“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fighting Iran in Iraq.

Fighting Iran in Iraq

By Jeffrey White Policy Watch
February 14, 2007

The February 11 intelligence briefing in Baghdad revealed specific information about the transfer of weapons and weapons technology to Iranian allies in Iraq. This has furthered an extensive discussion of Iran's role in Iraq, especially as it relates to violence in the region. The involvement of Iran's clerical regime in Iraq is not new, or simple. It can be measured in decades, and is multifaceted and comprehensive, demanding an equally broad response from the United States and U.S. allies.

Iran's preferred outcome is that Iraq be dominated by Shiite elements under the sway -- if not the direct control -- of the Iranian regime. Iran may not be interested in having a collapsed state next door, but it has no interest in a viable Iraqi government independent of Tehran, standing as a symbol of American success in the region. If it cannot dominate the nation, a weak and conflict-ridden Iraq will at least serve Iran's interests. More broadly, in the wider contest between Tehran and Washington, Iran is exploiting U.S. involvement in Iraq to weaken U.S. capabilities and will.

Dimensions of the Iranian Challenge

The Iranian challenge in Iraq has at least six major dimensions:

Military. The United States has now provided concrete evidence of Iranian weapons in Iraq, including rocket-propelled grenades, 81mm and 60mm mortar rounds, and components for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with explosively formed penetrators. The latter are especially important because they are capable of penetrating the armor on the heaviest coalition vehicles. At least 170 American soldiers have been killed by these devices. Press reports also indicate that over 100 fifty-caliber sniper rifles, sold to Iran by Austria, were found during a raid on an arms cache in Baghdad. Even at long range, these weapons are capable of penetrating the body armor worn by coalition troops, as well as many lightly armored vehicles.

Iran also provides military training and advice to its allies and accomplices in Iraq. These activities are carried out by the elite Quds (Jerusalem) Force, a component of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and one of the principal groups that Iran uses to conduct clandestine operations. Quds Force leaders are close to the most senior leadership of the regime, including Supreme Leader Ali Hussein Khamenei, The IRGC commander himself has stated that Iran can provide military assistance to any country in the region, including Iraq, based on its war experience. In all probability the group's actions are known and directed by the Iranian regime and as such are actions of the state of Iran.

Political. Iran attempts to influence Iraq's internal political situation through connections to numerous political parties and factions. Observers in Iraq note that Iran casts a wide net of influence rather than focusing on one or a few players. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Dawa, the Sadr movement, and other Shiite organizations are all reportedly in contact with Iranian operatives within Iraq -- in addition to consulting with Iranian officials in Tehran. U.S. intelligence indicates that Iran is also providing financial aid to Iraqi extemist organizations. The fact that Iranian agents detained by the United States have included Quds Force personnel in a SCIRI compound and in a long-established Iranian government office in the Kurdish region underscores the scope of Iran's reported activity in Iraq.

Social. Through the provision of social services, medical care, and support to the Shiite religious community, Iran has created a network of influence at all levels in Shiite Iraq. Some Iraqis travel to Iran for medical care unavailable in Iraq, free of charge. Iranian media extend widely across southern Iraq, including at least one television network (al-Alam).

Under an agreement between the two countries, 1,500 Iranian pilgrims a day cross into Iraq. That is 547,500 people a year -- by far the largest group of civilian foreigners entering Iraq. Such pilgrims are a major presence in the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. As explained by Washington Institute visiting fellow Mehdi Khalaji in Policy Focus no. 59, The Last Marja: Sistani and the End of Traditional Religious Authority in Shiism (September 2006), Iran has become a major influence on Shiite religious education circles in Iraq.

Economic. Iran has growing trade ties with Iraq, particularly and is establishing a branch of its state bank in Baghdad. Tehran is offering assistance in reconstruction, based on its own experience of post-war rebuilding. Iranian businessmen are very active in the Kurdish region, especially around Sulaymaniyah, and throughout southern Iraq. On January 15, Iraq and Iran signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" to expand cooperation in air, land, and sea transportation. While Iran represents these activities as being beneficial to Iraq, they are arguably as beneficial to Iran; in at least several cases, Iranians seem to be profiting well from their role in Iraq. These activities also have the effect of creating a denser web of relationships between the two states.

