Iraq Ignoring U.S. Requests To Stop Iranian Flights To Syria

The United States is finding that its efforts to persuade Iraq to stop allowing Iranian planes heading to resupply the government of Bashar Assad to overly its territory are falling on deaf ears:

Iraq’s government is resisting a request by the U.S. government to block Iranian planes from traversing Iraqi air space to resupply Syria’s repressive ruling regime, according to The Washington Post.

Despite the certainty of U.S. officials that Iranian planes are transporting arms and other military equipment to Syria in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting the export of Iranian weapons, Iraq’s government prefers to believe assurances from Iran that the planes contain only humanitarian aid.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Vice President Joseph Biden, who has played a lead role in implementing the Obama Administration’s complacent Iraq policy, called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on August 17 in a vain effort to press Baghdad to take action. The flights had resumed in July after being halted in March, apparently under pressure from Washington and Arab countries opposed to Syria’s Assad regime.

The same article reported that Iraqi Shiite militants from Iranian-backed militia groups have crossed the border to help the Syrian regime repress its own people. U.S. officials charge that in addition to arms, Iran has dispatched Islamic Revolutionary Guards from the elite Quds Force to train paramilitary thugs that the Assad regime has increasingly used to attack the opposition. Iran has also provided the regime with training and technology to intercept communications and monitor the Internet.

In addition to escalating its support for the Assad regime in Syria, Iran has greatly expanded its influence in Iraq after the departure of U.S. troops last December. Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government has steadily drifted into the orbit of its larger Shiite neighbor.

This isn’t the only sign of the expanding distance between the Iraqi Government and the United States:

Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government has closed down the operations of the Voice of America inside Iraq and is set to release from jail Ali Musa Daqduq, a notorious Hezbollah terrorist who worked closely with the Quds Force to target U.S. troops and Iraqis opposed to Iran. A former CIA official described him as “the worst of the worst. He has American blood on his hands. If released, he’ll go back to shedding more of it.”

In addition to Iranian-supported Shiite terrorists, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has found it much easier to operate since the withdrawal of U.S. troops. AQI has made a comeback in Iraq and threatened to launch terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland in July.

None of this should really be a surprise. I’ve noted here before examples of the Iraqi Government pursuing a better relationship with Iran, often at the expense of its relationship with the United States. Even while U.S. forces were still in the country, there were plenty of signs that the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki intended to pursue a close relationship with the Islamic Republic. In part, this is a recognition of the increased power of Shiite Muslims in the country to the point where they are a crucial part of al-Maliki’s governing coalition and, to a large degree, the party most responsible for the failure of the U.S. and Iraq to negotiate a new Status Of Forces Agreement.

Additionally, there’s an element of self-preservation at play for the Iraqis here. Iraq is a far weaker nation militarily than it was during the days of Saddam Hussein, although it is now clear that much of  Iraq’s “strength” was part of a deliberate disinformation campaign by Saddam’s government designed to deter any future Iranian attacks. Now, though, the whole world knows what the situation in Iraq is all about and with the United States out of the picture, it’s not hard to see how the Iraqis would consider it to be in their interests to be compliant with Iranian demands such as overflight permission for flights headed to resupply the Syrian Army. I doubt the Iraqis will see any reason to change their position any time soon.

H/T: Rick Moran

FILED UNDER: Middle East, National Security, Quick Takes, World Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Geez, what a request! “Plz start an air war.”

  2. DC Loser says:

    What part of “Iraq is an Iranian ally/puppet don’t we understand?” The Mullahs in Tehran must have a good laugh whenever they think about the fact that we spilled our blood and treasure to rid them of their biggest enemy and installed their puppets in Baghdad. The fucking Neocon idiots.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Boy, the dividends of our trillions dollars investment there just keep piling up, don’t they?

  4. Peter LaCrosse says:

    Maybe if the Obama administration had been more engaged & found a work-around on the amnesty question for US troops we would have 20K troops (just like Germany, Japan, Korea) there now – and we would have a lot more influence. The Iraqi leadership saw we were pulling out here & in Afghanistan and we are now unable to influence events. This is a perfect example of how you “lose the peace” and shows incompetence on the part of the Administration.

  5. @Peter LaCrosse:

    Well, if you want counterfactuals, we could have just kept a no-fly zone over Saddam.

    Much cheaper in blood and treasure, and a much stronger bulkwork against Iran.

  6. @Peter LaCrosse:

    I mean geez, how much longer can we ignore the GHWB was the smart one, and the one dialed into the CIA? He knew the regional dynamic and played to it.

    Going back and removing Saddam from the board was stupid.

    Once you did that there was no repair plan. Your bullshit “influence events” only works with “forever occupation.”

  7. Argon says:

    The score so far….

    Neocon wet dreams: 0
    Harsh reality: infinity

  8. Peter LaCrosse says:

    @john personna: So you are saying that our troops in Germany, South Korea and Japan means we are occupying those countries? Their presence has been supported by every Administration for past ~50 years. They also serve to underscore our commitment to these new democracies & ensures that we are able to influence events. I’m rather amazed you don’t know this.

    And the fact that we cannot “influence” here means that Iran is able to support the Syrian regime as they butcher tens of thousands of their own citizens. We look powerless and Mullah’s will conclude they can do as they will – with Syria and, by extension, their atomic weapons program.

  9. ratufa says:

    @Peter LaCrosse:

    Maybe if the Obama administration had been more engaged & found a work-around on the amnesty question for US troops we would have 20K troops (just like Germany, Japan, Korea) there now – and we would have a lot more influence.

