Iran’s ayatollahs this week brought an extraordinary proposition to Washington’s attention by a roundabout route quite separate from the direct Zurich talks. A high-ranking Iranian intelligence officer made a special trip to the headquarters of a West European intelligence chief Tuesday, March 21, to hand it over for passing on to the US government.
(Both their names are known to the editor).
It led off with an undertaking by Tehran to bring to an end the war of terror waged against Americans in Iraq.
This undertaking is supported by operational plans for especially trained undercover forces to seize al Qaeda’s Iraq chief, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and his high command, crush the terrorist networks he and the Sunni Baathists run, and hermetically seal Iraq’s borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The price demanded of Washington is the acceptance of Iran’s displacement of the United States as the dominant power in Iraq.
The United States is asked, in fact, to satisfy a historic Persian ambition to take over Iraq from Arab domination.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal that the Iranian emissary requested very firmly that the Iranian plan be relayed to the White House in Washington. He explained why it was not delivered to the Zurich conference: the US president George W. Bush had instructed the American delegation not to step out of the confines of operational matters and, moreover, its members were not of high decision-making rank.
Our sources add a third, manipulative, motive for this indirect mailing method:
Iran’s leaders wanted a European official to attest to the presentation of the proposition, so that the Americans could not avoid addressing it. As an added bonus for Tehran, dropping this bombshell between the two Western powers might even start a quarrel.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources, having accessed the high points of the proposal passed between the two intelligence chiefs, note the naked crudeness and arrogance of the ayatollahs’ approach.
The Iranian emissary began his exposition by bragging about the power and depth of Iran’s grip on Iraq. Tehran furnishes the Shiite parties and their militias with funds, logistical support, weapons and military equipment, he said.
Tehran says it controls Iraq’s high and mighty
He named the recipients as the highest members of government in Baghdad: Abdul al-Hakim and his SCIRI, prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari and his Dawa, Ayatollah Moqtada Sadr and his fierce Mehdi Army, and the loyalists of Ayatollahs Mohammad Yakuby and Jalal al Din al Saghir.
The last cleric is close to the influential Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
These high-powered Shiite figures and groups enjoy direct support from Tehran, said the Iranian officer, for two reasons:
a) One can never tell which Shiite group will come out on top of any internal struggle, so Iran invests in them all; b) As beneficiaries of Tehran’s largesse, they will be less susceptible to American enticements for buying influence in high Iraqi Shiite circles.
Tehran has applied the same tactics to win over Sunni Muslim groups, the Iranian envoy revealed to his European interlocutor.
The Islamic republic perceives Iraq’s internecine violence not as a straight sectarian contest but as an all-Muslim struggle, which is why, for the moment, it backs Sunni terrorist groups which are not affiliated to al Qaeda and do not join its operations to foment sectarian civil warfare.
He disclosed that Iran’s agents in Iraq had been ordered to liquidate ex-Baathist officers of the Iraqi army who had been loyal to Saddam Hussein. Once promoted to controlling positions, such as the command of army or intelligence units, they were expected to quickly grab their former eminence and regain power in Iraq.
As for the Sunni guerrillas, Iran made no bones about leading them on to fight the Americans, buy into their good graces, and as soon as US forces were out of the country, turn round and finish them off.
The ayatollahs, however, are banking on the US troops staying in the country long term. The longer the better, said the emissary from Tehran, because their extended presence in Iraq will make them detested by Arabs and Muslims, and their mounting casualties will cut down Washington’s military option against Iran’s nuclear program.
The Iranian officer then laid out his bosses’ plan for crushing al Qaeda’s legions.
They first propose to merge all the Shiite militias into the US-built and trained Iraqi national army and integrate them in Iraqi general intelligence. This would give the army a strong backbone and muscle which it lacks now.
For Tehran, death is the only fit punishment for terrorists
Tehran claims the prerogative to name the Iraqi prime minister (the formation of a national unity government is stalled in Baghdad because Ibrahim Jaafari is known to be Iran’s agent), as well as the minister of interior.
The latter post is pivotal for supervising the merger that will beef up the national army and make it fit for the operation to liquidate al Qaeda’s arm in Iraq.
The merged army under the command of Iranian officers will be deployed to seal Iraq’s borders and dry up al Qaeda’s steady intake of fighters, money and explosive materials. The Americans cannot handle this project because the Iraqi army they have fashioned is not tough enough for the job. Furthermore, Americans would find Iran’s brutal methods of dealing with terrorists totally unacceptable.
Iran proposes to place the border districts manned by the Shiite militias of the national army under night curfew from 8 pm until dawn. Field tribunals will be thrown up in those districts to try the thousands of al Qaeda and Sunni terrorists taken prisoner. They would not languish in jail, as they do now. Justice would be swift and summary, death sentences handed down and executed on the spot.
The Iraqi parliament would have to pass laws prohibiting civilians from carrying arms in the street or public places. Offenders would face heavy fines and long prison sentences.
All these measures would be supervised by high-ranking Iranian officers, each of whom will be responsible for a district.
Since the entire anti-terror cleansing campaign will go on for months – if not years, Tehran has no objection, according to the Iranian officer, to the American army staying on in Iraq as long as it does not interfere in Iran’s operations. Once al Qaeda and the Sunni guerrillas have been liquidated, the Americans may start exiting Iraq.
The Iranian proposition was passed to Washington on Wednesday, March 22.