Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Proxy War with Iran, Google and Me

Back in the good old days when global nuclear annihilation was a real and present danger and not just something Dick Cheney talked about to scare people, the United States fought its proxy wars with superpowers like the Soviet Union. Today, to hear neocon echo chamberlains tell it, our quagmire in Iraq is a proxy war with Iran, a country with an economy and a defense budget that are barely six percent of America’s.

That, my fellow citizens, is what became of your Cold War peace dividend.

I was captivated by this revolting development in the history of my country, and decided to take my trusty sidekick Google on an adventure to figure how out how and when such a Monty Python caliber phenomenon got started.

Their Pet Scapegoat

We traveled back to 2004, which was a tough year in young Mr. Bush’s woebegone war on terror. The tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by a U.S. President was still at large, and things were coming unraveled in Iraq. Falluja, Najaf and Baghdad went up for grabs, Abu Ghraib blew up in our faces like a joke shop cigar, and oh yeah, remember those weapons of mass destruction we supposedly invaded Iraq over? 2004 was the year we found out there weren’t any.

Bush and the neocons needed a distraction. They needed an excuse. Most of all, they needed a scapegoat. And one was parked right next door. Convenient, huh?

On August 13, 2004, shortly after the price of crude oil reached the first of many record highs to follow, Juli Stahl, Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the conservative Cybercast News Service, posted an article titled, “Iran Fighting Proxy War against U.S. through Iraqi Shiites, Hizballah.”

“Iran is using the Hizballah and Iraqi Shiites linked to Muqtada al-Sadr to fight a proxy war against the U.S.,” Stahl wrote, “in order to strike back against American efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.”

Stahl used a number of shaky methods to support her claims. Nearly everyone she quoted, for instance, had an identifiable ax to grind with al-Sadr. One of her sources, Israeli counterterrorism specialist Dr. Ely Karmon, said that, "The Shia Islamic revolutionary council was trained and supported by Iran for 20 years."

I am not a counterterrorism specialist, and had never heard of the “Shia Islamic revolutionary council.” Google had never heard about it either, but we’d both heard quite a bit about the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the Iraqi Shiite political party that until recently called itself the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

The SIIC nee SCIRI must have been what Dr. Karmon meant when he referred to the Shia Islamic Revolutionary council, because the SCIRI was formed in Iran in 1982. The SIIC has a military force called the Badr Organization that used to call itself the Badr Corps or the Badr Brigade back when the SIIC called itself the SCIRI. Google confirmed something I thought I remembered, that it was the SIIC’s Badr baddies who where who were funded, trained and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), not Sadr’s Mahdis.

Google reminded me of something else. It was in 2005 that former Badr Brigade commander Bayan Jaber of the Interior Ministry was accused of recruiting large numbers of Badr militiamen into Iraq’s security forces and of tacitly allowing them to form death squads that targeted Sunnis. I also remembered correctly, Google informed me, that back when it was the SCIRI, the SIIC had joined Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Daawa Party to form a Shiite political coalition called the United Iraqi Alliance that opposes Sadr and his followers.

And it was Jabr’s Iranian funded, trained and equipped SIIC Badr bubbas in Iraq’s security forces who Maliki maneuvered into Basra to crush Sadr’s Mahdi militamen, and who U.S. forces had to bail out of trouble when Sadr’s Mahdis started beating the Badr’s behinds back to Baghdad instead.

Oddly though, when the Mahdis shelled Baghdad’s Green Zone in reprisal for the Badrs launching an offensive against them, General David Petraeus, young Mr. Bush’s “main man” in Iraq, accused the Iranians of having funded, trained, equipped the Mahdis, not the Badrs. Funny how a guy like Petraeus could get things all turned around like that, what with everybody saying how brilliant he is and all. The people who cooked up this story about the Iranians and Sadr’s Mahdis in the first place must be some mighty clever dis-assemblers; that was my thinking, anyway, so I had Google drop me off where we started, at the 2004 story by the Israeli gal who quoted the Israeli doctor who’s not that kind of doctor but a PhD in terrorism or some such thing.

And I ran into this paragraph:

Iran and other regional players, such as the Iranian-backed Hizballah in southern Lebanon decided that the only way to fight America was to let it enter Iraq, believing that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would fight the Americans, which did not happen, said Karmon.

Iran let America enter Iraq? Jesus, Larry and Curly. That’s lock-‘em-up crazy people talk. And yet this reporter gal and this terror doctor are still walking around in the general population talking crazy about Iran, and it seems that General Petraeus has been listening to them and taking them seriously all this time.

Google and I found more than 99 thousand articles on the web that referenced “petraeus iran proxy war,” and it looks like the General has been trying to connect Sadr’s Mahdis and Iran’s IRGC ever since his tenure as the U.S. commander in Iraq began looking shaky and he started needing somebody to blame for things like him not being able to defend the Green Zone from a mortar attack after more than a year of “success” with his surge strategy.

