Fishermen, Beware

26.01.07

Categorie: Iran, Iraq |

The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran’s influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program, according to government and counterterrorism officials with direct knowledge of the effort.

So reports The Washington Post. There’s just one small problem: how do you tell who’s an Iranian agent? I addressed this problem in a recent piece at World Politics Watch:

British Army spokesman Maj. Charlie Burbridge stresses that there is not firm evidence of any direct Iranian meddling in southern Iraq. And British Army field commander Lt. Col. David Labouchere, whose 600 troops patrol Maysan, says that any Iranian influence is a result of a long and tragic history, one that coalition forces should understand before letting fears of Iranian infiltration influence policy.

For 4,000 years the Marsh Arabs have inhabited what is now southern Iraq. For much of that history they were ignored by the various governments that rose and fell in the region. The result is a xenophobic, deeply traditional society where tribal leaders are the highest authority — and where political borders are largely irrelevant.

Meaning they cross into Iran almost daily, often without even realizing it — or caring if they do. Their intents aren’t to smuggle in weapons or to undermine the Iraqi government, but to trade, fish and visit family and friends.

In 2005 I visited a Marsh Arab village to see for myself:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/1nX16zoqYFo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/W7W-rNqhBVM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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6 Responses to “Fishermen, Beware”

  1. [...] And don’t forget: there is still no direct evidence of state-sanctioned Iranian meddling in Iraq. If there is, our government hasn’t entrusted us with it. [...]

  2. [...] Assurances are nice, but in light of previous intelligence failures, I want to SEE this alleged evidence before we go confronting Iran over Iraq. There’s too much at stake here for us to just trust our government. Background here. No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  3. [...] Three years ago eight British sailors and Marines were seized while delivering boats to Iraqi forces on the Shatt Al Arab waterway in southern Iraq. Last week it happened again: 15 Brits were grabbed by Iranian gunboat crews after completing a boarding operation. I resisted posting about this before because, quite honestly, I figured the captives would’ve been released by now. Last time, the Iranians caved after just three days. But it looks like our Persian pals are going all the way this time: the kidnapped Brits have been taken to Tehran. This thing is rapidly escalating into a major diplomatic crisis. At its root, however, its a cartographic problem. The border between Iran and southern Iraq is poorly mapped and, in places, contested. This has created all sorts of problems for tribal residents who’ve been accused of being Iranian agents after they were caught unwittingly crossing the border while fishing.   [...]

  4. [...] Related: Starving Iran’s F-14s Fears of Iranian meddling in Iraq overblown? How to smuggle arms No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  5. [...] That’s SecDef Robert Gates, quoted by Fred Kaplan in Slate. Gates’ comments “suggested what an interesting — perhaps even great — secretary of defense he might have become, if only he had more time and a less dreadful mess to clean up,” that mess being Iraq, of course, and the Administration’s provoking of Iran. [...]

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