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
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
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
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:
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