Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Price of Liberty

Pat Dollard claims that Mohammed Javad Sharaf-Zadeh, aka the Iranian "diplomat" Jalal Sharafi, and the top Iranian terror-master in Iraq, was traded for the 15 British sailors. Eli Lake of the NY Sun, describes who his sources say Jalal Sharafi was:

The decision to release Jalal Sharafi on Tuesday was made at the White House, according to an administration official who asked to be anonymous because of the sensitivity of the information. The release took place over the objections of some commanders in the field. Mr. Sharafi, the second secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, is believed by American military intelligence also to be a member of the lethal Quds Force, the terrorist-supporting organization whose members have been fair game for American soldiers and Iraqi allies since a change in the rules of engagement was issued in December.

Former Spook, who predicted that a swap was going down, noted Eli Lake's article generally confirmed his thesis. The NY Sun article continues:

At the same time, many Iranians remain in American custody, including the five men alleged to be members of the Quds Force. They were captured January 10 during a raid of an Iranian outpost in Irbil. Yesterday, Iran's press reported that Washington had agreed to allow emissaries from Tehran to visit the five Iranians being held. Prime Minister Maliki has also called for their release.

Pentagon and White House spokesmen on Tuesday and Wednesday insisted publicly that the release of Mr. Sharafi was solely an Iraqi decision. Indeed, when Mr. Sharafi was kidnapped in February, Pentagon spokesman said that his abduction was not the work of any members of multi-national forces in Iraq. The Iranians, through diplomatic channels, formally accused America of having ordered the abduction.

The administration official yesterday said that Mr. Sharafi's capture was not ordered by American forces, but he was interrogated in a facility overseen by both Iraqi and American commanders.

The official statements seem like a singularly unconvincing denial that the US had bent the rules and taken an enemy combatant who may or may not have had diplomatic immunity and squeezed him dry. The Iranians came back with a pretty operation to obtain their release though apparently their trading cards weren't good enough to win more than a partial swap.

The interesting question is whether the Iranian counter-strike on a vulnerable British boarding team has now forced a reversion of the rules of engagement back to their old "don't touch" status. I hope it doesn't because the quality of the swap shows that the Coalition was clearly ahead of in at least the observable part of the clandestine game.

In the meantime, it looks like the Iranians have found their soft spot and are concentrating their fire on the British forces. Six British soldiers have died in quick succession in Basra. This report from the Guardian.

Four soldiers on patrol in a Warrior armoured vehicle in Basra were killed, and another seriously injured, by a powerful roadside bomb in one of the worst attacks on British forces since the invasion of Iraq four years ago.

They were killed after coming under fire from what army spokesmen called Shia "rogue militia" suspected of having links with Iran. Photographs showed Iraqis appearing to celebrate the soldiers' deaths. A man held up a British military camouflage helmet while a young child grasped a piece of charred metal that was said to have come from the wreckage of the Warrior. Other men waved and smiled.

Speaking outside Number 10 as the freed sailors and marines were touching down in the UK, Tony Blair acknowledged that even as Britain rejoiced, the "sober and ugly reality" of the conflict had returned. Six British soldiers have now died in Basra since Sunday.

Using a noticeably harder tone than he had been able to adopt about Iran during the 13-day crisis, he said: "Now it is far too early to say the particular terrorist act that killed our forces was an act committed by terrorists who were backed by any elements of the Iranian regime, so I make no allegation in respect of that particular incident.

"But the general picture, as I said before, is that there are elements, at least, of the Iranian regime that are backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq and I repeat that our forces are there specifically at the request of the Iraqi government and with the full authority of the United Nations".

The smiling and waving while brandishing the fragments from the smashed Warrior AFV was a nice touch. Once the British showed the inclination to retreat from Iraq it was to be expected that they would targeted even further. Once it is perceived that the US is being driven out of Iraq, the incentive will be to attack the rearguard even harder, though the last men out will probably be pelted with shoes, which is a Middle Eastern insult.


Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

If this is true the Bush administration should be impeached. Disgraceful to captitulate to Iran, especially since we did it to save British troops who did everything in their power to act like cowards.

Ass tastes so good declares Blair and the British Marines…pride, honor…phhht! So we debased our proud military by freeing enemy commanders responsible for killing them to rescue British soldiers who in another time might have been hung for allowing themselves to be captured then used like pawns.

Disgraceful....pray that this is not true.

4/05/2007 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger MataHarley said...

