Yesterday's alarming prophecy by a senior Iraqi intelligence source that "Iraq will be a colony of Iran
" within five years has foreign policy wonks buzzing about the specter of an Iranian dominion in Iraq. The Washington Post's David Ignatius, who got the scoop, also suggests Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is allowing Iranian spies to "operate freely" within his country.
The issue raises worrying questions for analysts: Could Iraq become a vassal of Iran? Are U.S. forces ceding power too soon? And how should the Obama Administration respond?
- The Threat Is Real, says David Ignatius. The columnist argues that Iraqi officials are "desperately vulnerable" to pressure from Iran. He notes that forensic evidence suggests Iran was involved in last week's massive truck bomb that left over 100 dead and 500 injured. On top of that, Iranian operatives are spying within the country and assassinating Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) officers. This month the head of the INIS resigned in protest, claiming that Prime Minister Maliki has refused to clamp down on Iranian espionage. Meanwhile, a powerful Shiite coalition with close links to Iran threatens Maliki's seat in the upcoming national elections.
- Reassess the Troop Withdrawal, cautions Baghdad correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor Jane Arraf who spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations: "U.S. commanders...can't pretend that everything's fine as they engage in a responsible drawdown. Because in many cases, Iraqi security cannot handle it. They don't have the intelligence capability."
- Where's the Skepticism?, asks a blogger at Classical Values: "At least half of Ignatius's piece sounds like typical Iraqi political conspiracies, which as a rule run the gamut from improbably contradictory to downright bizarre. Anonymous sources are extremely unreliable [and] sectarian suspicions are such that half of Sunnis think the Shia are working for Iran." Matt Duss at Think Progress tends to agree, but also notes that it may just be an "inescapable...reality."
- No Reason to Change U.S. Plans, says The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss: "It's way, way too late for President Obama to do anything about this, though he ought to keep his promise to involve the international community in a last-ditch effort to rebalance Iraqi politics away from dominance by the Shiite religious parties. Still...Iran has the upper hand."
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