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Iran is Working with the US in Iraq

If the U.S. has hostile intentions towards Iran, shouldn't someone tell the Iranians?

Article from the Financial Times
Comments by Jared Israel
[Posted 27 March 2003]


[ ]

Following my comments is an article from the London Financial Times about Iranian involvement in the current US-British invasion of Iraq. According to the Financial Times:

[Start Financial Times excerpt]

Iran is the only one of Iraq's neighbours that wholeheartedly supports regime change in Baghdad, even if via a US-led invasion.

...Since becoming convinced that the Bush administration is indeed determined to effect forcible change in Iraq, Tehran has been egging on Washington, albeit in private. Whenever the US has needed Tehran's help, the Iranians have been more than happy to oblige.

-- From "War Sirens Herald Iran's Hour of Revenge," Financial Times [B]

[End Financial Times excerpt]

This contradicts the popular notion that a) this is a war against Islam per se and therefore b) Iran "is next."

The "Iran is next" line is very popular. Yesterday I got together with a friend, a Palestinian Arab. He tends to be apolitical but of course we talked about Iraq.

We agreed that Saddam Hussein's Baath party is fascist. We agreed that the US war will not - was never intended - to bring democracy to Iraq. He expressed concern for U.S. soldiers. I expressed concern for ordinary Iraqis.

And then he leaned forward and half-whispered, as if afraid of being overheard, "Do you think they'll attack Iran next?"


Public enemy, private friend


The US attack puts Iran in an interesting position. While Iran Radio can proclaim...

"With the beginning of the illegitimate war on Iraq and particularly with the offensives spreading to the cities and civilian targets, the necessity for the immediate involvement of the UN and particularly the Security Council to stop the war has increased more than ever before."

-- Iranian Radio, March 27, 2003

...much evidence suggests the Iranian leaders take a different approach on the ground.

Consider the following interview with Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI is an Iran-sponsored Iraqi opposition group, with a base among the majority Shi'ite population of Iraq. He was interviewed on Iranian TV March 7th.

Asked how he would feel if the US invaded Iraq *despite Security Council opposition* he said:

"The Iraqi people want to get rid of the Iraqi regime and Saddam's regime in any way possible. The regime is a source of torture, suppression and destruction for the Iraqi people.... However, if America wants to enter Iraq to act as an occupier and to control Iraq, then undoubtedly no single Iraqi is going to accept this. They will oppose it. All the Iraqi opposition parties have rejected such an approach...However, if their aim is to destroy the Iraqi regime and to allow the Iraqi people to conduct their own affairs, then the Iraqi people will welcome this. The Iraqi people know that a war now will be destructive for the infrastructure and there is going to be heavy civilian casualties, but despite all this and if they are given the assurances that the war is going to lead to the destruction of Saddam and his regime they approve it." [1A]

Note that Hakim openly - on TV - welcomed a unilateral US invasion! A US invasion that Iranian government radio officially labeled "illegitimate." Indeed, he welcomed an invasion that he himself said would mean "heavy civilian casualties."

Keep in mind that Mr. Hakim's SCIRI is dominated by pro-Iranian Islamic fundamentalists, is based in Iran, is sponsored by Iran, and its militia is armed by the Iranian government. It presently has thousands of soldiers in Northern Iraq.

So, to put it bluntly, Mr. Hakim is expressing the real Iranian policy: support for a US invasion despite the certainty of heavy civilian casualties.

Of course, it is true that Mr. Hakim says he doesn't want a US military occupation. But doesn't he have to say that? How could any Iraqi opposition group maintain its credibility if its leaders did not publicly oppose military occupation? By the same token, now that the fighting has started, the Iranian media is now denouncing the U.S. invasion as the work of Satan.

This mixture of cooperation and denunciation results from the contradictory character of the US government-Iranian relationship. 

On the one hand, very public expressions of mutual hostility are needed to mobilize the core groups on whom the US-led empire and the Iranian fundamentalists rely.

For the US empire, it is crucial to have the support of people who oppose Islamic terrorism and fear Islamic fundamentalist expansion. For the Iranians, the core group is militant Muslims and non-Muslims who oppose US hegemony.

While Mr. Bush and the Iranian leaders say harsh things about one another in public, there is considerable evidence they work together behind the scenes. And there is evidence that there is more at stake in this relationship than only Iraq.


