Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mahdi terrorists confess they've been trained in Lebanon

Before you guys get all giddy on this, stop and think. We've known that the Mahdi guys have gotten training elsewhere, and even some Hezbollah have come into Iraq to train some elements of Mookie al-Sadr's army of thugs. This isn't exactly news. What makes it news is admitting it to the press:

(HT: Allahpundit)

Lebanon's Hizbollah has trained Shia fighters from Iraq in advanced guerrilla warfare tactics, according to Mehdi army militants who have been fighting British forces in the south of the country. Members of Muqtada al-Sadr's powerful militia said they had received instruction from fellow Shias from Hizbollah, the movement that fought Israel's vaunted military machine to a bloody standstill in last year's July War.

One Iraqi militiaman, who asked to be named only as Abu Muhannad, said he had spent a month in Southern Lebanon, Hizbollah's stronghold. "I was one of the experienced fighters from the Mehdi army to go for training there," he said. "We learned how to take advantage of an armoured vehicle's weakness, and how to wait and kill the soldiers who try to escape." The 39-year-old from Suwayrah, a city 40 km south of Baghdad was one of several fighters to confirm the links between the two groups. The US has long claimed that Hizbollah, Iraq's Shias and Iran have formed a broad alliance opposed to Israel, the US and its Middle Eastern allies.

Earlier this year, the US military said it had captured a Hizbollah fighter in southern Iraq who had been involved in the abduction and murder of American soldiers. Hizbollah has a reputation of being able to carry out such complex operations, in contrast to the more amateurish Mehdi Army.

During last summer's war, Hizbollah proved itself equal to the American-supplied Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), staging well-organised, textbook ambushes on tanks belonging to the IDF. Israel invaded Lebanon expecting to crush Hizbollah, but the war ended in stalemate, surprising military observers and allowing the guerrillas to claim a victory.

Another Mehdi Army fighter, a 26-year-old who asked to be identified as Abu Nasser, said he and 100 other group members travelled to Lebanon in December 2005. "They didn't teach us anything about suicide bombings, they showed us real tactics and taught our snipers," he said. Speaking in Tufa in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, the head of the Mehdi Army, admitted to "formal links" with Hizbollah.

"We have formal links with Hizbollah, we do exchange ideas and discuss the situation facing Shiites in both countries," he said. "It is natural that we would want to improve ourselves by learning from each other. We copy Hizbollah in the way they fight and their tactics, we teach each other and we are getting better through this."

Monkey see, monkey do. Seriously, this isn't a good thing. We can't allow Hezbollah to continue this, and we sure as Hell can't let the Mahdi Army be a factor in the future of Iraq. There's a constant debate that is raging on our side as to whether or not al-Sadr's the proxy for Iran in Iraq. We say yes, but that's because he's the only turban to have popped up that we can set our sites on. And while he lounges in Iran, protected from us and the Iraqi troops, his army is getting formal training from a terrorist group that's been at this for over twenty years.

Allah notes the new piece from Michael Totten where he says this:

Nothing makes me more pessimistic about Iraq’s future prospects than this. The Mahdi Army is Iran’s major proxy in Iraq. It is, in effect, the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah.

The Iranians know what they’re doing. Lebanon was their proving ground. The Revolutionary Guards built Hezbollah from scratch along the border with Israel and in the suburbs south of Beirut during the chaos of civil war and Israeli occupation. In Iraq they’re simply repeating the formula, only this time more violently.

Most of Lebanon’s Shias were moderately pro-Israel before Iran barged onto the scene. 25 years later, and more than 15 years after Lebanon’s civil war ended, Hezbollah is still a menace to Israel and the elected government in Beirut. Hezbollah still has its own foreign policy. Hezbollah can unilaterally ignite hot wars with foreign countries whether Lebanese as a whole want war or not. The level of “stability” in Lebanon may be the best Iraqis can hope for in this generation if the Mahdi Army and its supporters are not somehow purged from the government, the military, and the police.

And this is exactly the sort of "stability" that Iraq can do without. Hezbollah's "hot war" with Israel last year caused a lot of innocent people their lives in the crossfire. The Iraqis don't want that. Read the Totten piece, and see what I mean when I say that while al-Sadr's goons may be running the show and getting a free pass right now, this is not a smart thing to do. There will come a time where one has to pay the piper, and I'm sure al-Sadr's got high demands.

But, there is really nothing we can do. His army minds their manners, and they're not shooting at our troops. They're keeping things quiet because the neighborhoods they control are mainly Shia. They're not kidnapping and killing any Sunnis or Kurds. They're just going on about their business. The neighborhood that Totten's at -- Graya'at, just north of Baghdad -- is "safer than the green zone" because the Mahdi's aren't attacking US and Iraqi forces. (They won't attack the Iraqi forces there because they're majority Shia, and they're sympathetic to the cause.) But I think Michael Totten's right, at this point.

The stability that will come in Iraq will come in the form of an uneasy peace between the Mahdis and al-Sadr, and the government. They may be left with little choice than to allow the Mahdis to remain. The only way this'll change is if the government gives us the green light to take them out, separately from the Iraqi army. This, of course, will never happen. It's too great a risk for Maliki, and he's not willing to stick his neck out on the proverbial chopping block. It will come down to the Iraqis controlling the Mahdis. Thus far, it seems to be working.

But, they can't be allowed to morph into a Hezbollah-like organization. If the Mahdis remain top protect Iraq, and her Shia population, so be it. But the minute these knuckleheads start a war, the Iraqis will be forced to remove them. If they don't, Hezbollah 2.0 will be spawned.

Publius II


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