"Democracy is not a good that people can enjoy without trouble. It is, on the contrary, a treasure that must be daily defended and conquered anew by strenuous effort.”
-- Ludwig von Mises
After the 2003 US-led military invasion of Iraq, Iran’s Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei summoned a war council in Tehran where Iranian
officials adopted several initiatives to secure Iran’s short term and long
term interests. Iranian security services suggested using Iranian aligned
Iraqi-based groups to promote their interests and confront the United States
and her allies. One of these organizations is the Supreme Council for
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (also called “SCIRI”), now the most powerful
party in Iraq.
The SCIRI is one of an array of groups trained, funded and promoted by the
Iranian government. Since its inception in 1982, Iran has welcomed thousands
of their members, including former leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim.
The prime objective of the Shia dominated group was toppling Saddam
Hussein’s Baathist regime and establishing an Islamic Republic of Iraq.
Armed with tactical weapons provided by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards the
SCIRI maintained about eight thousand fighters on the border if Iraq.
During Saddam’s reign agents of the SCIRI conducted hundreds of low level
cross border guerilla warfare missions. When their leader, Ayatollah
Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim was assassinated his brother Abel Aziz Al-Hakim took
the helm, commanding some ten thousand former militia members to enhance
their presence in Iraq.
After the invasion about ten thousand members of the SCIRI’s military wing
the Badr Brigades poured into Iraq from the north, south and center to seize
towns and government buildings. With guidance and support from Iran they
setup secret intelligence cells throughout the nation. They took positions
including ranking intelligence posts inside the cabinet of the Interior
Ministry, and they presently control about forty to fifty percent of the
With an elected Shiite-dominated government in control and the U.S.
concentrating on the Sunni-led insurgency, Iran has used its influence
inside of Iraq to undermine democratic institutions and step up sectarian
violence. The Iraqi Interior Ministry has become an Iranian fifth column
with the Iraqi government running death squads and operating secret prisons.
According to US military intelligence, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards run
a broad based heavily funded insurgency with the sole purpose of killing
U.S. led forces. These terror tactics have severely undermined the success
of a broad based coalition led democratic government.
General George W. Casey recently said “They’re putting millions of dollars
into the south to influence the elections … it’s funded primarily through
their charity organizations and also Badr and some of these political
parties…. A lot of their guys (Badr) are going into the police and
military.” In southern Iraq, groups funded by Iran have already forcefully
implemented Sharia laws, including the banning alcohol and curbing the
rights of women. A police lieutenant said “From the beginning, the Islamic
parties filled the void…. They still hold the real power. The rank and file
all belong to the parties. Everyone does. You can’t do anything without
It is an axiom in Iraq, across the Middle East and elsewhere, that Iran is
seeking to destabilize Iraq and mold its domestic politics. Even though Iraq
has become endangered by this illegal, heavy infiltration, it is too early
to rule democracy a failure. But if Washington is serious about confronting
the extremists it needs to think bigger and talk smaller. The Bush
Administration made a broad range of mistakes in the Middle East including
an ill-prepared post-war plan, waiting too long to reach to out to the Sunni
minority, not having an organized broad based pro-democracy initiative,
lacking sufficient pre and post war intelligence, and not doing more to
support a democratic domino effect in the region.
The appointment of Robert Gates as Defense Secretary and the Democratic
victory in the mid-term elections has enhanced the possibility of broad
range negotiations with Iran on security in Iraq and Iran’s nuclear program.
President Bush, although constitutionally still in charge of foreign policy,
has witnessed his administration’s democratic Middle East doctrine suffer
several moral and technical setbacks. Broad range negotiations with Iran
and Syria may lead to temporary stabilization of Iraq but the decision will
haunt the United States and its allies for decades. If and when the United
States begins broad based negotiations with Iran and Syria the nail will be
placed in the coffin of a democratic Iraq and a partitioned Islamic Republic
of Iraq may become a reality.
The dictatorship in Iran will be farther empowered and their oppressive
reign prolonged for decades. Neither broad range negotiations, war on Iran
or massive troop withdrawal should be part of the solution. Implementation
of the Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker III,
to reassess Iraq is a step in the right direction but it should not exclude
broad range support for pro-Democracy movements in the region.
If the United States and the Iraqi people surrender, they will embolden
extremists across the world, stifle the democratic domino effect, intensify
international terrorist activity, and encourage extremists in their battle
to defeat democracy.