Leaked Report, New Iraqi Alignment Reveal U.S. War Failure

IPS — A newly released WikiLeaks document on Iraq and the new political alignment between Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki both provide fresh evidence that Gen. David Petraeus’s war against Shi’a militias in 2007-2008 was a futile exercise.

The WikiLeaks document is an intelligence report identifying the Shi’a commander who Petraeus said was the Iranian-backed rogue militia leader behind the kidnapping and killing of five U.S. troops in Karbala in January 2007. In fact, according to the leaked document, it was a Mahdi Army commander.

That new information about the Karbala operation confirms earlier evidence that in 2007 a political axis linking Iran, Sadr and Maliki was working to foil Petraeus’s assault on the Mahdi Army and to hasten the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

That political alignment is not a reflection of Iranian dominance over Iraqi politics but of a convergence of interests among Shi’a actors in the Iraq conflict.

The same political alignment has now resurfaced as a pivotal development in the formation of a new Iraqi government. Maliki and Sadr have agreed to form a new Shi’a-dominated government, and Maliki traveled to Iran last week to meet Sadr and publicly thanked Iran for its help in bringing Sadr into his bloc of deputies.

The Maliki bloc now has two more votes than the Sunni-based al-Iraqiya bloc and hopes to bring in the Kurds to collect enough votes to form a new government.

The December 2006 intelligence report in the WikiLeaks collection details a plan to kidnap U.S. soldiers in Baghdad. The report reveals that the militia commander in charge of the operation, Ashar al-Dulaimi, was a subordinate to a “senior Jaysh al-Mahdi [Mahdi Army] commander” named “Hasan” or “Salim”.

Dulaimi was a key commander of the Mahdi Army’s “secret cells”, which had been trained by Hezbollah officers working in cooperation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Sadr had never hidden his military cooperation with Hezbollah. Despite Sadr’s open criticism of Iranian policy toward Iraq for its backing of the rival Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), he also sent troops to be trained in Iran.

The Mahdi Army plan to kidnap U.S. troops did not unfold in Baghdad but in Karbala, where five U.S. troops were abducted in a raid on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center January 20, 2007 and later found dead. The U.S. military tracked Dulaimi to Sadr City and killed him in May 2007.

Petraeus’s spokesman, Gen. Kevin Bergner, later accused Iran of having directed the Karbala attack though it control of networks of “Special Groups” armed and trained by Iran. Petraeus maintained consistently that Iran was backing “rogue” units that had left the Mahdi Army.

The WikiLeaks documents show, however, that Petraeus and his command in Iraq were well aware that al-Dulaimi was a Mahdi Army commander in charge of secret operations. The Petraeus “Special Groups” line was aimed at hiding the fact that the U.S. command was determined to destroy as much of the Mahdi Army as possible by claiming that it was actually attacking rogue Shi’a militias.

The New York Times story on Iran-related WikiLeaks documents by Michael Gordon, which portrays the documents as reconfirming the Petraeus line on Iran-backed “Special Groups”, highlighted the intelligence report on Dulaimi but omitted the central fact that it clearly identifies him as a Mahdi Army commander.

The evidence also indicates that the Mahdi Army Karbala operation was done with the full knowledge of the Maliki government.

Col. Michael X. Garrett, then commander of the Fourth Brigade combat team in Karbala, confirmed to this writer in December 2008 that the Karbala attack “was definitely an inside operation”. Both the provincial governor and police chief were suspected of having collaborated in the operation, Garrett said.

Gov. Aqil al-Khazali was not a Sadrist but a member of Maliki’s own Dawa Party and was presumably acting in line with a policy that came from Baghdad.

That was a sign that Maliki, Sadr and Iran were still cooperating secretly, even as Maliki was ostensibly cooperating with the U.S. military against Sadr.

Maliki maintained ties with Sadr, because he needed his support. Sadr, who had 30 members in the Iraqi parliament, had supplied the key votes that installed Maliki as prime minister at an April 2006 meeting in the Freen Zone over which Iranian Quds Force commander Brig. Gen. Qasem Soleimani presided, according to a story by McClatchy newspapers.

The Mahdi Army had also played the key role in 2006 and early 2007 on behalf of the entire Shia Alliance in the pivotal battle of Baghdad against Sunni insurgents by carrying out an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against Sunnis in a number of neighbourhoods.

Sadrist deputies had left the government parliamentary bloc in September 2006, and Sadr attacked Maliki’s renewal of the United Nations mandate for the foreign military presence in November 2006.

