As reported before, the Iranian backed Special Groups have resumed attacks in recent months after a short break. August 2009 also saw a number of reports about Tehran’s continued military interference in Iraq. On August 11, two Iranians were arrested in the Khanaqin district of Diyala after having infiltrated into Iraq. Iraqi officials said that other Iranians had recently been arrested in the area smuggling in weapons. On August 19 it was announced that 13-16 Iranian made rockets were seized along with three suspects after an attack on the U.S. base in Basra. This was part of the increase in Special Group activities in the south. Finally, on August 31 there was a story that Iraqi security forces were finding new caches of weapons in southern Iraq, some of which they believed originated in Iran.
The goal of these recent operations appears to be two pronged. First, the attacks in the south are a way for Iran and the Special Groups to let Washington and Baghdad know that they are still around and capable of disrupting things. Second, Iraqi officials loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki think the weapons are going to his political rivals to stir up trouble in the run-up to the 2010 parliamentary elections. Maliki is running on law and order again, so any violence will help complicate that campaign. The increase in attacks in August 2009, for example, although mostly carried out by the insurgency and Al Qaeda in Iraq, made many Iraqis question the government and security forces. Some were also blaming political parties, so the Iranian tactic may backfire. Overall, the scope of this campaign seems far below what Iran has carried out in the past, and aimed at influencing Iraqi politics more than anything else, which has always been the top priority of Tehran.
Ashton, Adam and Issa, Sahar, “Iraqis remaining cool despite attacks on mosques, minorities,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/14/09
Associated Press, “Iraqi Military Losing People’s Confidence,” 8/15/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “2 Iranians arrested after infiltrating into Iraq,” 8/11/09
Dagher, Sam, “Iranian Arms Seized in Iraq, Officials Say,” New York Times, 8/19/09
Reuters, “Arms Finds In Hitherto Quiet South Iraq Ring Alarms,” 8/31/09