U.S. intelligence and military officials have stated that Iranian weapons shipments “are going to Shiite militias that include rogue elements of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi army militia.” But U.S. officials have not been as vocal about possible Iranian support for a separate Shiite militia, the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq (SCIRI). The Mehdi Army and SCIRI are rivals, and both have armed wings.
Yesterday, Kevin Drum speculated that Iran might be providing the SCIRI militia with weaponry. Drum wrote, “In other words, if we had to guess where the bombs were going, we might guess that SCIRI’s militia is getting a share of the action too.” There’s no need to guess any longer. CNN’s Michael Ware has confirmed that Iranians have been supplying weapons to SCIRI. Watch it:
In Dec. 2006, Bush met with the head of SCIRI — Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim — for the second time and applauded his “commitment to a unity government” and his “strong position against the murder of innocent life.”
WARE: But the newest thing, the most interesting thing, out of this briefing is an American senior defense official said that the Iraqi government confirmed that Iranian armed forces gave weapons to an Iraqi political faction. And these included mortars and sniper rifles, weapons that the government said, well, this political faction needs for protection. But the U.S. said these are not protective weapons; these are weapons for attacking — Wolf.
BLITZER: Were they specific which faction received these Iranian weapons? Were they the Mehdi army, for example, loyal to the anti-American radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who, as you know, his political forces are aligned with the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki?
WARE: That’s right. Muqtada’s forces are aligned with Maliki’s government. In fact, Muqtada and his militia put Maliki in power. And these defense officials today spoke openly about the provision of weapons to Muqtada’s Mehdi militia.
However, in this particular case, what they are talking about is this confirmation, by the government of Iraq, of the supply of weapons not to Muqtada’s faction, but to, arguably, the most powerful political faction within this government. That is the SCIRI political party.