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Crocker: ‘Iran Has A Dialogue With Everyone In the Iraqi Shia Community’

By Matt Duss  

"Crocker: ‘Iran Has A Dialogue With Everyone In the Iraqi Shia Community’"

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petSeveral of the Senators questioned the recent events in Basra, but thus far only Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) has challenged the administration’s attempt to frame the Basra fighting as simply a conflict between “the Iraqi government and Iranian-backed militias.” Here is Senator Reed’s exchange with Ambassador Ryan Crocker:

SEN. REED: Mr. Ambassador, is the Mahdi Army…the only Shi’a organization that is receiving assistance, cooperation, has significant contacts on a routine basis with the Iranians? [...] Would that include the ISCI element, the Badr Brigade?

AMB. CROCKER: I’d put that in the second category. Iran has a dialogue with, again –

SEN. REED: Everyone in the Shi’a community.

AMB. CROCKER: — everyone. That’s right. And –

SEN. REED: And it’s a mutual dialogue.

AMB. CROCKER: And not just the Shi’a community. What has happened with the Supreme Council and Badr is that they’ve basically gotten out of the overt militia business. It’s now the Badr organization. And many of its elements did integrate with the Iraqi security forces.

SEN. REED: Thank you. My time’s — (inaudible).

It’s clear that Crocker knew what Reed was getting at, and tried to avoid addressing Reed’s important point: Iran has strong and longstanding ties to the U.S.’s current favorite Shia faction, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). Given how alarmed many conservatives are over Iran’s role in Iraq, you would think that concerns over the extent of Iran’s relationship with the Mahdi Army would be secondary to concerns over the fact that the United States and Iran currently share a primary ally in the Iraqi government. And that that ally happens to be an organization founded in Iran, under the auspices of Ayatollah Khomeini.

As for Crocker’s assertion that the Badr have “gotten out of the militia business,” what he means is that thousands of these Iranian-trained and indoctrinated militiamen have been inducted into the Iraqi security forces, and thus are no longer considered a militia. Also, they’ve changed their name. Crocker’s “second category” of militias apparently means militias who we no longer define as militias because they’ve agreed to cooperate, for now, with the American occupation.

Full transcript:

SEN. REED: Mr. Ambassador, is the Mahdi Army…the only Shi’a organization that is receiving assistance, cooperation, has significant contacts on a routine basis with the Iranians?

AMB. CROCKER: I don’t think so, Senator.

SEN. REED: Who else might be having that kind of contact? If not military training, then a dialogue, money moving back and forth for other reasons?

AMB. CROCKER: Let me — those are two different aspects and I’ll address them separately. There are other militia groups down in Basra, a militia organization called Thar Allah, the Vengeance of God, whose leader, incidentally, is now in detention. They almost certainly get support from Iran, as does something called Iraqi Hezbollah. That does not necessarily imply a connection to Lebanese Hezbollah, but again, an extremist militia. Iran has the — again the tactic, as we’ve seen in Lebanon, of supporting a number of different–

SEN. REED: Would that include the ISCI element, the Badr Brigade?

AMB. CROCKER: I’d put that in the second category. Iran has a dialogue with, again –

SEN. REED: Everyone in the Shi’a community.

AMB. CROCKER: — everyone. That’s right. And –

SEN. REED: And it’s a mutual dialogue.

AMB. CROCKER: And not just the Shi’a community. What has happened with the Supreme Council and Badr is that they’ve basically gotten out of the overt militia business. It’s now the Badr organization. And many of its elements did integrate with the Iraqi security forces.

SEN. REED: Thank you. My time’s — (inaudible).

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