    That quote is a bit amusing in light of your comments that we would be able to “influence” Iraq’s foreign policy if we only we had troops in Iraq. Perhaps the Iraqi leaders didn’t want to be “influenced” by foreign troops on their soil, and the amnesty question was just one of a number of reasons why they wanted us to withdraw.

    The population of Iraq is 60+% Shiite. al-Maliki is Shiite. A number of influential people in Iraq spent time in Iran when Saddam was in power, in order to escape persecution. Of course they are going to be close to Iran, both because of the above reasons and because they want a counter-weight to Sunni Saudi Arabia to their South. Why would they want the US to decide their foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran?

  10. sam says:

    @Peter LaCrosse:

    So you are saying that our troops in Germany, South Korea and Japan means we are occupying those countries? Their presence has been supported by every Administration for past ~50 years. They also serve to underscore our commitment to these new democracies

    Uh, Germany, South Korea, and Japan stopped being “new democracies” along about the Reagan administration.

  11. DRS says:

    But don’t forget – the surge was a huge success!

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Peter LaCrosse:

    As usual, the Neocon fantasy suffers from internal contradiction. Your position:

    1) 20,000 US troops in Iraq would not be an occupation.
    2) 20,000 US troops in Iraq means Iraq would do whatever we tell them.

    Not an occupation, see, just an occupation. It’s all in the inflection.

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @Peter LaCrosse:

    Maybe if the Obama administration had been more engaged & found a work-around on the amnesty question for US troops we would have 20K troops (just like Germany, Japan, Korea) there now – and we would have a lot more influence. The Iraqi leadership saw we were pulling out here & in Afghanistan and we are now unable to influence events. This is a perfect example of how you “lose the peace” and shows incompetence on the part of the Administration.

    Maybe if more people understood that by taking Saddam Hussein out we ensured that the a new Shiite government in Iraq would inevitably be favorably disposed toward Iran, we wouldn’t be perplexed by this development.

  14. Peter LaCrosse says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t think there’s a contradiction here. First as the careful reader probably noticed I asked a question. Specifically if keeping troops in Germany, Japan & South Korea was “forever occupation”. Obvious answer is no and by extension it would apply to Iraq.

    Second your proposition is flawed as “20K troops & not occupying” and then “20K troops & influencing” employs fallacious logic. Ergo the “internal contradiction” is yours.

    You also assume that I am advocating the “neocon” position. Another error.

    Now onto another point! The presence of troops underscores our involvement & engagement. Troops in country are not a panacea & this is not one dimensional. The Iraqis also have good reason to be worried about an Iran right next door. Couple that with a USA disengaging from the region (and not leaving troops – well marked by all – like we did in Germany, Japan & South Korea) and our ability to influence events is markedly reduced. I also accept that Iran will have an impact on Iraq – and independent of the Shia/Sunni divide – which is, of course, another reason for the troops to act as a element of the counterbalance. I mean we cannot even get the Iraqis to stop over-flights when the whole world knows the Iranians are providing arms to the Syrian regime!

  15. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of muslim gratitude. Where “kuffars” (and that’s us) are concerned, it’s like a Missouri-Warhol River; a verbal mile wide, an actual inch deep, and flowing for about 15 minutes.

    Haven’t you read their (holy ???) book yet ???

  16. An Interested Party says:

    And the fact that we cannot “influence” here means that Iran is able to support the Syrian regime as they butcher tens of thousands of their own citizens. We look powerless and Mullah’s will conclude they can do as they will – with Syria and, by extension, their atomic weapons program.

    Hmm, if we didn’t want to make Iran more powerful in the region, perhaps we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq…as for comparing troops in Iraq to troops in Germany and Japan, why not compare apples to asparagus…

    Welcome to the wonderful world of muslim gratitude.

    Indeed…and why shouldn’t these people show us gratitude considering how our government has interfered in their countries’ domestic affairs for decades…I’m still waiting for the Iranians to show us proper gratitude for overturning Mossadegh and putting the Shah in power…

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @Peter LaCrosse:

    Actually since we left Iraq we seem to have influenced events in Libya quite dramatically. Zero casualties, one American-murdering dictator.

    Iraq is not Japan or Germany. Mostly because the incompetent Mr. Bush failed to impose a real occupation but decided to try it on the cheap, using too few troops and too many political apparatchiks. The die was cast early when we lost control of looting mobs because Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Bush thought we’d be welcomed as liberators. Truman didn’t make those kinds of mistakes with Germany or Japan.

    Once the ideological decision was made to carry out only a negligent effort in an unplanned occupation, there was no returning the situation to stability. The chance was lost.

    Now, there are plenty who argue – and they may be right – that even a competently-managed occupation would have been doomed. There’s no way to know. But it was absolutely certain once Mr. Bush and his buffoonish pals were done losing control that it would end badly. Where we are now is a direct consequence of Mr. Bush’s poorly thought-out, dishonestly-sold invasion, and his icriminally stupid occupation. Blaming anyone else is dishonest partisan bullsh!t.

    To pretend that we could have stayed without Iraqi government support, after we had already ceded the principle, after we had turned political power over to a Shia politician – both matters carried out under Mr. Bush – is absurd. The immunity issue is not some minor detail. Would you have Shia pols in every corner of Iraq in a position to arrest and try American soldiers?

    This is Mr. Bush’s war, his occupation, his failure. And the profit that Iran now takes from the situation is due to Mr. Bush’s bungling and the blind stupidity of his neocon advisers.

  18. DRS says:

    Amedinejad made his first state visit to Iraq in March 2008 – he and Maliki walked around holding hands and proclaiming the eternal friendship of their nations. So it’s not like there was any effort to hide anything.

    The only problem the Iraqi government (aka, “our side”) had with Americans leaving in 2010 was that they had wanted the troops out much sooner.