A revealing interview


For example, consider the excerpt below from Dan Rather's September 16th CBS TV interview with Hamid Karzai.

Hamid Karzai is the President of Islamic fundamentalist Afghanistan. I am talking here about post-Taliban Afghanistan and, yes, it is reasonable to say it remains an Islamic fundamentalist state. For example, it is governed by Shari'a, the Islamic law that includes criminal penalties for violating rules of personal conduct, with decisions handed down by religious authorities. [2] By the way, the U.S. *continues* to ship millions of Islamic fundamentalist textbooks into Afghanistan. [2A]

Karzai was picked to be President of Afghanistan by Zalmay Khalilzad, the special US envoy for both Afghanistan and Iraq. [3]

During the September 16th CBS TV interview, Dan Rather asked President Karzai what he thought about Iran.

Here's their exchange:

[Start Rather-Karzai excerpt]

Karzai: I've had a good experience with Iran.

Rather: For many Americans this is confusing, because President Bush has described Iran as a part of the quote 'Axis of Evil'.

Karzai: Well, we have made very clear to our neighbors that regardless of what sort of relations they have with the United States of America, that the United States has helped Afghanistan twice -- when the Soviets invaded and now, too, the fight against terrorism has been won with the help of the United States.

Rather: You have no problems with Iran?

Karzai: I have no problems with them, no.[4]

[End Rather-Karzai excerpt]


Karzai speaks...but perhaps too honestly


In the above excerpt, Dan Rather expressed surprise that Karzai would have positive feelings about Iran:

"Rather: For many Americans this is confusing..."

But Karzai replied:

"Well, we have made very clear to our neighbors that regardless of what sort of relations they have with the United States of America, that the United States has helped Afghanistan twice -- when the Soviets invaded and now, too, the fight against terrorism has been won with the help of the United States."

Notice that Dan Rather's comment amounts to a request that Karzai explain why he has positive feelings about Iran, because "for many Americans this is confusing." But Karzai does not address this point at all. Instead, he changes the subject and talks about something that is on his *own* mind, namely, his efforts to sell Iranians on the virtues of cooperating with the US.

Now that's an interesting thing for an Afghan President to be talking about to Iranian leaders, isn't it?

Since Hamid Karzai works for the US, his overtures to Iran cannot be seen in isolation from US policy. While the US and Iran sometimes attack one another verbally in public, Karzai's remarks are an indication of how they work together in private.

But if Karzai has been forging a working relationship with Iran, what is the focus of that relationship? I think the focus is Central Asia and the Caucuses. [4A]

As we predicted, the U.S.-led Empire did not take over Afghanistan in order to eliminate Islamic fundamentalist rule there; rather, the fundamentalists were tamed. To what end? So that Afghanistan could be made an effective base from which fundamentalist movements could be fostered all over the Caucuses and Central Asia, thus weakening Russia, China and India. [4B]

But to do that most effectively, the U.S. needs the cooperation of Iran.

Zalmay Khalilzad, envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, is a long-time advocate of allying with Iran. [3]

He was also the chief strategist of the Pentagon at the outset of the Bosnian war. During that war, the Pentagon coordinated joint efforts by Iran and Saudi Arabia to bring mujahideen from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere into Bosnia to support the local Islamic fundamentalist faction (the 'government' in Sarajevo) and terrorize Bosnian Serbs and their non-fundamentalist Muslim allies. [5]

The Iranian fundamentalists have imperial ambitions. They are interested in Bosnia as a base in Europe. And they are interested in expanding their influence in the Caucuses and Central Asia as well.

Concerning Iran's imperial ambitions, consider the importance here of oil. Many opponents of the war think the US has invaded Iraq to get control of the oil resources, but what would be the point of trying to *directly* control oil wells in the face of a population which would, therefore, be unanimously hostile? Oil companies much prefer to work through local elites who therefore have a stake in maintaining social peace. Its more stable, not to mention safer, and in the long run much more profitable.

But if Iran can maneuver into a position of great influence in Iraq - a majority of whose population are Shi'ite Muslims, like the Iranians - it may be able to use some of that oil wealth to further its own imperial ambitions.

