There are still questions today about what type of “compound”, exactly, was raided by U.S. troops in Irbil. Did the detained Iranians have diplomatic status? Were those offices considered Iranian territory, as an offically designated consulate or embassy would be?
I’m sure the Iranians will say so, and the Americans will say not — the usual posturing and strutting…. and the answer matters, as Ed Morrissey writes:
If this was a true consular office, then the US just committed an act of war against the Iranians. The Iranian flag flew over the building, and apparently they conducted some consular services for people wanting to travel to Iran for medical purposes. If the Iranians use it for intelligence work, then that would mean they operate their consulates in the same manner as every other country.
However, since it’s really not a secret that Iran has been actively working to destabilize Iraq, the raid itself is not surprising. From the NY Times:
But the American statement did warn that “the Coalition will continue to work with the Government of Iraq to prevent interference by hostile actors in Iraq’s internal security affairs.”
“With”, however, implies knowledge and cooperation.
Yesterday, Polimom’s burning question about the raid was not “what”, but “who”, and I thought that while the incident at Irbil was bad enough if the Iraqis were involved, it was much, much worse if they were not.
It looks like the answer, unfortunately, is “not”:
A statement issued by the presidency office in Kurdistan said the American forces were backed by helicopters.
Noting that the consulate was protected by international agreement and that the regions under Kurdish control have been fairly calm, the statement said the raid “does not help the efforts to bring peace, stability and security to the rest of Iraq.”
The statement suggested that the raid was an unwelcome surprise to the Kurdish authorities. “It is better to inform the Kurdistan government before taking actions against anybody,” it said.
The underlying details behind the “who” of that raid have very serious implications, as yet another NY Times article highlights:
American troops backed by attack helicopters and armored vehicles raided an Iranian diplomatic office in the dead of night early Thursday and detained as many as six of the Iranians working inside.
There was a tense standoff later in the day between the American soldiers and about 100 Kurdish troops, who surrounded the American armored vehicles for about two hours in this northern Iraqi city.
The attack was denounced by senior Kurdish officials, who are normally America’s closest allies in Iraq but regarded the action as an affront to their sovereignty in this highly tribal swath of the country. Iran’s Foreign Ministry reacted in Tehran with a harsh denunciation that threatened to escalate tensions with the Bush administration.
It’s a Very Bad Sign that the U.S. appears to be working autonomously, especially in a region controlled by a non-hostile entity. In fact, I’d have said the Kurds weren’t just “non-hostile”.
Relatively speaking, they’re our bosom buddies…. but friendly armies do not normally stand off against one another. Whether the problem is that we do not trust them, or they do not trust us, it seems clear that we are not, in fact, on the same sheet of music as the Iraqis.
The U.S. cannot take this path. There’s a world of difference between American troops caught between warring sectarian factions bent on killing one another, and being the focus of a standing army.