WikiLeaks documents release puts pressure on Maliki relationship with Iran

Yassin Gaber, Monday 1 Nov 2010

With Prime Minister Maliki struggling to maintain his grip on power, WikiLeaks' latest documents release reveals evidence of condemnable actions by Iraq and, Maliki bedfellow, Iran.

The past two weeks have not only been difficult on the US and its military, but also for the outgoing Iraqi premier, struggling to maintain his hold on power. As the invasion and occupation of Iraq begins to draw to a close and the West looks to move on, there has been much speculation over the human cost of the war, both civilian and military.

Two weeks ago, a report surfaced revealing the most extensive data on Iraqi war fatalities ever released by the US military. Then on Friday, 22 October, WikiLeaks released almost 400,000 classified Iraq war documents, drawing stiff criticism from the US, UK and the Maliki government in Iraq.

The latest in a series of leaked documents by WikiLeaks, details over 66,000 civilian deaths of which 15,000 are claimed to have been undocumented, numerous accounts of torture and Iran's, as yet, dubious role in the more than seven-year old conflict.

Iraq's outgoing prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has been linked to death squads, thought to be responsible for the worst of Iraq's sectarian carnage from 2006-2007.

Maliki criticised the timing of the documents' release and the allegations set out against him.  According to the government statement, the timing was suspicious in light of the ongoing political deadlock and negotiations following the 7 March general elections.

The almost 400,000 SIGACTs or Significant Actions reports published on Friday describe the apparent torture of Iraqi detainees by members of the Iraqi security forces, with some leading to cases of summary executions.

One of the reports, filed as a "non-combat event", shows US soldiers were presented with a video apparently showing Iraqi Army (IA) officers executing a prisoner in the northern town of Talafar. Another, described as a "suspicious incident" by the website says officers in Mosul were alleged to have cut off a detainee's fingers and toes and poured chemicals on the victim during questioning.

Many of these reports, according to the BBC, were "often sent up the chain of command marked 'no further investigation'".

In their statement, Maliki's office claimed the records held baseless accusations which lacked proof and that, to the contrary, no detainees were tortured under his premiership which could be characterised by its firm but just stand against terrorism.

However, with Maliki's recent visit to Iran where he held a series of meetings with prominent political figures such as the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the torture allegations are just the beginning of his troubles.

Amongst the hundreds of thousands of leaked documents, certain files point to the Iranian backing of Shia militias which fought against Iraqi and US troops. According to an article yesterdayin the Telegraph, the reports "claim Iranian intelligence officers served inside Iraq, at one point manning checkpoints with local militias, and describe a firefight on the border in which American troops shot an Iranian border guard dead and then came under prolonged attack as they returned to base."

Most scandalous of all, however, are the documents which point to Iranian involvement in suicide bombing, thought to specifically concern al-Qaeda.  A threat report dating back to 17 November 2006 claims that new techniques were developed for suicide bombing operations which allowed remote monitoring of attacks via miniature cameras.

The documents describe an Iranian strategy meant to destabilise the war-torn nation and thereby weaken the US's hold on the Iraqi government. Iran is linked to militias such as the Mahdi army, led by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is currently studying in Qom's seminary.  During Maliki's visit to Iran, the two were reconciled and al-Sadr embraced the politician's bid for power. 

Details and names of Mahdi army officials are mentioned in documents describing arms deals between the militia and Iran. Individuals were trained in sniping and the kidnapping of American soldiers.

At a time when the US is increasingly finding itself marginalised in Iraq – and the region at large – and Iran begins to overtly assert its presence in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, the WikiLeaks reports will most certainly add fuel to an already scorching fire.

As the smoke rises, however, one must ask whether these reports will affect an already divided Iraq and those who are unable to settle on their next leader.  So far, the furore has mostly originated from Western governments and Maliki's contingent, with little or no voice heard from the Iraqi people and, mostly pointedly, other Arab leaders. The leaked documents might very well support the Sunni-backed Allawi's bid for the premiership, as he stands in opposition to Iran's presence in the Iraqi political sphere.

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