US State Department officials are considering an investigation into the presence of Iranian weapons in Iraq. Documents have been uncovered by Reuters news service, indicating that a formal arms trade agreement has been established between the neighboring countries. Iran and Iraq both deny this, but even more damning evidence has also come to light in the form of photographs showing Iranian arms in the possession of Iraqi forces.
In an interview with FoxNews.com, one State Department official pointed out that the US government had made it clear to Iraq that if the nation transfers or purchases arms from Iran, it is in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. He further emphasized that this would be grounds for an international investigation into the recently-surfaced photographs.
Even in absence of those photographs, it is already known that Iraq has at least allowed Iranian arms to be transferred through its territory. Throughout the Syrian Civil War, Iran has been supplying weapons and other military equipment to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the vast majority of these have passed through Iraqi airspace or over Iraqi roads. While the administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acknowledged knowing about this, it claimed that it was unable to stop the shipments.
Though it is a difficult thing to prove, it seems far more likely that Iraq did not want to stop such arms transfers. The presence of Iranian weapons on Iraqi battlefields supports this interpretation. If nothing else, it would be difficult for Iraq to stand up to Iran if doing so would put it at risk of losing a ready source of arms.
But more than this, it is well known that the current governments of Iraq and Iran are closely allied, not just for strategic reasons, but also ideologically. The Maliki government has reportedly virtually shut out the country’s Sunni majority from governance, along with other minorities. Prior to the recent national elections in Iraq, many Iraqis expressed concerns that if Maliki retained power this time around, he would become a dictator for life. And such a dictatorship would follow the already-established pattern of governing exclusively for the benefit of the Shia population at home and abroad.
With Iran being the dominant Shia power in the region, it would be little surprise if Maliki’s Iraq followed its neighbor’s lead. And representatives of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), claim that this is exactly what has been happening.
Members of the MEK have been living in exile in Iraq since shortly after the Iranian Revolution. But under the government of Nouri al-Maliki, they have been subject to repeat attacks by Iraqi forces, with 116 members having been killed since US forces left the country. As the groups’ political activities are strictly directed against the Iranian government, these unprovoked attacks are presumably being carried out at the behest of Tehran.
This collusion in terms of military armament and regional policy is a danger not only to the MEK but also to the West and to the prospect for stability in the Middle East region. In comments to FoxNews.com, Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “The risk of what would happen if Iran came to dominate Iraq is huge, and Iraq is absolutely critical to the stability of the Gulf and its global oil exports.”
The tragic irony of this situation, from the US perspective, is that the State Department still considers Iraq a “partner in the fight against terrorism,” and especially the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to one official who commented on this story. As such, the US has continued to provide its own equipment and training to Iraqi forces even after pulling out all of its own troops.
Evidently these American resources have been put into action in Iraq right alongside Iranian arms, and perhaps for the sake of carrying out policies set by a nation whose Supreme Leader Khamenei recently declared that “the wickedness of the United States is apparent to all.”
Just this week, the Pentagon announced that it would be providing an additional one billion dollars in military aid to Iraq, further adding to the supplies of missiles, rockets, and diverse firearms that it has already shipped to its dubious partner.