Now, getting back to the belief, held by my friend and many others, that the US will "attack Iran next," let me point out that the Iranian leaders are not fools. They are working with American operatives in Afghanistan and Iraq, just as they worked together - and undoubtedly continue to work together - in Bosnia. They have access to information about US intentions that is not publicly available. And as we saw, the SCIRI's Mr. Hakim, whom the Iranians sponsor, welcomed the US invasion, complete with 'heavy civilian casualties.'

Therefore, where is the evidence that the Iranians are worried?

Since it appears that the US and Iran are working together, why are various opponents of US policy suddenly saying that Iran is the next target?

That is a very good question. We'll try to address it soon.

Below is the article from the Financial Times.


Jared Israel
Emperor's Clothes


War Sirens Herald Iran's Hour of Revenge

By Khairallah Khairallah
(London) Financial Times
March 24, 2003

Financial Times; March 24, 2003, Monday Usa Edition 1; Section: Comment & Analysis; Pg. 17; Headline: War Sirens Herald Iran's Hour Of Revenge; By Khairallah Khairallah


It may be part of George W. Bush's axis of evil; some predict it will be next on the list for US pre-emptive action; but Iran is the only one of Iraq's neighbours that wholeheartedly supports regime change in Baghdad, even if via a US-led invasion.

Getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his government is one of the few objectives on which the various factions of the Tehran regime agree. Since becoming convinced that the Bush administration is indeed determined to effect forcible change in Iraq, Tehran has been egging on Washington, albeit in private. Whenever the US has needed Tehran's help, the Iranians have been more than happy to oblige.

Take last December's London conference of Iraqi opposition groups. That gathering would not have been possible had Iran not encouraged its Shia cats-paw, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), to attend. Iran strong-armed Abdulaziz al-Hakim, the Sciri representative, to adopt positions similar to those espoused by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US government representative. In exchange for its efforts, Iran was rewarded with a political statement from the conference that - for the first time in modern Iraqi history - spoke of a "Shia majority" in Iraq. This meant the US was no longer able to ignore the sectarian reality of Iraq. Iran, keen for change in Iraq, realised early on that this could be achieved only with US military involvement.

Iranian interference angered many liberal Shia who warned Washington that, by supporting Sciri, they would be committing the same mistake they made when they encouraged Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to back the Taliban not that many years ago. They warned the Americans that Sciri would cause even more damage to Iraq's relatively open, multicultural and multi-ethnic society than the Taliban managed to inflict on Afghanistan. America, they predicted, would regret having backed Sciri, just as it now regrets helping the Taliban.

Liberal Iraqi Sunnis, meanwhile, protested that the Iranians had succeeded in hijacking the Iraqi opposition by entering into a secret alliance with the Kurds and the Americans. One of the main reasons Tehran wants the Hussein regime out of the way is because it has realised it is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Iran's attempts to increase its influence in the region; especially in Iraq proper, which cannot conceivably retain its old character after the US is done with it.

Any new regime in Iraq - whatever its character - will have to take the country's Shia majority into consideration. Should the US fail to reshape Iraq into a prototype for neighbouring countries, Iran (which would in this case become one of the biggest operators in Iraq) would then succeed in sowing more confusion and forcing Washington to involve itself even more in Iraq. As a result, the Americans would increasingly need Iran.

Even the hardline conservative faction in Iran believes there are benefits in the US war on Iraq. This faction calculates that by having the US army on Iran's border, it would be able to justify its repressive domestic policies. What better reason for maintaining a hardline stance than having the "Great Satan" on your doorstep?

Overthrowing the Ba'athist regime in Iraq has been an Iranian objective since the days of the Shah. Yet Iran's attempts to change the regime have failed despite its support for various Iraqi opposition movements, including the Kurds, for more than 30 years, the 1980-1988 war between the two countries and more than 12 years of sanctions.

Tehran therefore came to the conclusion that the only way it could get rid of its old enemy would be through a third party - in this case, the US. Contrary to popular belief, the Iranians have learnt how to co-exist with the Americans, as the experience of Afghanistan has demonstrated.

Whether Iraq manages to remain whole, or civil war breaks out, Iran has been preparing itself for some time to play a role in both the US-led war and in post-Hussein Iraq.

In fact, the only unanswered question is whether Iranian military intervention will be direct or indirect. Will the Badr brigade, Sciri's military arm, which includes large numbers of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, cross over into Iraq in military or civilian garb?