Diplomatic. Iran's leadership makes frequent public statements concerning the situation in Iraq, attempting to present itself as Iraq's friend, as supportive of Iraq's independence, and as critical of the United States and its activities in Iraq. It receives both elected Iraqi officials and factional leaders in Tehran as official guests. Muqtada al-Sadr has made at least two visits to Iran, including one during which he pledged to use his Mahdi Army to defend Islamic states if attacked by the United States. Iranian ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qumi, who is reportedly a senior officer in the Quds Force, has publicly stated that it is Iran's intention to expand its economic and military activity in Iraq, while denying any involvement in attacks on Americans.

Iranian Capabilities

Iran has significant capabilities for wielding influence in Iraq. These include:

History and experience.
Both the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have extensive experience in the Kurdish region and in southern Iraq from the time of the Saddam Hussein regime. Iran provided assistance to Kurdish elements including both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in their struggles against Saddam, and had extensive dealings with SCIRI, Dawa, and the exiled leaders of both. Iranian operatives well know the complex human, physical, and operational terrain of Shiite Iraq.

Appropriate military capabilities. Chaotic and unsettled conditions in Iraq make it a good operational area for special forces and unconventional capabilities. The IRGC and Quds Force, as well as the MOIS, are well adapted for operations in Iraq. They have the skills to establish safe houses, monitor the movement of coalition forces, tend weapons caches, facilitate cross-border travel, smuggle munitions and money, and recruit individuals as intelligence sources.

Iraqi officials along the 870-mile Iraq-Iran border are not able to exercise serious control, and, in some cases, are complicit with smugglers. Iran probably uses both official and unofficial crossing points to move men, money, and materials into Iraq. According to U.S. intelligence, there are three primary areas of Iranian cross-border arms smuggling: the Mandali area east of Baghdad, the Mehran area in the southern marsh region, and the Basra area.

Surrogates and allies. In addition to its own forces, Iran employs surrogates and allies to aid its activities in Iraq. Hizballah in Lebanon is reportedly assisting Iran by providing military and unconventional warfare training and IED technology to Shiite fighters. U.S. intelligence reports indicate that 1,000 to 2,000 militiamen had been sent to Lebanon for training as of November 2006.

Finally, Iran has the interest and the will to carry out prolonged underground action in Iraq. It has an interest in shaping the future government and direction of Iraq, and in weakening U.S. resources and will. Tehran is capable of fighting a long war of its own, and Iraq is a good place to do it. Furthermore, at least some in the Iranian government seem to think that escalating tensions with the United States will make Washington back off from pressing Iran on its nuclear program.

Iranian Challenges

Iraq is not completely open to Iranian influence. Many Iraqi Shiites are opposed to Iranian involvement based on either religious differences or nationalism. The religious establishment in Najaf is in competition with the Iranian clerical establishment and is not beholden to it. Iraqi Shiites retain some sense of Iraqi nationalism and do not necessarily welcome the Iranian embrace. Iran must be careful not to overplay its hand in Iraq. The U.S. detention of Quds Force personnel in Iraq focuses attention on Iran's broad range of activities and the extent of its influence. It also places Iraqi politicians in a difficult situation, forcing them to take positions on the Iranian presence. The Iraqi government was severely embarrassed by the detention of Iranian diplomats and IRGC officers, and was forced to address the purpose and extent of Iranian activity -- even while working to release those detained.

Iran is using all means necessary to achieve its aims in Iraq. Some of these means are overt and represent the normal stuff of diplomacy and influence. Others are secret operations carried out by clandestine elements of the Iranian regime, and are intended to remain undiscovered -- or at least deniable. Iran employs the Quds Force for precisely this kind of activity. The Quds Force's known presence in Iraq is itself evidence of clandestine Iranian operations. The fact that Iran's ambassador in Baghdad reportedly is a high-ranking member of the Quds Force proves the boldness -- even brazen cynicism -- of the Iranian regime.