Talking heads, pundits are all whipping up news frenzy with their speculation as to the hows and whys of the hostage scene. However all have come from western logic and perspectives. We come from very different starting points for history and military strategy.

The best analyses I've seen comes from Iranian commentator/author, Amir Taheri in his commentary in the UK Times today. He even suggests the way to deal with Ahmadinejad. A very worthy read for an alternative viewpoint.

4/05/2007 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Amir Taheri evokes the ancient Persian tactic of displaying captive soldiers to show their demoralized troops the enemy is not ten feet tall. He also relates the current Iranian predicament to the new US rules of engagement:

"President Bush’s decision to change the rules of engagement for US forces in Iraq with the new “surge” strategy, allowing Americans to kill or capture any Iranian perceived as a threat, made it more difficult for the mullahs to do an Abi Waqqas. As a result, the British, whose rules of engagement prevent them from fighting Iranians even in self-defence, were chosen as the softer target."

But at any rate, the rot has still not stopped. Some of Sadr's men are no longer obeying his orders. Two Iraqi cabinet ministers belonging to Moqtada al-Sadr's party have supported a proposal to turn Kirkuk over to Kurdish control causing Sadr to call for the minister's suspension. (AP)

For the enemy to strike at a seam in the alliance makes good sense for them. But if the Iranians have not been put off limits to US countermeasures the score may be going against them, or at least, evening out. Also:

It was not clear whether al-Sadr was moving to cleanse the organization of those he suspects of disloyalty to his anti-American stand, but two members of parliament from his bloc were ejected from the organization because they did not leave a luncheon Monday when U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus arrived, al-Aujaili said on Wednesday.

4/05/2007 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Alliance warfare means that allies can act differently. For example, the New York Times describes Dutch anti-Taliban methods in Afghanistan which focus on avoiding clashes with the enemy in favor of civic action and diplomacy.

Whenever they push farther, the soldiers said, they swiftly come under fire from rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. “The whole valley is pretty much hostile,” said one, a machine gunner.

But rather than advancing for reconnaissance or to attack, the Dutch soldiers pulled back to a safer village. “We’re not here to fight the Taliban,” said the Dutch commander, Col. Hans van Griensven, at a recent staff meeting. “We’re here to make the Taliban irrelevant.”

Thousands of fresh Western troops have flowed into Afghanistan since last year, seeking to counter the resurgent Taliban before an expected spring offensive. Many American units have been conducting sweeps and raids.

But here in Uruzgan Province, where the Taliban operate openly, a Dutch-led task force has mostly shunned combat. Its counterinsurgency tactics emphasize efforts to improve Afghan living conditions and self-governance, rather than hunting the Taliban’s fighters. Bloodshed is out. Reconstruction, mentoring and diplomacy are in. American military officials have expressed unease about the Dutch method, warning that if the Taliban are not kept under military pressure in Uruzgan, they will use the province as a haven and project their insurgency into neighboring provinces. ...
One Afghan interpreter who works with the Dutch said their approach was passive.

“The Dutch, if the fight starts, they run inside their vehicles every time,” said the interpreter, who asked that his name be withheld because he risked losing his job. “They say, ‘We came for peace, not to fight.’ And I say, ‘If you don’t fight, you cannot have peace in Afghanistan.’ ”

In a way it is a microcosm of the way the war as a whole is being fought. Many approaches will be tried. Of course, the hope is that experience will show which approach is best.

4/05/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

And it isn't just the pressure that can be applied externally that can deter allies. The London 7/7 bombers also wanted to attack famous British tourist attractions, including Big Ben. "On the day they were charged, the country's most senior anti-terrorist detective launched an extraordinary attack on elements within the West Yorkshire Muslim community whom he accused of shielding July 7 conspirators and intimidating potential witnesses." (Telegraph)

The Sun has more details on the Peter Clarke's accusations:

THE head of Scotland Yard’s counter terror command appealed yesterday for an end to the wall of silence that has dogged inquiries.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke warned that people who helped the four bombers were being shielded by others too scared to talk. ...

Police found a reluctance to help, particularly among young Asians, while others were too frightened to get involved.

An Imam, who did not want to be named, said: “We have made a pact around here not to talk about it any more.

Of course the British, who lost large numbers of men to an internal war (against the IRA) are not very happy at the prospect of a new conflict.