In either case, it seems that the hour of revenge is at hand for the Iranians. Tehran believes it is time to redraw the political map of the Middle East, giving the Shias a bigger role everywhere, from Afghanistan to the Gulf to south Lebanon.

The writer is a London-based Lebanese political analyst

(C) 2003 The Financial Times Limited Financial Times (London)
Posted for educational use only

[Footnotes Follow The Appeal]


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Footnotes and Further Reading


[1] Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire; Copyright 2003 Bbc Monitoring/Bbc;BBC Monitoring International Reports; March 27, 2003; Headline: Iranian Radio Comments On Role Of Security Council On Iraq Crisis

[1A] BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political; Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring
March 8, 2003, Saturday; Headline: Iraqi Shi'i leader says UN inspectors indecisive; US administrator unacceptable
Source:Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 2, Tehran, in Persian 1900 gmt 7 Mar 03

[2] Islamic religious rules cover areas often left to personal discretion in non-Islamic societies. Consider, for example, these elaborate requirements for intimate personal hygiene. [Scroll down to the subhead, 'Rules of Toilet'][Takhalli

Shari'a, or Islamic religious law, covers the same areas as civil and criminal law in secular states, but also covers rules of personal conduct. Shari'a may not currently be enforced with the ferocity of the Taliban or of Saudi Arabia in all Islamist states, however keep in mind two things:

A) Wherever it is enforced, it may subject *all* citizens to the rule of men whose authority derives from Islam and who are trained in its ancient teachings. This leads to very sharp conflict, for example in places like Nigeria. To understand what motivates the non-Muslims who are resisting Shari'a in Nigeria, consider the case of Adama Yunusa. This 19- year-old had sued her fiancÚ, Isa Katagum, for impregnating her and refusing to marry her. So: we have Ms. Yanusa, 19 years old, that is, little more than a child, and Mr. Katagum, perhaps not much older. And we have a personal tragedy, small, but very real for these young people. What do they need? They need some intelligent help from their elders, so they can resolve the mess they have gotten themselves in. How did the Shari'a court deal with this little tragedy?

First, Ms. Yanusa could not, of course, meet the Shari'a requirement to produce four male witnesses who could confirm that she had in fact had sex with Isa Katagum. So the Shari'a court threw out Ms. Yanusa's charges.

Second, since she was pregnant, and it was therefore apparent that she'd had sex with *someone,* the judges, in their exercise of 1300-year-old wisdom, found her guilty of the crime of fornication. She was sentenced to 100 strokes of the cane, to be administered publicly, after the baby was born. [Scroll down to, 'Sharia: Woman Gets 100 Strokes Over Pregnancy']

B) Once Shari'a is in force, its severity can increase according to the rulings of religious authorities and/or the mood of the Islamic population. And in States governed by Shari'a, the *only* views that count are those of Muslim men.

February 27, 2003 Thursday Final Edition
Section: News; Pg. 01a
Headline: Bush Pledges To Transform Iraq;
Postwar Nation Would Be 'Example Of Freedom' For Region
Byline: Ron Hutcheson And Martin Merzer Knight Ridder News Service

[2A] Regarding the US shipping Islamic fundamentalist textbooks into Afghanistan, see 'Bush & the Media Cover-Up the Jihad Schoolbook Scandal,' at

[3] Concerning US Envoy Khalilzad's selection of Hamid Karzai to be President of Afghanistan, go to

For more on Khalilzad, US envoy for both Afghanistan and Iraq, go to

[4] The CBS interview is posted at
Or, to save time, go right to the section in question at our backup copy:

[4A] Regarding apparent efforts to create an Islamic fundamentalist state out of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics, see  

[4B] See, "Afghanistan: It's Not 'About Oil'"
by Jared Israel at

[5] See, 'A Diabolical Game: The US in Bed with Terrorists' at

 [6] For more on the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), see "Iran Allegedly Sends 5000 Troops Into Northern Iraq...Is the 'State Department...encouraging too [!] strong an Iranian role'?"

Note added April 27, 2004 - For more on what lies behind the Iraq war, see Jared Israel's series, "How the Lies of Scott Ritter Reveal the Strategic Goals of the Bizarre Iraq War"
Part 1 is posted at

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