As the debate between the Democrats and themselves over the war in Iraq becomes increasingly absurd, inside Iran another debate of momentous proportions is underway.
It involves Iran’s involvement with Iraq, and who is to blame for recent Iranian failures that have led to the capture of high-ranking Iranian intelligence officials by multinational forces in Iraq and the defection of two senior Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers, probably to the U.S.
The Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS, aka VEVAK) are hurling stink bombs at each other in the corridors of power in Tehran. Each is accusing the other of having screwed up in Iraq and allowing Iran’s intelligence and terrorist-support networks to get rolled up over the past three months.
More importantly, my sources in Tehran tell me: each organization also suspects the other of secret ties to U.S., British, and/or Israeli intelligence. True or not, this is terrific news for the United States. Mutual suspicion is the first stage of a crippling sick think that has ruined more than one world-class intelligence organization.
MOIS is the civilian branch of Iran’s intelligence. It tracks the Iranian opposition, handles internal security and counterespionage work. It also does Secret Service-style protection of the leadership.
The Rev. Guards Intelligence Department is tasked with penetrating foreign military organizations, acquiring defense technology, and liaising with armed terrorist organizations overseas, such as Hezbollah.
Both support Iranian government-ordered terrorist operations, from sending hit squads to assassinate dissidents, to blowing up U.S. and Israeli embassies. And both are deeply involved in Iraq.
In public, Iranian officials gloat over the coming American “defeat” in Iraq. In private, however, they fear the Bush administration will stand firm. The one thing giving them hope is the Democrats in Washington and their talk of an Iraq pullout.
Shortly after U.S. troops raided an Iranian intelligence headquarters in northern Iraq on the night of Jan. 10, the encourage of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei began referring to America as the Cobra standing on its tail.
Ayatollah Khamenei hastily convened a national security damage control committee to devise new strategies for reducing Iran’s footprint in Iraq. It was staffed almost exclusively with top Rev. Guards officers, including the head of IRGC intelligence, Maj. Gen. Morteza Rezai, and former deputy IRGC commander, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Baqr Zolqadr, now a deputy interior minister.
They accused MOIS of leaking information on rival IRGC networks in Iraq to the British, who passed the information to the Americans. That led to the capture over Christmas of a top IRGC operative, Brig. Gen. Amir Mohsen Shirazi.
As the U.S. raids on Iranian networks in Iraq intensified, the IRGC leaders urged Khamenei to order Ahmadinejad and MOIS to terminate their operations in Iraq, because they were “unprofessional.”
They also issued the Supreme Leader a dire warning: if MOIS continued to leak operational details of IRGC networks in Iraq to the British and the Americans, they would be compelled to strike back hard at the Americans. And that, in turn, could lead Iran into an open shooting war with the U.S. military.
Many Iranians believe this is just what Ahmadinejad wants, since his chiliastic vision of the End Times calls for an orgy of bloodshed on a planetary scale to usher in the return the 12th imam, the Imam Mahdi.
Even as this infighting continues, the Revolutionary Guards Qods Force is inserting fresh operatives into Iraq, according to my sources. More than one hundred fresh operatives have entered Iraq in recent weeks, even as militiamen loyal to Iranian stooge Muqtada al-Sadr have laid low.
The Iranian intelligence war and the rear guard effort by the IRGC to re-establish its operational networks in Iraq aren’t the only signs that the U.S. is starting to win in Iraq.
Last Friday, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of Multinational Division-North and the 25th Infantry Brigade in Iraq, told reporters that his troops have seized another cache of Iranian-made weapons and have "got momentum" in the fight against the insurgents.
Speaking from Baghdad via live video-conference to reporters at the Pentagon, Mixon said he has beefed up his forces in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad in recent months and is now asking for more units to take counter-insurgency operations beyond the provincial capital, Baquba.
"I've got momentum and want to press forward," Mixon said. "I know what I would do with more troops." The full transcript of Mixon’s remarks is here.
So with these first encouraging signs of a turning tide in Iraq, wouldn’t you think that Congress would get behind the war effort, to send a strong message to the insurgents and to their primary backer, Iran?
You would be wrong.
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee conducted a marathon hearing on the President’s supplemental budget request to fund the war in Iraq.
For anyone who caught part of the hearing on C-SPAN, there were comic moments to this underlying tragedy.
At one point, Rep. Bill Young of Florida introduced an amendment to prohibit the use of any funds in the supplemental from being used for combat operations in Iraq, other than what was strictly necessary to protect U.S. lives and cover the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Rep. Young made clear he didn’t support his own amendment. However, because the appropriations bill was binding legislation – as opposed to the non-binding resolution calling for a U.S. withdrawal that passed a few weeks ago - he thought it was the proper moment to get committee members on the record on the war.
In the voice vote, more than a half-dozen of the committee’s 66 members voted “Yes” to the resolution. But when Rep. Young called for a recorded vote, not a single weasel stood by their vote.
The vote was 66 to nothing and the amendment was “narrowly defeated,” Chairman David Obey (D, WI) quipped.
Rep. Obey was filmed last week telling left-wing supporters that a vote for the supplemental was not a vote to prolong the war. They were wrong to protest his efforts to pass the president’s bill, because the Democrats had laid secret traps in the language that would actually end the war.
“We're trying to use the supplemental to end the war. But you can't end the war if you vote against the supplemental. It's time these idiot liberals understand that,” Obey said.
In case the “idiot liberals” didn’t get it, Obey got even more specific. “The language we have in the resolution ends the authority for the war. It makes it illegal to proceed with the war. You don’t have to defund something if the war doesn’t exist. That’s the problem. The liberal groups … don’t understand what the hell is in the bill.”
Thank-you, Congressman Obey. Just when the bad guys were beginning to lose hope, you are coming to their rescue.
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