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Tuesday, May 22, 2007 

Iranians under the bed.

One of the children killed by a car bomb in a market in the Shia Amil district of Baghdad.

Other than just completely making shit up, for which see the post below, the other journalistic trick when writing an article which can't be in any way verified is to attribute the entire thing to either a "source" or to "officials". This is the sort of thing that Con Coughlin and the Telegraph have previously delighted in doing when it's come to smearing Iran, but for some reason the normally quite sane Simon Tisdall has been given the front page of the Grauniad to reiterate everything that was whispered in his ear by "US officials":

Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

This is all very convenient. The surge, while reducing deaths in Baghdad, has merely shifted the carnage in Iraq out into the provinces surrounding the capital. It's done very little even then to stop the takfiris in the "Islamic State of Iraq" from committing mass murder in the Shia marketplaces, as demonstrated by today's latest outrage. If the situation isn't any better by September, when General Petraeus is to make his report on whether he's managed to stem the violence, then the momentum towards withdrawal from Iraq is likely to become inexorable. To blame the whole failure on Iran must be very tempting.

It's incredibly difficult to come up with any reason why Iran would want to further arm the jihadists in Iraq, considering that the US is going to leave eventually whatever happens. Once the US is gone, the likes of the "Islamic State of Iraq" are unlikely to just decide that their blessed jihad is over; the movement of al-Qaida in Iraq from being the pet project of al-Zarqawi to a "coalition" of fighters in the Mujahideen Shura Council to a self-declared country with the Islamic state suggests that they consider this to be their best chance at starting the caliphate which they've had long, priapic wet dreams about. The threat that such an armed, experienced and deadly militia could pose to Shia Iran, whom Zarqawi condemned as non-Muslims, would be far greater than that from a group such as MEK, allegedly now being funded by the Americans themselves.

There's little doubt that Iran is funding and possibly even training Shia militias, but this has long been known about and almost accepted in a perverse way. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reported at the weekend from Basra that the Iranians were openly selling the Mahdi army weapons. The British forces there seem to have given up on countering both the influence of the militias and of Iran, knowing that there's very little that they can do in practice about either. We've come to the conclusion that the best thing is just to get out, and the decision to blame Iran for anything and everything in the region when we in the first place removed the counter-balance of Saddam is just an attempt to cover our asses over the inevitable criticism once it happens.

None of this explains why Tisdall would still write such a load of unmitigated garbage, although the Telegraph is also at it today, additionally reporting that Tehran is arming the Taliban. If they were, it would make even less sense than arming al-Qaida in Iraq; they supported the removal of the Taliban in the first place, and quite why after years of following that same policy they'd turn full circle is only explained in the sense of trying to further undermine the US presence in the region. Iran's current strength is a result of the vacuum left in Iraq, and that would be deeply affected enough by an unstable Iraq, let alone a similarly in turmoil Afghanistan.

The only conclusion that can be come to is that all this briefing is just another phase in the propaganda war which some journalists are more than happy to take part in. Iran's holding all the cards, and if we're going to lose face, we might as well do it while demonising them in the process. In the long run, such a strategy is only going to do damage to the opposition in Iran to Ahmadinejhad, further uniting the country around a leader that is increasingly seen as a failure domestically.

Related posts:
Blairwatch - WTF is going on at the Guardian?
Dilip Hiro - Briefing encounter

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I met MKO/PMOI activists at the G8 in Edinburgh... They gave me a t-shirt, which is next to useless because it'd be illegal to wear it under anti-terror laws.

Of course, not having studied the Middle East I agreed with their stated aims - democracy and freedom for the Iranian people. I just didn't know that they were a sordid cult who bombed embassies (and would be open to recruitment by the US).

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