4/05/2007 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Britain's Humiliation, and Europes
The quid pro quos were not terribly subtle. An Iranian "diplomat" who had been held for two months in Iraq is suddenly released. Equally suddenly, Iran is granted access to the five Iranian "consular officials"
-- Revolutionary Guards who had been training Shiite militias to kill Americans and others -- whom the United States had arrested in Irbil in January.
Remember the great return to multilateralism -- the new emphasis on diplomacy and "working with the allies" -- so widely heralded at the beginning of the second Bush administration? To general acclaim, the cowboys had been banished and the grown-ups brought back to town.

What exactly has the new multilateralism brought us? North Korea tested a nuclear device. Iran has accelerated its march to developing the bomb. The pro-Western government in Beirut hangs by a thread. The Darfur genocide continues unabated.

The capture and release of the British hostages illustrate once again the fatuousness of the "international community" and its great institutions. You want your people back? Go to the European Union and get stiffed. Go to the Security Council and get a statement that refuses even to "deplore" this act of piracy. (You settle for a humiliating expression of "grave concern.") Then turn to the despised Americans. They'll deal some cards and bail you out.

4/06/2007 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Haditha Scapegoating Affair

Lt. Col. Chessani

HH: Now Lt. Col. Chessani was the leader of the 3-1, right?

BR: He was. He was commanding officer of 3-1, and he’s charged with dereliction of duty, and for not investigating the scene properly, and not reporting it properly. And that carries a three year time in the brig, and a dishonorable discharge. And we’re trying to fight against that.

HH: How many years has the Lt. Col. been in the Marine Corps?

BR: He’s been in for 19 years. He served in the Panamanian invasion, he was in the first Persian Gulf war, and this was his third tour in Iraq. And ironically, I served with him in the second battle of Fallujah for the First Marine regiment. And when I knew him, he was an unflappable officer, and that hasn’t changed my opinion of him.

HH: Now you know, as we have talked about in the past, I’ve got the arm patch here of J.P. Blecksmith, who was killed in the second battle of Fallujah on 11/11/04, and so you’re a combat veteran, you served with this Lt. Col. What do Americans need to know about him before we get to the specifics of his case, Brian?

BR: He’s just a committed Marine. He’s a no-nonsense officer, he’s committed his life to the Marine Corps, and that’s why he can’t afford these high-priced civilian attorneys. And he home schools his children, he’s a good man. And he’s trusted the Marine Corps, and unfortunately, sometimes, when politicians and reporters and a whole whirlpool of political pressure gets put upon these commanding generals, they have to, they feel like they have to do something. And one of the things they do is send it to an Article 32 hearing, which is the beginning for a general court martial.

And Col. Chessani reported up the facts as they occurred that day as he knew them. And everybody says this is much ado about nothing.

HH: Now many men are in the 3-1?

BR: He had a charge of a thousand men, and then an additional thousand Iraqis…
- - - -
And then, John Murtha turned off the power to the studio, ending the interview. But don’t fear, Brian Rooney and Hugh will return on the April 6th edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show to finish what they started.

4/06/2007 12:39:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Wuterich's Account

4/06/2007 01:05:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

re: The Haditha Scapegoating Affair

So, Mr. Murtha and Mr. Hewitt are in agreement, the Marine Corps is corrupt. This represents the confluence of two, heretofore, distinct streams of consciousness: the vacuous left and the vacuous right. What a day in Marine Corps history!

4/06/2007 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 04/06/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

4/06/2007 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger RAB said...

We could have had a defining moment in the GWOT (Iraqui front).

If only General David Petraeus would have offered his resignation to his civilian bosses
if they released Mohammed....Zadeh and the other Iranian POW's.

4/06/2007 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger always right said...

And here I thought it was because Speaker Pelosi's personal charm that did it.

4/06/2007 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I haven't seen any mention being made of the defected Iranian spy-guy. I wonder if they might have demanded his return, too ... and would we know about it if we *had* shipped him back to Tehran in exchange for the 15 Brits.

4/06/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

It's hard not to be disappointed by this whole affair.

4/06/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Wretchard said: "...the quality of the swap shows that the Coalition was clearly ahead of in at least the observable part of the clandestine game"

I don't know how you can say that. If a criminal is captured and his associates capture 15 police that are traded for him, did the police come out ahead?

4/06/2007 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

The only answer is more violence.

That's it.

The Dutch don't fight? So they... pay the "hostiles" a lot of money and then... the hostiles still just do what they want, only with more money now?

Gee. Sounds like they should give their guns to that translator.

4/06/2007 01:01:00 PM  

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