely one week ago regarding Iran’s operations in Iraq. “They [Iran] are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq. We know it, and it is something that they… will look back on as having been an error in judgment.”
Does the sudden Iranian call for talks with US on the same day of an operation aimed at Iraqi and foreign fighters in eastern Iraq point to an Iranian recognition of the ‘error in judgment’ that Secretary Rumsfeld spoke to?
Rumsfeld characteristically leaves very little room for nuanced interpretation. But he continued when pressed by questions. Consider the following response from Secretary Rumsfeld:
Asked whether the alleged insertion of Iranian forces into Iraq was backed by the central government in Tehran, Mr Rumsfeld said: “Of course, the Qods force does not go milling around willy-nilly, one would think.”
Regarding Operation Swarmer, it is somewhat curious how little information is being made available. Considering that it is the largest operation since the invasion, it is at least curious that the same series of still photographs were used by nearly every media report concerning the operation, even many hours into the operations. While no operation is intently and actively telegraphed (willingly), Operation Swarmer has the feel of a relatively tightly sealed operation regarding the flow of information.
This morning, The Telegraph reports that, as Operation Swarmer continues, around 48 people have been detained as of the time of their writing. A quote from the deputy governor of the province of Salaheddin, Abdallah Hussein is very interesting:
“The rebels in the area are a mix of local nationals and foreign fighters,” he said. “We have their voices recorded along with their names and pictures.”
Again, foreign fighters. One wonders how many of the recordings might possibly be voices speaking Farsi.
It is unlikely that Operation Swarmer (as well as the American and Iraqi pressure its design represents) and the sudden call from Iran to hold discussions on Iraq are unrelated. Early yesterday, Iran’s call appeared to be a way for Iran to maneuver into direct talks regarding their clandestine nuclear weapons program and UN sanctions. Upon closer inspection, that conclusion, while convenient and plausible, seems to differ from the reality on the ground.