While it is clear that Iran is aggressively involved in Iraq, it is not clear what the United States should do about it -- and it is important to decide this carefully. Iran's capabilities in Iraq are not less than -- and, broadly considered, may exceed -- those of the United States, and there is little doubt that Tehran is exerting only a fraction of the effort it could. The United States could face grave difficulties if it decided to confront Iran in Iraq. To date, both sides have exercised restraint even while taking occasional jabs at one another. Both Iranian and U.S rhetoric have cooled. The February 11, 2007, intelligence briefing in Baghdad was notably restrained, even low key. To be sure, however, the basic perception that Iran is challenging U.S. goals in Iraq and killing American soldiers has not changed.

The United States is not yet fighting Iran in Iraq, although it is increasingly engaging Iranian agents there. Washington is still concentrating on achieving its goals in Iraq, rather than on the broader competition with Iran. An expansion of the Iranian role in Iraq -- particularly more direct involvement in attacks on U.S. forces -- or increased U.S. operations against Iranian operatives could push the situation toward a more direct conflict, although one still fought mostly below the surface. It remains to be seen if the United States and Iran have the skill and the patience to manage such a conflict and avoid escalation.

Iranian behavior in Iraq says something about the state and its leadership. Iran's leaders are ruthless, clever, and willing to take risks in Iraq. This should be noted and understood as Iran acts on other issues. The choices for dealing with the Iranian challenge, both in and outside Iraq, are not clear, and the consequences of making the wrong choices are dire. But by the time the choices are clear, it will be too late for anything but acquiescence to the presence of a nuclear-armed Iran driven by hostility toward the West -- or a war to prevent it.

Jeffrey White is the Berrie defense fellow at The Washington Institute, specializing in the military and security affairs of Iraq and the Levant, and a former Middle East intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency.


  1. Mr. White completed a thirty-four-year career with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), serving in a wide variety of senior analytical and leadership positions including imagery analyst, military capabilities analyst, current intelligence analyst, senior analyst for the Arab-Israeli confrontation states, chief of the Middle East current intelligence division, and chief of the Office for Middle East/Africa Military Assessments. In these capacities, Mr. White participated in operational and policy planning and wrote extensively for senior defense officials, including the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    As an intelligence officer in the DIA, Mr. White provided intelligence support during multiple Middle East crises, from the 1968 Arab-Israeli War of Attrition to the developing conflict with Iraq in 2002. He led numerous crisis intelligence response groups within the agency, including those dealing with the Lebanese civil war, the Israeli-Syrian conflict in Lebanon, U.S. operations against Libya, U.S. naval operations in the Persian Gulf, and multiple Iraq crises from 1994 to 2002. From 1995 to 2000, Mr. White provided extensive intelligence support to both Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-PLO negotiations.

    Mr. White holds a bachelor's degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and a master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University, both with Near East specializations. He has received numerous awards for distinguished service as an intelligence officer, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and the DIA Directors Awards for Exceptional and Meritorious Civilian Service.

  2. Wow! A terrific treatise on Iran's capabilities in Iraq…

    Sounds like they're serious! Are we?

  3. The US is not "serious" not for the long term, anyway.
    As the author states the Iranians have been building its networks in Iraq for decades. Since well before '91, when the US fatally backstabbed the Shia of Iraq. Destroying faith in US resolve and morality. The Iranians held firm in their support of the Iraqi people, the majority, anyway. They still do, providing sanctuary to the most popular Shia leader, while exiled from Baghdad.

    Now they reap the benefits of that resolve, while the US lacks faithful Iraqi friends.
    Performance does count, eventually.

    The Iranians have few "troops" in Iraq, but Iranian merchants and bankers thrive there. Iraninan script used on the streets of Basra. The Iranians are winning the battle for the Hearts & Minds of the majority of the Iraqi people.

    The US cannot even fill its govermental civilian slots in Iraq.
    How serious an effort does that portray?

    The Iranians are fighting an asymetrical fight in Iraq, 10% military, 90% hearts and minds.
    But then again, they speak the language.

