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    Middle East
     Oct 13, 2007
THE ROVING EYE
General Petraeus in his labyrinth
By Pepe Escobar

General David Petraeus, media-hungry US supreme commander in Iraq doubling as Pentagon counterinsurgency messiah, will continue to be the key pawn in the current, breathless demonization-of-Iran campaign, whose target is to manufacture consent for an American attack against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) inside Iran.

Petraeus's latest is that Iran's ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan



Kazemi-Qomi, "is" a member of the elite al-Quds force of the IRGC, now upgraded by Washington to the status of "terrorist organization".

In - what else - a remix of the lead up towards war on Iraq, Petraeus even has his own Kurdish version of Ahmad Chalabi. According to Rozhnama, a credible, independent daily paper published in Sulaymaniah, in Iraqi Kurdistan, he is "a special and informed source belonging to an Iranian opposition group".

A seasoned, highly respected US-based Kurdish scholar, who'd rather remain anonymous, says: "I'll bet my every dollar this means a Kurdish group. No Persian group is going to give information to the Iraqi Kurds."

Petraeus's dubious sources also include the ragtag Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK), a micro-terrorist group that used to be harbored by Saddam Hussein inside Iraq and now is protected by the Americans in Diyala province. So from Saddam's terrorists the MEK are now elevated to the status of "our" terrorists.

The Kurdish scholar stresses that this Kurdish source, or sources, don't have close relations with the MEK. "The Kurdish group with whom the US and Israel are doing business is the PKK arm - PJAK [the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan]. Which explains why the PKK's reward is a Washington wink while they attack Turkey. At this time, the indigenous Iranian Kurdish groups are not leaders, they are followers hoping to replicate the Iraqi Kurdish situation in Iran if they can help to bring down the Tehran regime."

So what we have is basically a situation of Kurdish PKK guerrillas attacking Turkey from bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, and PJAK guerrillas attacking Iran also from bases in Iraqi Kurdistan. As early as six months ago United Press International was reporting that "the Bush administration was actively courting PKK leaders and Iranian opposition groups based in Iraq to stir up trouble inside Iran".

Tehran knows exactly what's going on. Editorials at the conservative Mehr news agency in Iran routinely accuse the US - and especially the CIA - of using both MEK and PJAK to "destabilize Iran". As much as Turkey now wants to go after the PKK rear bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran has already shelled PJAK rear bases in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Round up the usual suspects
Also according to Rozhnama, Mahmood Farhadi - part of an Iranian commercial delegation from Kirmanshah and arrested by the Americans in Sulaymaniah in late September - "was" a commander of the al-Quds force. And like most Iranians in consular and trade delegations in Iraqi Kurdistan, he hailed from Iranian intelligence agency Ittilaa't, Petraeus was told by his source.

Semantics do count. Some of these Iranians may have had a background in intelligence services. But this does not mean they still work for them, or are still IRGC commanders. This correspondent was repeatedly told in Tehran - and relatively independent Iranian media like Ettemad-e Melli confirm - that since President Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 he has sprinkled many of Iran's ministries and even Iranian Red Crescent positions with people from Ittilaa't.

Anyway, as far as the White House/Pentagon/Green Zone axis is concerned, all arrests - including previous cases in Baghdad and Irbil - concern Iranian "terrorists", be they former or current al-Quds force or Ittilaa't. This is at the heart of the restless spin unleashed on US public opinion.

The Kurdistan regional government has officially asked US Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Baghdad what this is all about - and has demanded the release of Farhadi, the Iranian official, who was legally on a mission in Kurdistan. These arrests offer additional proof - if any was still necessary - of the degree of "sovereignty" enjoyed by Iraqis whatever region they are in.