In early 2007, however, Maliki’s national security adviser, Nassar al-Rubaei, told Reuters that they were negotiating on a proposal for a timetable for withdrawal to heal the rift with Sadr. He also expressed dismay at the U.S. military desire to “lure Sadr into direct confrontation”.

The Sadrists worked out an arrangement with Maliki under which U.S. troops could be kept out of Sadr City. Iraqi troops would take the lead in establishing security in the Sadrist enclave, and U.S. troops would not intervene unless there was resistance by the Mahdi Army.

But the U.S. military refused to honour the agreement and carried out large-scale sweeps and even air strikes in Sadr City beginning in early 2007, claiming that they were only targeting those “Special Groups”.

The Mahdi Army command for secret military operations apparently planned their counter-attack in Karbala in the hope of having some leverage over the U.S. military in Iraq.

Even as Maliki was ostensibly agreeing to U.S. attacks on Mahdi Army commanders in Sadr City, Petraeus told author, Bing West, in September 2007 that the political link between Maliki and Sadr was far from being broken. “JAM [Jaysh al- Mahdi] has its hooks into the ministries,” Petraeus told him. “It took years to get this point, and it will take some time to get rid of it. Maliki is working his way through it.”

A series of moves from September 2007 to mid-2008 marked the unfolding of a strategy by Maliki, supported by Iran, to get Sadr to curb the Mahdi Army’s role in order to maneuver the George W. Bush administration into negotiating a timetable for total withdrawal.

Iran prevailed on Sadr to agree to a unilateral ceasefire in September 2007 and to end fighting in Basra and Sadr City in late March and early May 2008. The latter two agreements prevented U.S. troops from carrying out major offensives in both cases.

The quid pro quo for Sadr’s agreement to those ceasefires appears to have been the promise of a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Maliki’s renewal of the alliance with Sadr on the way to forming a new Shi’a government has brought strong protest from the Barack Obama administration. U.S. Ambassador James Jeffries has repeatedly said in recent weeks that Sadr’s inclusion in an Iraqi government is unacceptable to Washington.

But that protest has only underlined the fact that the United States is the odd man out in the Shi’a-dominated politics of Iraq.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. His latest book, with John Kiriakou, is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War. Read other articles by Gareth.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on October 26th, 2010 at 9:41am #

    In short, even greater or as great criminal minds as existed prior to US naked aggression ruling the evil empire.
    However, i do not expect that US war planners have not expected shia’s dominance to arise in iraq. I also expect that US will not ever withdraw military presence there unless it is forced too.
    Hey, folks, american warlords are not stupid. Look how much land they have already grabbed or occupied? tnx

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 27th, 2010 at 4:53am #

    I’m afraid that I will treat Wikileaks with a ton of salt for some time yet. Either Assange is a dupe, peddling selected propaganda designed to push various Zionazi propaganda lies concerning the Iraq Holocaust eg that the Iraqi death-toll numbers just over 100,000 (the lie propagated by the despicable Iraqi Body Count) and that these deaths were overwhelmingly caused by the savage ‘reg-heads’ attacking one another, while the noble ‘Western liberators’ stood by helpless in the face of such wanton savagery, or he has allowed himself to be used, by the moral sewer of the Western media to the same end.
    Anyone with the least knowledge of the facts knows that the true death-toll is vastly greater than one million, and that The Lancet report found the vast majority came as the result of Yankee action, particularly aerial bombardment, this all coming on top of another million murdered by the sanctions of mass destruction. Such an observer also knows that millions have been exiled or internally displaced. They also know that the Yankee Nazis deliberately turned to the ‘Salvador Option’ of arming and unleashing sub-fascist killers, the detritus of Saddam’s security forces, to murder, torture and terrorise, justas they had done in Vietnam with Operation Phoenix, and throughout Latin America in the 1970s and 80s. And they will also know that the excellent Bertrand Russells Tribunal discovered that Iraqis overwhelmingly blamed Mossad for the hundreds of murders of Iraqi intellectuals that came after the illegal invasion, an intellectual decapitation designed to drive Iraq back to the Stone Age, and simply reeking of Zionazi race and cultural hatred and contempt for the ‘two-legged animals’ .
    Yet in the face of these incontrovertible facts, all long suppressed by the mainstream media, the vile scum of the Western propaganda system instead regale us with racist lies, endlessly repeated by the Islamophobic Rightwing vermin (pardon the double redundancy) in the blogosphere of the mainstream media, that blame the Iraqi victims, vilify Iran, as ever, and exculpate the Yankee invaders and their poodle collaborators, as powerless bystanders to the horror.
    Until Assange gets up and forcefully criticises the Western media for this attempt to rewrite history to the Yankee Reich’s liking, then I do not trust him one iota. He is, I repeat, in my estimation, either a willing agent of the Zionazis or an unconscious dupe, a monumental egotist who doesn’t realise that he is being duchessed.