I don’t know what Google thinks, but I get the definite impression that Petraeus hasn’t been confused by anybody, that he knows good and well he’s telling fibs and that he’s trying to fool people into believing things that aren’t true.

Here’s another thought: you don’t suppose folks like the general and the reporter gal and the terror doctor might be taking advantage of the fact that the average American doesn’t know SIIC from SCIRI or a Shiite from a Sunni or Sadr from a Badr or a Mahdi from a Saudi, do you?

I tell you what. Google and me will bet you a shiny new penny that’s exactly what they’re up to.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword.

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.


  1. Did "Fox" put you up to the anti- David campaign? Dear God it sounds as if Speaker Pelosi feeds you well.

  2. The Reality Kid4:08 PM

    Hi, Jeff:

    Your over-arching point regarding Gen. Petraeus and his motivations, as well as his taking advantage of the pervasive ignorance regarding demographics and alliances in Iraq and, more broadly, the middle east, are well made and well taken.

    The middle east does not lend itself to easy analysis. And as I suspect you'll agree, "good" and "evil" and "with us" or "against us" are not useful frames for analysis in the face of this complexity.

    As others have observed more eloquently than I can, as long as there is an "enemy" at which to point the guns - and with which to scare the American population - the rest is fog-obscured detail.

    That being said, while it may not always have been the case, I'm not certain one can rule out the possibility that Sadr and Iran have developed closer ties, nor can one rule out the increasingly popular notion that Iran is playing all sides, SCIRI/Badr and Sadr/Mahdi, against the middle.

    Whether Iran's actions constitute a "proxy war" is up for discussion (but I can't say as I blame Iran in the circumstances), but if nothing else, it may be compelling evidence that wheelin' and dealin' through the back-channels are a more effective means of influencing, er, meddling in others' affairs than bleeding and dying on front-lines.

    Produces a much cleaner record when it comes to aggressive warfare, too.

    Finally, as to your comment regarding how deluded it might be to think that Iran "let" the US invade...have you given any thought as to whether, through Mr. Chalabi, might have actually encouraged the invasion? Sounds wacky to me (cuz I don't know enough about any Iran-Chalabi connection), but then again, to bring my point full-circle, it does seem there are many strange bedfellows in the middle east.

  3. Sailor,

    Nancy Pelosi is all you can bring? Please tell whoever sent you here to send someone else next time.


    1. There is no such thing as too much ridicule of David Petraeus. Watching that bull feather merchant parade around in

    2. It would be criminally negligent for Iran not to have ties to Sadr's group. There's a big difference beteen that and the kinds of accusations Petraeus and others have made,especially considering that their pets in the security forces are the ones who really got the training and stuff from Iran.

    3. Chalibi's lies equated to Iran "letting" us into Iraq? Come on.


  4. The Reality Kid4:54 PM

    Jeff -

    Not "letting", but "encouraging" or even "provoking". But don't get me wrong, the U.S. is a big enough boy to make it's own (wrong) decisions when it comes to invading another country; I was just asking whether you see any merit in the thought that Iran might have seen some value in such an invasion.

    I'm inclined to agree that it's poppycock, if for no other reason than my sense that Chalabi simply provided useful and convenient excuses that others (with their own agenda) seized to exploit in pursuance of their agenda.

    I guess I'm just curious (and could be misinformed, too) about Chalabi's role in pre-war Washington coupled with Chalabi's possible connection with (post-war) Iran.

  5. Jeff,
    Your tirade is what "brought me here".

    You freely use your former title "Commander, USN" as if that would lend credence to your arguments. So I read back through your history here and saw the flippant "fiction" of your book's trailer. Cute. But an easy way to soft sell the reality of bitterness behind your front.

    Served with GEN P...your public personal attacks on him are unfounded and untruthful. Too bad you don't know him better, he's a good leader and a good man. Damn shame we didn't have him in the MNF-I seat in '03.

    Odd, how an old Mustang seems to recall that whole oath thing we took a bit sharper than it appears here...hang tough there Jeff, it's lookin' REAL good on ya.

  6. RK,

    My comments about your comments weren't directed at you. I could have framed them a lot better, but can't put the kind of time into these comment notes that I'd often like to.

    Like you said, they might well have (probably did) welcome the US invasion, and if they could encourage it through an act of omission or commission, they probably did that too.

    You'd perhaps have to read the entire article referenced to get a real feel for what a completely unsupported dump on Iran it was.


    How did I guess you were from Your support of Petraeus is horribly misplaced. If you want to come in here and comment, please pick a point covered in the main essay, agree or disagree with it, and back your position up with reliable fact information, or credible concurring opinion, or at least a halfway plausible logical construction.

    If you are not capable of that, please save your comments for, Black Five, etc.


  7. wkmaier10:44 AM


    With the President deferring all war decisions to GEN Petraeus, since he is taking the General's advice, some are wondering if that is a kind of tacit form of a military coup. Isn't civilian control of the military written into the Instruction Manual for this country?