    Most of the out country civilians backing the Iraqi Federals are mercenaries, as related in the previous thread. The Iranians are helping build a "new" civil Iraq, the US is still fighting a military war it did not win from the git go.

    Newt was right. The Iraninans heeded the advise, Mr Bush did not.

  4. "Hearts and Minds".... ain't that at the heart of Freedom and Democracy?

  5. Yep, the "Enemy" was elected to power in Iraq.

    Much as the Republican Congressman said, yesterday, while speaking against the surge.

    We've made our bed ...

  6. j willie made some points in a previous thread, equating the success of advertising to the market valuations of the printer.

    Recent revelations from Yahoo do show the limits of internet reach.

    Then there is internet advertising results. That is what will be found lacking, the reason why the Auto & Finacial accounts are moving back to Video from the web.

    Low cost & free always do well, as ways to develop market share. Have used both for decades, but performance counts, if the cars do not move off the lot, the dealers stop wanting the ads, even if they are cheap or free.

    As even Yahoo posts:
    One thing that is worth considering is whether ad buyers are really being served well in the current market. They may well be adjusting to lower than expected returns. If click fraud is tackled meaningfully, cost per action advertising becomes more important and other innovations in online advertising make it a more positive experience for ad buyers then things could change.

    It is not the buying esperience that drives advertising sales, only marginally will sales increase with ez tech solutions.
    The ads must deliver results, if they do the sales follow. If they do not produce, you cannot give the space away. Been there, done that.

    The internet vs newspaper ad sales presented only part of the print picture. When magazines and newspaper insert business, which is not normally counted as ad sales, substantially increases print sales. Apples to apples, traffic to traffic.
    Then, for many, especially when discussing Youtube, the competition is not newspapers, but network and cable tv. To compare total to totals the Web must stack up against Video ad sales as well.

    The Web is a tiny fraction of the whole of the Advertising market.

    If you check here you will see where we are already utilizing Youtube in a manner referenced, by willie. Guess he did not take the time to look, yesterday. We collect fees, sponsors, placement, etc for Youtube time.

    Here is the problem J Willie program for the High School football game idea.

    Advertisers are offering FOX News $8 bucks per thousand viewers.

    Our biggest viewership is for a 7 minute reining video, 6,000 views in 90 days.
    The local weekly HS football game could match that 6,000 weekly, perhaps. 6 x $8= $48 per ad. Revenue to produce the show, based on market value ad sales.
    FOX wanted $12 bucks per thousand.
    That would get you to a $62USD gross
    5 ads per 30 minutes for ads, giives you $240 - $310 per 30 minute segment, max. High School game or local High School sports show 90 minutes 15 ads, $720 - $930 gross sales revenue, at market.
    The advertisers will want FOX quality production, for FOX fees.

    Then most locals do not have video ads "camera ready". Price video production, pricy stuff. We've spent close to $20,000 USD, just on video equipment and software, so far, to avoid paying outside production costs. Some proposed projects still demand renting more equipment.

    Now we have charged high per thousand fees, for thirty years. Our readers a premium client. $35 per thousand is what we charge, now a days, same as "Sex in the City", for both print and video. But we're a special niche.
    High School football, not much of a premium audience there.

    I have friends that do a good trade selling cars on ebay, but they all have standard lots, the ebay business gravy, not the meat.

    The Editor & Publisher folk are grabbing at straws, as the old models breakdown under the Web assualt. Trying to morph into something they are not.
    Thinking it the low hanging fruit.

  7. By Julia Angwin Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    NEW YORK -- Paul Rittenberg, head of advertising sales for the Fox News Channel, got on the phone recently to counter a lowball offer. Chrysler wanted to buy nearly $2 million of commercials -- but at a cut-rate price of $8 per thousand viewers.

    Mr. Rittenberg pushed for $11.98, almost a dollar below his original asking price. Chrysler turned him down. As he hung up the phone, Mr. Rittenberg said nervously, "I hope CNN didn't get it."

