According to today's edition of The New York Times, U.S. military forces in Baghdad have captured at least four Iranians who have aided in attacks against Iraqi security forces. Sources tell the Times that two of the men are high-ranking military officials. The Iranians were captured in a series of raids last week, aimed at insurgents who have conducted recent attacks against Iraqi security personnel.
The fact that Iran has been aiding insurgents in Iraq is hardly a secret. Recently, U.S. military spokesmen reported that Iranian-made weapons had been seized in raids around Baghdad, providing hard evidence of Tehran's complicity in the insurgency. But last week's raids mark the first time that Iranian personnel have been captured by coalition forces, and their detention has been leaked to the press.
The names of the Iranian detainees have not been released, and details on the raids remain sketchy. Iraqi officials told the Times that two of the captured Iranians were in Iraq at the invitation of the county's president. One of the raids took place at the compound of a senior Shiite politician, who met with President Bush in Washington three weeks ago. Elements of the Iraqi government are reportedly trying to secure the Iranians' release, as is Tehran's ambassador in Baghdad.
We certainly hope that the Bush Administration and our military commanders in Iraq will not cave to pressure and free the Iranians. Tehran's handiwork is evident on the streets of Baghdad every day, and there is little doubt that Iran is using a variety of organizations, including its Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Qods force and diplomatic personnel to funnel money, material and expertise to the insurgents.
The arrest of those Iranian officials will put a dent in the support network, at least for a while. More importantly, the detention will give the administration some needed leverage with Tehran in reducing assistance for the terrorists in Iraq, and give us better insights into how the support system functions. I'm guessing there are some nervous Iranians in Baghdad right about now, wondering if that next knock at the door is one of their Iraqi contacts, or a U.S. military raid. Rounding up Iranian facilitators and agitators in Iraq is something that is long, long overdue. Kudos to our intel personnel for developing the leads that identified the Iranian agents, and to our commanders for pulling the trigger, with less concern for the political ramifications.
If these raids are an early indication of a "new approach" in Iraq, we're all for it. Iran has been killing Americans in Iraq for years, and paying no price for its actions. More arrests, some videotape confessions and a public trial in the U.S. (if the Iranians can be linked to attacks that killed American soldiers) would be welcome developments in the New Year. It would be nice to see Tehran sweat a little bit over its continued adventurism in Iraq.