Paris, 3 April (Le Monde) If there remained the slightest doubt as for the major influence Iran has on the affairs of its Iraqi neighbor, the cease-fire concluded on Sunday 30 March, between the radical militia chief, the Shi’ite Moqtada Al-Sadr and three missi dominici representing the Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, also Shi’ite, should have definitively raised it.
Because it was in Qom, the headquarters of the Iranian religious authority that the negotiations took place. And it is, according to a reliable source, under the supervision of an Iranian soldier, and not a simple one, but that of General Qassem Suleimani, the Commander of the notorious Al-Qods brigades of the Pasdarans, that this cease-fire was finally concluded.
The cease-fire between Iraqi Prime Minister and Moqtada al Sadr was brokered by the Iranians
Incidentally, at least two of the three special representatives of Mr. Maliki, namely Hadi Al Amari and Ali Adib, have dual Iraqi-Iranian nationality and they both lived some years of exile in Teheran. Mr. Adib is member of the same religious party as the Prime Minister (Da’awa), and Mr. Amari is the chief of a powerful allied militia, the Badr organization, which dominates the commandment of the new Iraqi national army and which was created, financed and trained in Iran since 1980.
Throughout the week of armed confrontations that the Americans approved, helped, and which made at least 470 killed and thousands of casualties, they did not cease encouraging Teheran "to put all its influence at the service of the stabilization" of the situation.
It is done now. Washington and Teheran can mutually accuse each other of the worse misdeeds in Iraq, but many are the political analysts in this country to think that the two powers agree at least on the need for not letting a general chaos invading Iraq.
Moqtada al Sadr's fighters resisted assaults of the Iraqi army in Basra.
Engaged in the north in an offensive against the Sunnite rebels of Al-Qaida, the Americans, who do not have permanent military presence in Basra, apparently believed Mr. Maliki when he told them that his offensive would be almost an easy drive. As some of the Iraqi generals themselves confirmed, they were "surprised" by the combativeness of the Army of Mahdi, the militia of the sadrist current and by his capacity to mobilize partisans in all the large cities of the Shi’ite south and up to Baghdad.
Mr. Maliki did not reach any the objectives which he had laid down. The "18 militia” registered in Basra by Mr. Hosham Dawod, a French-Iraqi researcher, are always in place and continuing with their juicy traffics. None the districts of Basra or elsewhere that were under the control of the Army of Mahdi were taken. Hundreds of police officers and soldiers across the country refused to open fire on the militiamen and at times, even joined them. For their first large scale operation under national command, and in spite of 30 000 men on the spot, the new Iraqi army and police force formed by the Americans had to call on the Anglo-Saxon allies in order to advance, or to get them out of the quagmire.
President Bush who had encouraged the initiative of his ally and had judged that it was a "historical test for free Iraq" must bite the fingers
Theoretically valid until 8 of April, the offer of the Prime Minister "to purchase" the heavy weapons of the combatants at high price had practically produce nothing.
Mr. Maliki, who had imprudently sworn to remain in Bassora "until the victory", had to return to Baghdad with a much meaner political credibility than before the offensive. The fact that he qualified, on Tuesday, the operations as a "success" and then abstains from signaling the end of the conflict, des not change anything to the situation. There will be undoubtedly other confrontations among the Shi’ites before the next regional elections scheduled for first of October. "This is a great victory for Iran", says regretfully Mr. Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish MP close to the presidency of the Republic, an official always very well informed. "Teheran showed that it is it and not Washington that has the upper hand on our affairs. The aims of Iran are to make Maliki as weak as possible so that he is obliged to accept its objectives. In fact, he was forced to run to Qom to negotiate", he adds.
President Bush who had encouraged the initiative of his ally and had judged that it was a "historical test for free Iraq" must bite the fingers. ENDS IRAQ IRAN 4408
Editor’s note: The above article was published by the French influential left wing daily Le Monde on 3 April 2008
Translation and highlights are by IPS