McClatchy reports that one of “the most powerful men in Iraq isn’t an Iraqi government official, a militia leader, a senior cleric or a top U.S. military commander or diplomat.” “Tehran’s point man in Iraq” is Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who commands the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Suleimani has “ensured the elections of pro-Iranian politicians, met frequently with senior Iraqi leaders and backed Shiite elements in the Iraqi security forces that are accused of torturing and killing minority Sunni Muslims.” He has also:
–Slipped into Baghdad’s Green Zone, the heavily fortified seat of the U.S. occupation and the Iraqi government, in April 2006 to try to orchestrate the selection of a new Iraqi prime minister. Iraqi officials said that audacious visit was Suleimani’s only foray into the Green Zone; American officials said he may have been there more than once.
– Built powerful networks that gather intelligence on American and Iraqi military operations. Suleimani’s network includes every senior staffer in Iran’s embassy in Baghdad, beginning with the ambassador, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.
– Trained and directed Shiite Muslim militias and given them cash and arms, including mortars and rockets fired at the U.S. Embassy and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, the sophisticated roadside bombs that have caused hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi casualties.
“The United States has struggled, without much success, to cripple Suleimani’s operations in Iraq,” McClatchy notes. “Suleimani’s role in Iraq illustrates how President Bush’s decision to topple Saddam has enabled Shiite, Persian Iran to extend its influence in Iraq.”