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Why are we still talking to Iran?

There's a problem with engaging the same people killing our soldiers

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomes Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Tehran
Reuters
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) welcomes Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as they attend an official meeting in Tehran.
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Lt. Col. Rick Francona
Military analyst

According to the Iranian First Vice President, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always made a special effort to help provide and strengthen security in Iraq.”  He made that propaganda-like statement while hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Tehran.  Al-Maliki’s visit comes just days after the first meeting in Baghdad of a security committee composed of American, Iraqi and Iranian officials established to address the situation in Iraq.

Ironically, at the same time al-Maliki is in Tehran talking to Iranian officials, American forces carried out a raid on Sadr City.  In that raid, 32 militants were killed and an additional 12 detained; all 45 have suspected ties to Iran.  Yes, that’s right, Iran, our “partners” in stabilizing Iraq.  While al-Maliki is dining with the Iranians, American soldiers are being killed by the weapons provided by that very government.  According to senior American military officers, almost three quarters of American casualties in July can be attributed to Iranian-backed Shia militias. 

In the past, al-Maliki has objected to, and at times attempted to prohibit, American raids into the slum that is the stronghold of Shia militias, especially that of the virulently anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.  Al-Maliki, himself a Shia and former deputy head of the militant Islamic Dawa party, has sought to protect his Shia power base, often at the expense of American military operations in the country. 

So why is al-Maliki in Tehran?  Let’s not lay all the blame on al-Maliki.  Before we do that, perhaps we Americans should ask ourselves, “Why are we talking to these people?”  After all, American diplomats came up with the security committee idea and met on at least thee occasions with Iranian diplomats.  All this plays right into Iran’s hand.

By talking to the Iranians, we have legitimized the regime in Tehran, arguably the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, the same regime with a history of American blood on its hands.  According to Iran’s senior national security advisor, the United States was forced to ask Tehran for its help in stabilizing Iraq.  Doesn’t the Bush administration see a problem with seeking assistance from the same people who are killing its soldiers?  We used to call that “suing for peace,” diplo-speak for “we give up.”

This only compounds the serious errors in executing the war almost immediately after the fall of Baghdad.  By all accounts, the defeat of Iraqi forces and the removal of the Bath regime of Saddam Hussein was executed brilliantly by the American armed forces.  It was afterwards that things fell apart.  Agreeing to talk to the Iranians is just a continuation of that miserable performance. 

Who’s stellar idea was that?

The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group recommended that we talk to Syria and Iran, the two countries that are a major part of the problem.  I said it was the wrong thing to do then, and still believe that.  It’s even more of a mistake now that we have competent military leadership pursuing what appears to be a winning strategy in Iraq.  Attacks in al-Anbar governorate are down, cities that a year ago were controlled by jihadists are not today, al-Qaida in Iraq appears to be on the decline.  What is not on the decline, in fact the opposite is true, is Iranian meddling in Iraq affairs.  At about the same time the ISG recommended we talk to Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began providing the extremely lethal explosively formed penetrator to Shia militias, responsible for killing and maiming over 100 American troops thus far.

So we’re talking to the Iranians.  How’s that working out so far?  The Iranians talk to us in Baghdad, host the Iraqi prime minister in Tehran, all while providing the money, weapons and training that are killing our troops. I’d say it’s not working out very well.

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