  8. DR,

    First, let me say that the original point of my post was that the advertising/publishing market has been undergoing immense structural change since about 1995, and the changing economics of the business have absolutely nothing to do with George Bush.

    The Internet will continue to drive major structural change into the advertising and other digitizable media for the next 25-35 years. (The Carlota Perez book I mentioned explains paradigmatic technology diffusion; Ray Kurzweil, reference below, builds on the same concept to posit that technology/human change has accelerated since time began and will continue to do so, resulting within 30 years in implanted brain chips that leverage our thinking capabilities the way our foot on the gas petal leverages our muscular capabilities). Anyway, back to the present. Broadband connectivity (medium band, really - until we get more competition in telecoms, the 100MB/sec links available throughout Seoul, Korea and other foreign cities will be a figment of our imagination here) just recently hit critical mass in the US. Broadband mobile phones (again, medium band vs other nations) will reach critical mass in the next three years. That $200/household for Internet ad spend represents only that revenue that has been derived from the move of print ads to the web; audio/video related advertising is at its inception (and is why Google paid $1 billion for the largest market/mind share position in that market. Audio search is well developed and will begin to be monetized via ads soon. Video search has further to go, but I have no doubt that Moore's Law will bring the processing power required to do it to an economically viable level. The number of doublings in processing power/unit ($) of resources consumed just recently passed thirty. Given the exponential nature of this growth, however, the absolute gain from each doubling has now reached the point of delivering stupendous economic impacts (same applies to storage, where you can now easily buy Terabyte storage servers for less than $1000). For more on the law of accelerating returns associated with technology advances, see Ray Kurzweil.

    You talk about buying/selling advertising in terms of the current industry participants like Fox News. Although Rupert does get it regarding broadband Internet, very few organizations with the size and longevity of any of the existing broadcasting/media companies are ever able to make transformative changes to their business models. See Clayton Christensen, The Innovators Dilemna, for hard proof. The companies that break the price points you mentioned will have a different view of the economics/business model, just as Bill Gross (Idealabs) did when he invented the pay-per-click Internet advertising business model that Google has leveraged into a $150 billion market cap. Remember, Google did not even begin to sell search advertising until the 2001-2002 timeframe.

    A final point about change in content/advertising markets - the Internet evidences and enables statistical distributions commonly known as the Pareto principle (80/20 rule). Chris Andersen of Wired wrote the signature piece on this phenomenon which he dubbed The Long Tail (link to his website, which links to article, book, Wikipedia, etc.) Andersen's point is that for digitazable products/services, the changes wrought by the growth in interconnected and ever mor powerful communication/computational processing devices will enable the exploitation of demand that was previously unexploitable due to the lack of sufficient market scope to spread the fixed costs of production and distribution over. The fixed costs are now already incurred, in terms of the infrastructure of the Internet, and the marginal costs of distribution are virtually nonexistent. An Amazon employee described the Long Tail as follows: "We sold more books today that didn't sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday."

    I did look at your videos. You can check my ip address, for which the first two octets are 74.228. They are well done. I didn't comment on them because I wouldn't really know the advertising opportunity in your market. With high school football, it's a lot clearer for me, and it will happen within the next five years at price points well below those you referenced. Digital reproductions of high school football games and horseshows are both examples of discrete, definable and monetizable markets in the long tail.

    Sorry this took so long, but its hard to condense.

  9. That was also my point willie, that the President has much less to do with the economic well being of the Nation than he is given credit for.
    Almost any President, in office long enough, will ride the cycle.

  10. DR,

    Seems to me that your "point" moved all over the place in the course of the discussion....from presidential blame/credit to "limited success" of Internet advertising, to the web is a tiny fraction of the total advertising market (approximately 3% - tiny, no; small, yes; destined to be much larger, most definitely.) Or maybe it was my perception of your point that changed. Communicating in print can be so two dimensional sometimes.

    And, lastly, just for fun from today's WSJ: Red all Over

    The death knell for them lies in that trendline for percentage of readers age 18-34, which has gone from 75% in 1970 to 35% in 2005.

    Newspapers could have a place in The Long Tail, but they will have to drastically redefine themselves first.