Iraqi Kurdistan depends on Iran for as much as 40% of its imports, and for much of its gas. There's a healthy free flow of trade along the five border crossings. Iran has already closed the borders for a few days after the arrest of Farhadi - to the despair of Iraqi Kurd officials. Now Iraqi Kurds are caught between a rock and a hard place. They have to convince Tehran in no uncertain terms that Washington still fashions itself as the absolute power in Iraq and even in virtually independent Kurdistan - and there's not much they can do about it. And at the same time they have to tell Washington to please not arrest people without telling us first - we have to maintain at least an appearance of "sovereignty". No one knows whether Iraqi Kurds will be able to remain neutral as they are caught in a merciless war between the US and Iran.

Show me the money
Regarding the alleged Iranian "terrorists", where is Petraeus' hard evidence? There is none - and US corporate media, politicians and presidential candidates have not even bothered to ask him for it.

So much for US "diplomacy" - when Ambassador Qazemi-Komi, now derided as a "terrorist", had already conducted two meetings with Crocker in Baghdad to discuss the Iraqi quagmire. From now on the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, could record a standard video response and release it for every new arrest by US forces; "terrorists" are bound to proliferate as Iran will soon open two consulates in Iraqi Kurdistan - in Irbil and Sulaymaniah.

Petraeus' mantra is that the al-Quds force supplies material for roadside bombs - including the armor piercing variety - that kill US soldiers in Iraq. It would be enlightening to hear Petraeus' outrage on an even more lethal form of roadside bomb: mercenaries of the Blackwater variety who kill not occupying troops but Iraqi civilians in their own country.

And it's not only Blackwater. There are Lebanese Christians, South African white supremacists, former soldiers under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, the British from Aegis. There's Vinel Corp and BDM International - both affiliated with the US Carlyle Group. There are the Israelis from Interop and Colosseum training Iraqi Kurd militias. From Peruvians making US$1,000 a month to Americans making US$1,000 a day, all these mercenaries are ultimately financed by American taxpayers - the whole net subcontracted by Petraeus' former boss, Donald Rumsfeld. Petraeus is just a general caught in a (mercenary) labyrinth - without a Garcia Marquez to elevate him to glory.

It was not the al-Quds force in a convoy of SUVs that opened fire - unprovoked - on a car this Tuesday in Karrada, in central Baghdad, killing two Christian women, Marou Awanis and Geneva Jamal; Awanis, like so many Baghdadis in distress, was using her own car as a taxi, taking government employees to work as a way to get a little bit of cash to take care of her - now orphaned - three daughters. And it was not the al-Quds force which on September 16, also in Baghdad, "deliberately killed" - according to an official investigation by the Iraqi government - no less than 17 civilians.

Blame it on market forces
As reported by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, an October 5 US operation in Baquba killed 26 Iraqi civilians and wounded 40. The pretext - according to the Pentagon - was destroying an "Iranian cell".

Let's even assume that Petraeus could produce hard evidence - which he won't. Even if rogue, former or de facto al-Quds force commanders are helping Shi'ite militias in southern Iraq - and that would be predominantly the Badr organization, trained by the IRGC and allied with the Americans - this is part of a war. The US is an occupying power, and the local resistance, in this case Shi'ite, has the right to use all means necessary to kick the occupiers out.

On the other hand absolutely nothing justifies a direct consequence of the Bush administration's methods of privatizing war and commercializing death: the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians by mercenary armies with absolute impunity - as they are all impervious to Iraqi law since the days when the country was subjected to J Paul Bremer's sinister Coalition Provisional Authority.

This correspondent has witnessed it live in Baghdad. What Iraqis fear most is not "ghost" al-Quds forces (bundled up in the magma known as "the Iranians") or even al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers' suicide bombers (widely referred to as "the Wahhabis"). Ultimate fear means a convoy of gleaming SUVs with tinted windows, lights frantically flashing, sirens wailing, masked, beefed up guys in khaki clothing with their high-tech weapons scanning the sidewalks. They are referred to by a universally comprehensible term, even in Arabic: "mafia".

Some Iraqis even miss those days when they just had to contend with Saddam's goons. At least it was an Iraqi-Iraqi affair. Now the name of the game is no-holds-barred, globalized commercialization of death. Mercenaries conducting dirty wars against the barbarians; that's exactly how the Roman Empire started to collapse.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

(Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


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