  3. shabnam said on October 27th, 2010 at 5:59am #

    Well said, thank you. Assange who ‘leaks’ documents to expose war criminals’ crime, in the latest ‘leaks’ has chosen to frame the victims, both Iraqis and Iranians at this critical juncture where Maliki is about to form a government against intense opposition of US imperialists, Zionists and the terrorist state of Saudi Arabia, a US puppet, where spent millions of dollars to install Iyad Allawi, famous as BUTCHER OF BAGHDAD, as Prime Minister.
    Assange like other closet Zionists has accepted the official story of 9/11 with NO RESERVATION and label those who have doubts as propaganda theorists.
    No wonder Assange has been celebrated at many sites as hero and his ‘leaks’ is treated as evidence against Iraqi government’s crime and a revelation about Iranian ‘influence’ in Iraq in OCCUPIED IRAQ by the propaganda machine. Juan Cole and others have taken Wikileaks seriously to boost his ‘credibility’.

    Juan Cole accepted the Iranian election ‘fraud’ HOAX from the beginning where today many “green” leaders have said there was NO election FRAUD and Ahmadinejad WON THE ELECTION, But, Zmag and Joanne Landy still are trying to hold the ‘progressives’ hostage with election ‘fraud’ hoax.

  4. Jonas Rand said on October 27th, 2010 at 10:53am #


    Do you dispute the facts shown in the leaked documents? Iraqi ‘security forces’, under US ‘oversight’, tortured and killed Iraqi civilians. There is really nothing in the documents that is propaganda, or that attempts to negate American responsibility for what happened. The sensible conclusion is that the United States occupiers trained the Iraqi Army how to torture and kill civilians, and the Iraq government learned to do all this from the USA. The disgusting torture tactics and humiliation that was displayed in the Abu Ghraib photos – the most well-known, but assuredly not an isolated case – was continued after the new gov took over.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 29th, 2010 at 2:21am #

    Obviously, Jonas, you don’t read the ‘mainstream media’.That’s a sensible course, as too much immersion in that moral, ethical, intellectual and spiritual cess-pit could damage even the sturdiest soul. However, if you had, you would have seen that the propaganda psychopaths, as reliable as any of Dr Pavlov’s dogs in their obedient slavering and drooling, immediately portrayed the Wiki Leaks documents as revealing a near impotent US military, unable to control the murderous impulses of the savages, the sub-human ‘rag-heads’ that we are incessantly propagated to hate, fear and despise. The extent of US evil in Iraq, direct as well as through death-squad proxies was barely hinted at, and the victims were made to seem the primary wrong-doers, the usual tactics of the Zionazi controlled engine of lies and hatemongering we risibly call the ‘Free Press’.

  6. mary said on October 29th, 2010 at 5:44am #

    The usual suspects voted against the UN resolution on DU.

    UN passes new resolution on depleted uranium
    Posted by Icbuw Coordinator at 11:40am

    UN First Committee sends clear message to depleted uranium users over transparency

    The United Nations First Committee has voted, by an overwhelming margin, for state users of depleted uranium weapons to release data on where the weapons have been used to governments of states affected by their use.
    29 October 2010 – ICBUW

    136 states last night voted in favour of a resolution calling on state users of depleted uranium weapons to release quantitative and geographical data to the governments of affected states. The resolution will now go forward to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for a second vote at the end of November.

    Although UNGA resolutions are non-binding, they are a useful means of focusing attention on key issues. In this case the ongoing failure of the US to release data on its use of depleted uranium in Iraq and concerns over the use of the weapons in other conflicts, such as the interventions in Somalia in the mid-1990s. The resolution was submitted by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

    The resolution was opposed by only four states – the US, UK, France and Israel. These four also voted against previous resolutions accepting that DU has the potential to damage human health (2007) and calling for more research in affected states (2008).

    For a full rundown of the results visit: http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/