  8. WK,

    It's plucking a bull is what it is. Petraeus is recommending what he's been told to recommend. Bush is saying he's "following" the recommendation to escape criticism that he's not listening to his general and, ultimately, he's shirking apparent responsibility for the decisions he (actually Cheney) has made onto Petraeus.

    Picking up on comments I made to our "mustang" friend, Petraeus has purposely deceived the American Congress and the American people. He also supports a President who has violated the constitution more than any other president in our history.

    Petraeus took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic," and he violates that oath on a regular basis.

  9. EdNSted1:29 PM

    Juan Cole's post today pretty much nails it:

    "War turns Republics into dictatorships. The logic is actually quite simple. The Constitution says that the Congress is responsible for declaring war. But in 2002 Congress turned that responsibility over to Bush, gutting the constitution and allowing the American Right to start referring to him not as president but as 'commander in chief' (that is a function of the civilian presidency, not a title.)

    Now Bush has now turned over the decision-making about the course of the Iraq War to Gen. David Petraeus.

    So Congress abdicated to Bush. Bush has abdicated to the generals in the field.

    That is not a Republic. That is a military dictatorship achieved not by coup but by moral laziness."

  10. wkmaier2:52 PM

    Thanks ednsted, that's exactly what I was speaking about.

    "Moral laziness..." yep, 2 word summation that is right on the mark.

  11. Good discussion, guys. I'll have more on the subject next week, and we can bat the theme around some more.


  12. Anonymous5:01 PM


    I'm saving your book to read, after I finish David Cay Johnston's "Free Lunch." I think I'm going to need something light. According to the book, We had factories in this country that manufactured "magnets" because the raw materials were here. And, those magnets were used in automobiles, etc., oh.. and by the way.... smart bombs. Then we moved the factories, and the technology to China. Thank you Bill Clinton, and globalization. So now, when we need magnets for smart bombs --- we buy them from China. And we can only hope that the "magnets" aren't like the dog food, the toys with lead paint, and so on, and so on.
    Meanwhile, I also went to Google and researched Nouri Al Maliki. He and was in the Islamic Dawa Party which was against secularism, and communisim, and viewed as a terrorist organization by some western countries. He and Chalabi are also veterans of The INC. Maliki was condemned to death by Saddam, and went into exile in Iran and Syria. That's when our very own CIA went to work following the first Gulf War, to begin to stir the Iraqi pot. Maybe we have come full circle in all this. A Fundamentalist Islamic Party may rule Iraq, headed by Al Maliki, except for a few of the Sunni, and the Kurds. Meanwhile, it would appear that Sadr is staking out his territory as war lord of the South.

    To keep things interesting, eBay is selling parts to F-14's to the highest bidder, no questions asked.

    Is this a great country or what?

  13. Anon,

    It's great all right. If you get a chance, can you post a URL to that F-14 part auction?


  14. Iran has some sort of influence with every major Shi'ite group. At the moment, its trying to maintain the peace. That there isn't peace shows its influence is limited. Now if Iran wanted to stir up a proxy war with America, then there'd be no ambiguity about what was happening.

  15. Anonymous11:33 PM


    The article was in a recent edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Title: "Sensitive Military Equipment for Sale Online."

  16. Jeff: As a Navy man, what do you make of the fact that there will be four carriers in the Persian Gulf in about a week: USS TRUMAN; USS LINCOLN; USS NIMITZ; HMS ILLUSTRIOUS.

    Sounds a little ominous to me when I connect it to your blog.

  17. WTC,

    I have to catch up with the story, bu t offhand I say it looks like show of force stuff.

    The tricky thing about massing stuff for show of force is that it's entirely too convenient to go ahead and use it forcefully.

    We shall see.


  18. Ely Karmon11:40 AM

    Sir/Jeff Huber

    Regarding your citations in "The proxy war with Iran, Google, and Me" from my interviews to CSNews, if you really would know how to use Google professionally you would find the exact citation from my article "Fight on all Fronts? Hizballah, the War on Terror, and the War in Iraq":

    "In November 2002, congressional elections in the United
    States demonstrated clear popular support for the Bush
    administration’s policy toward Iraq. This policy was further reinforced
    when the UN Security Council adopted Resolution
    1441 on November 8, essentially making an invasion of Iraq
    inevitable. In the wake of these developments, Hizballah, Syria,
    and Iran seemed to settle on yet another strategy. Although
    they accepted the inevitability of a U.S. war in Iraq, they predicted
    the emergence of a post-Saddam era in which the United
    States would sink in the region’s figurative sands, allowing them
    to exploit their historical and religious ties to Iraqi Shi‘is."

    Again, if you will use a bit more cleverly Google, you will find that I am quite familiar with Iran's strategy during the last twenty years, including its relations with SCIRI, Moqtada al-Sadr, Da'wa Party and others.


    Ely Karmon,

  19. Dr. Karmon,

    The point is not what you said in your original article, it was the way in which it was used by Ms. Stihl in her article.

    I'd guess you already knew that, though.


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